St. James' Diversity Book Club

The Diversity Book Club’s Spring Season

Curl up with the Spring Season picks of the St. James Diversity Book Club (formerly the Adventure Book Club). The Diversity Book Club is an outreach ministry of the St. James’ Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

Group discussions will be held once a month in the St. James’ Toppie Bates Lakeside Room immediately following the 10:45 a.m. worship services. Light refreshments will be served. The books and dates for the Spring Season are listed below. There is no obligation to participate in both discussions. Join us when you can. Our goal is to enrich your reading experience through fellowship and sharing ideas—along with tasty treats.

Feburary 11

The Diversity Book Club presents The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of
the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. The discussion will be held at noon, Sun. Feb. 11,
2024 in the Toppie Bates Room. All are welcome, even if you have not read the book.
Light refreshments will be served. For those who cannot join us in-person, a Zoom link
is available (below).

The Lemon Tree chronicles a 35-year friendship between Bashir Khairi and Dalia
Eshkenazi Landau, who met in 1967. The book is based on extensive research about
the lives of two families in the midst of the century-long struggles in Palestine and
modern Israel. Their lives intersect in the shadow of a small homestead with a lemon
tree in the back yard. “This is the house with two histories. The house with the lemon
tree,” Tolan writes.

The book grew out of a 1998 NPR documentary in which Tolan reported on this
friendship. The book was the subject of an extensive interview of the author on NPR’s
Fresh Air in May 2006 (
mideast-history-via-friendship ). The Lemon Tree received a 2007 Christopher Award
( and was a 2006 National Book Critics Circle
Award Finalist.

The message of The Lemon Tree is as salient today as it was when it first published. As
war rages in the Middle East, Christians are seeking to understand the roots of the
violence and to find safe space to ask difficult questions. The Diversity Book Club seeks
to provide that space at St. James.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 884 4143 8918
Passcode: 415274

March 17

Once I was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America (2020) by Maria Hinojosa 

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Maria Hinojosa ( ) shares her experiences growing up Mexican American on the South Side of Chicago. Her story is juxtaposed against the stories of migrants seeking asylum in America today. “Hinojosa’s book is as much a manifesto as it is a memoir,” writes Fernando Santos in a New York Times book review on Sept. 15, 2020. “The narrative is chiseled by points of convergence between her own story and the history of immigration in this country.” (

From the publisher: “An urgent call to fellow Americans to open their eyes to the immigration crisis and understand that it affects us all, this honest and heartrending memoir paints a vivid portrait of how we got here and what it means to be a survivor, a feminist, a citizen, and a journalist who owns her voice while striving for the truth.”

Hinojosa will be the guest speaker for the Friends of Central Library Gifford Lecture Series on March 19, 2024 at the OnCenter Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse. Group ticket rates are available at $31 for a minimum of 10 tickets. The Diversity Book Club will facilitate the purchase of a block of seats if there is sufficient interest among St. James’ book club readers.

April 21

There There (2018) by Tommy Orange. 

The critically-acclaimed There There is an unflinching look at lives of urban Native Americans. “With a literary authority rare in a debut novel, it places Native-American voices front and center before readers’ eyes.” — Fresh Air, NPR. 

From the publisher: Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows 12 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, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.” 

The book earned the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and was one of the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of the Year.

June 2

If Beal Street Could Talk (1974) by James Baldwin

The Diversity Book Club ends the 2024 Spring Season with iconic American writer James Baldwin. “The grandson of a slave, Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. He grew up in poverty, but recalls: ‘I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I would use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.’ By the time he was fourteen, Baldwin was spending much of his time in libraries and had found his passion for writing.”

(From PBS American Masters James Baldwin Biography 2006 ( ).

Baldwin wrote If Beal Street Could Talk after the assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. The book focuses on the bonds that hold Black people together against a backdrop of white racism. The novel tells the story of a young, Black couple whose lives are torn apart by false criminal accusations amid a justice system that is broken. The book was made into a movie in 2018.

Past Book Discussions & Suggested Reads


November 2023Black Klansman: Race, Hate and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth


October 2023Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler


June 2023 – Justified by her Children: Deed of Courage Confronting a Tradition of Racism by Roy G. Pollina  

April 2023Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

March 2023Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine


Feb 2023 – The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama

band of sisterhood

January 2023 – This Band of Sisterhood: Black Women Bishops on Race, Faith, and the Church Edited by Westina