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Presbyterian Women begins its third annual Justice & Peace Book Discussion Group

Online gatherings are scheduled the second Monday of every other month

by Kathleen Keefer for Presbyterian Women | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Susan Q. Yin via Unsplash

Presbyterian Women Inc. has begun the third annual Justice & Peace Book Discussion Group.

The group meets via Zoom on the second Monday of every other month at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Books are chosen by the national J & P Committee each year. They reflect the issues facing each of us in our country and the world.

The first book was discussed on Jan. 8.  Nearly 120 people signed up to talk about “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, which tells the heartbreaking story of a young mother who dies from cervical cancer and how the medical researchers of the time used her cancer cells without her consent or the consent of her family.  These cells were shared throughout the world and led to breakthroughs in cellular research and the development of many vaccines that saved millions of lives. The cells still exist today and continue to teach us about cell development, genome theories and DNA, while the Lacks family lives in abject poverty and sometimes without health insurance to see to their own medical needs.

The next book, “Our Missing Hearts” by Celeste Ng, will be discussed on March 11.  Ng is an award-winning novelist. In this novel she tells the story of a young boy and his search for his mother, a Chinese American poet who had to leave him when he was nine years old. His search conjures memories of almost forgotten folktales his mother told him and finally to an act of defiance.

Shelf Awareness calls the book “an eerie, prophetic novel… Brilliantly envisioned and filled with Ng’s signature tender, intimate character work and complex family dynamics, this coming-of-age story asks what it means to be a good parent or a good citizen when every child is at risk, as well as what power art has to challenge injustice.”

In May, the book to discuss is “Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians” by Austen Hartke. A deep look at scriptures and lived experiences of transgender Christians will guide Presbyterian Women in understanding of and learning compassion for the trans community. Terminology, statistics and methods of pastoral and congregational care will be discussed.

Sojourners Magazine writes of “Transforming”: “Weaving biblical examples of gender nonconformity and transformation with the stories and voices of contemporary trans Christians, Hartke’s approach is both pastoral and prophetic as he addresses harmful Christian theology that has been used to further marginalize and exclude trans people. Hartke’s scriptural basis for a trans-affirming theology offers a healing balm for queer and trans people who have ever questioned that God loves them based on ‘what it says in the Bible,’ while challenging progressive Christian communities to center trans perspectives in their efforts to become truly open and affirming.”

July brings “A Place Called Home: A Memoir” by David Ambroz, which tells the story of a houseless child who is “rescued” by the system where he moves from foster home to foster home, finding that this salvation may be worse than living on the streets of New York, begging for food and sleeping in train stations.  This child finds the strength to survive and become a leading advocate for children’s rights.

Hillary Rodham Clinton writes, “It’s impossible to read ‘A Place Called Home’ and not want to redouble your efforts to fight the systems of poverty that have plagued America for far too long. In this book, David shares his deeply personal story and issues a rousing call to make this a more humane and compassionate nation.”

 September’s selection isPoverty, by Americaby Matthew Desmond, the book Presbyterians around the country are currently studying. In this book, Desmond addresses the root causes of poverty and why it continues to plague our country. He builds a clear case for eradicating systemic poverty and asks us all to become poverty abolitionists.

Kathleen Keefer

Kathleen Keefer

For the November discussion, “Searching for Savanna: The Murder of One Native American Woman and the Violence Against the Many” by Mona Gable was chosen by the book study committee.  “Searching for Savanna” focuses on murdered & missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, as the author investigates the abduction and murder of 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind. Gable offers firsthand interviews and confronts history of the dehumanization of Indigenous women and girls.

Author and journalist Nina Burleigh said, “In this engaging and meticulously researched account centered on one horrific crime in North Dakota, Mona Gable explores the failings of the justice system and society behind the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. An urgently needed look at an epidemic of femicide by an excellent writer.”

The Justice & Peace Book Discussion Group is open to anyone — she, her, he, him, they, them — all!  To register, go here.

It is perfectly fine if you haven’t read the book —join in on the conversation anyway and expand your horizons. You don’t have to register for all the books — just the ones you want to discuss.

Kathleen Keefer is Vice Moderator of Presbyterian Women.

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