Hi friends! I think most of you know I lead an online book club for Velvet Ashes. This week I announced the books for June, July, August, and September and share them below. The book club posts go live every Tuesday morning on the Asia side of the world and Monday afternoon on the North America side. We’d love to have you join and read books through a cross-cultural lens. Even if you’ve read them before, there is power reading in community and seeing a book from perspectives other than your own.
And I’m working on a Beyond The Surface Newsletter :). What books should I check out this summer? My friend Beth recently suggested I read Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Haydn Shaw. I requested it yesterday at the library and can’t wait!
June’s book is Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan —
“Carolyn Jourdan, an attorney on Capitol Hill, thought she had it made. But when her mother has a heart attack, she returns home—to the Tennessee mountains, where her father is a country doctor and her mother works as his receptionist. Jourdan offers to fill in for her mother until she gets better. But days turn into weeks as she trades her suits for scrubs and finds herself following hazmat regulations for cleaning up bodily fluids; maintaining composure when confronted with a splinter the size of a steak knife; and tending to the loquacious Miss Hiawatha, whose daily doctor visits are never billed. Most important, though, she comes to understand what her caring and patient father means to her close-knit community. With great humor and great tenderness, Heart in the Right Place shows that some of our biggest heroes are the ones living right beside us.”
Reasons I like it: light, humorous, looking at cross-cultural issues within one country, wrestling with identity and significance. It invited me to be present to my real life and not wait for the fantasy life I might want. When I heard my brother-in-law had to keep getting out of bed to find out what was so funny and that my sister has bought copies of this for numerous friends, I knew it was the perfect book to kick-off our summer series.
July’s book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver —
“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.”
Reasons I like it: The story is told from all five females and the way Kingsolver is able to sound like five different ages and experiences is some of the most stunning writing I’ve ever read. Though not a “happy” book, it has themes galore for us to discuss. This is a must-read for folks who work cross-culturally.
August’s book is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows —
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
“As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
“Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
“Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.”
Reasons I like it: A delightful read to end summer with, this has historical accuracy concerning the occupation of an island during WWII and is told through letters (like most of our lives with emails and blogs, eh?!). Fun cross-cultural themes in unexpected places.
September’s book is Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle (Very small warning on a tiny bit of language. Which is to be expected working with gang members.)
“For twenty years, Gregory Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. In Tattoos on the Heart, he distills his experience working in the ghetto into a breathtaking series of parables inspired by faith.
“Arranged by theme and filled with sparkling humor and glowing generosity, these essays offer a stirring look at how full our lives could be if we could find the joy in loving others and in being loved unconditionally. From giant, tattooed Cesar, shopping at JCPenney fresh out of prison, we learn how to feel worthy of God’s love. From ten-year-old Lula we learn the importance of being known and acknowledged. From Pedro we understand the kind of patience necessary to rescue someone from the darkness. In each chapter we benefit from Boyle’s gentle, hard-earned wisdom.
“These essays about universal kinship and redemption are moving examples of the power of unconditional love and the importance of fighting despair. Gorgeous and uplifting, Tattoos on the Heart reminds us that no life is less valuable than another.”
Reasons I like it: I went back to check my personal notes and this is what I wrote:
This book makes me want to be a better person. Period.
Any book with this effect gets five stars. My sister brought it from America and told me she laughed out loud as she read it and every morning her husband wanted to know the funny things she’d been reading. Anyone who can take working with gang members and ex-cons and some of the most tragic situations and find The Light and the light side is someone I want to follow. Father Greg consistently challenges the deeply rooted belief that some lives are not as valuable as others. There is also a beautiful chapter on success and failure and what they look like when you are working with people … things are messy! I find myself in the messy grey middle more and more as I grow older and people invite me deeper into their messes. Am I making the difference Father Greg is? I don’t know, but I hope to leave fingerprints along the way. Thanks Elizabeth for one of the best books I’ve read in a long time!
I am so excited about this series I can barely stand it. I wanted you to know what we’ll be reading so you can join in the excitement (and if you want used copies with cheap shipping, you can order now).