Contact: Lorrie McKinley & Debby Kern    Email: diversity-book-group

Mission: To explore a variety of “differences” through both literature and film, so that we may better understand ourselves and others thereby promoting social justice on a personal level.

The Diversity Book Group meets monthly August through May plus an annual end-of-the-year pot luck celebration to select books for the coming year. The group is loosely organized to explore a variety of differences in a relaxed and safe environment. Participants volunteer to act as facilitators. The group makes every effort to select books/films that are available in audio/descriptive formats in order to be inclusive and welcoming to all.

2020-21 Selections

Aug 9: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, Ana is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life.  Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. Her adopted brother, Judas, is a dissident against the Roman occupation.  When Ana meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.

Grounded in meticulous historical research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, this book is an inspiring account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place, and culture devised to silence her.

Sep 13: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nahisi Coates

Hiram Walker was born into slavery during the Antebellum South on a declining tobacco plantation in Virginia. He is the mixed-race son of a white plantation owner and a black mother who was sold away by his father when Hiram was young. The local community consists of the enslaved (“the Tasked”); the landowners (“the Quality”); and the low-class whites. Hiram has an extraordinary photographic memory but is unable to remember his mother. However, in one instance when Hiram is driving across a bridge, he suddenly has a vision of his mother dancing. When the vision ends, his carriage has fallen into the water. His brother drowns, but Hiram is transported out of the water. He learns that his miracle survival was a result of a superhuman ability he has called conduction, which transports himself and others across impossible distances. He eventually comes to meet a famous member of the Underground named Moses, who also has the power of Conduction. Moses is later revealed to be Harriet Tubman.

The novel debuted at number one on The New York Times fiction best-seller list and was selected for the revival of Oprah’s Book Club.

Oct 11: What the Eyes Don't See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

This is the inspiring story of the courageous young doctor who broke the news that the children of Flint, Michigan were being poisoned by the water, and then refused to let it go. Working tirelessly alongside a coalition of researchers, parents, patients, friends, and community leaders, Dr. Mona became the target of a brutal backlash by her own government as it shamefully attempted to hide the truth, leaving in its wake thousands of children who either died or would live out their days with irreversible brain damage. Dr. Mona’s own story is part of a larger one involving her family’s immigration to this country, and the unshaking commitment to justice they brought with them.  Non-fiction, but reads like a novel.

Nov 8: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin G. Boyle
The grandson of a slave, Dr. Ossian Sweet moved his family to an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925. When his neighbors attempted to drive him out, Sweet defended himself–resulting in the death of a white man and a murder trial for Sweet. There followed one of the most important (and shockingly unknown) cases in Civil Rights history. Also caught up in the intense courtroom drama were legal giant Clarence Darrow and the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Dec 13: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Jan 10: Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eva Marie Plante

Named by NPR as one of the best books of 2012, this is a symbiotic portrait of Louisa May Alcott and her mother, the real “Marmee” we all know, or thought we did, from Little Women. Based on the Alcotts’ intimate diaries and private papers, here is the remarkable but untold story of Abigail May Alcott—long dismissed from history as quiet, self-effacing background figure to a famous husband and even more famous daughter—who was in her own right a gifted intellectual, a talented writer, and a feminist way ahead of her time who advocated for an end to slavery, for women’s suffrage, and universal civil rights. Her husband, Bronson, has received most of the credit for inspiring Louisa’s intellectual development and her writing career, but it turns out it was her mother all along.

Feb 14: There, There by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize.  Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American–grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, and with communion and sacrifice and heroism.

2019 Pulitzer Prize nominee for fiction, 2018 National Book Award Nominee, Pen/Hemmingway Award, and many others.

Mar 14: NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.  Non-fiction.

Apr 11: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black – an eleven-year-old field slave – finds himself selected as personal servant to one of them. The eccentric Christopher ‘Titch’ Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him.  Titch’s idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape together, but then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible.  Inspired by a true story, Washington Black is an extraordinary tale of a world destroyed and made whole again.

2018 Booker Prize Nominee, PEN Book Award Nominee and many others.

May 16: My Vanishing Country by Bakari Sellers

What J. D. Vance did for Appalachia with Hillbilly Elegy, CNN analyst and one of the youngest state representatives in South Carolina history, Bakari Sellers does for the rural South in this important book that illuminates the lives of America’s forgotten black working-class men and women.

Click here for a list of past selections.