Summer Reading List Ideas

Looking for your next read? These recommended books on the theme of reconciliation are perfect for last days of summer.

Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade by Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan

Two people—a black woman and a white man—confront the legacy of slavery and racism head-on. 
 
“We embarked on this journey because we believe America must overcome the racial barriers that divide us, the barriers that drive us to strike out at one another out of ignorance and fear. To do nothing is unacceptable.”
 
Sharon Leslie Morgan, a black woman from Chicago’s South Side avoids white people; they scare her. Despite her trepidation, Morgan, a descendent of slaves on both sides of her family, began a journey toward racial reconciliation with Thomas Norman DeWolf, a white man from rural Oregon who descends from the largest slave-trading dynasty in US history. Over a three-year period, the pair traveled thousands of miles, both overseas and through twenty-seven states, visiting ancestral towns, courthouses, cemeteries, plantations, antebellum mansions, and historic sites. They spent time with one another’s families and friends and engaged in deep conversations about how the lingering trauma of slavery shaped their lives.

Gather at the Table is the chronicle of DeWolf and Morgan’s journey. Arduous and at times uncomfortable, it lays bare the unhealed wounds of slavery. As DeWolf and Morgan demonstrate, before we can overcome racism we must first acknowledge and understand the damage inherited from the past—which invariably involves confronting painful truths. The result is a revelatory testament to the possibilities that open up when people commit to truth, justice, and reconciliation. DeWolf and Morgan offer readers an inspiring vision and a powerful model for healing individuals and communities. (less)

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

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Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life by Carol A. Berry

Carol Berry and her husband met and befriended Henri Nouwen when she sat in his course on compassion at Yale Divinity School in the 1970s. At the request of Henri Nouwen’s literary estate, she has written this book, which includes unpublished material recorded from Nouwen’s lectures. As an art educator, Berry is uniquely situated to develop Nouwen’s work on Vincent van Gogh and to add her own research. She fills in background on the much misunderstood spiritual context of van Gogh’s work, and reinterprets van Gogh’s art (presented here in full color) in light of Nouwen’s lectures. Berry also brings in her own experience in ministry, sharing how Nouwen and van Gogh, each in his own way, led her to the richness and beauty of the compassionate life.

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The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

https://www.amazon.com/Lemon-Tree-Arab-Heart-Middle/dp/1596913436/ref=asc_df_1596913436/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312443114357&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=16209076056637936743&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1025001&hvtargid=pla-453650663419&psc=1

In 1967, Bashir Khairi, a twenty-five-year-old Palestinian, journeyed to Israel with the goal of seeing the beloved stone house with the lemon tree behind it that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family left fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next half century in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, demonstrating that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and transformation.

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No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

The establishment of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pioneering international event. Never had any country sought to move forward from despotism to democracy both by exposing the atrocities committed in the past and achieving reconciliation with its former oppressors. At the center of this unprecedented attempt at healing a nation has been Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whom President Nelson Mandela named as Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. With the final report of the Commission just published, Archbishop Tutu offers his reflections on the profound wisdom he has gained by helping usher South Africa through this painful experience.

In No Future Without Forgiveness, Tutu argues that true reconciliation cannot be achieved by denying the past.  But nor is it easy to reconcile when a nation “looks the beast in the eye.” Rather than repeat platitudes about forgiveness, he presents a bold spirituality that recognizes the horrors people can inflict upon one another, and yet retains a sense of idealism about reconciliation. With a clarity of pitch born out of decades of experience, Tutu shows readers how to move forward with honesty and compassion to build a newer and more humane world.

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One Coin Found: How God’s Love Stretches to the Margins by Emmy Kegler

The stories of Scripture are for everyone. No exceptions.

Emmy Kegler has a complicated relationship with the Bible. As a queer woman who grew up in both conservative Evangelical and progressive Protestant churches, she knows too well how Scripture can be used to wound and exclude. And yet, the stories of Scripture continue to captivate and inspire her–both as a person of faith and as a pastor to a congregation. So she set out to fall in love with the Bible, wrestling with the stories inside, where she met a God who continues to seek us out–appearing again and again as a voice, a presence, and a promise.

Whenever we are pushed to the edges, our voices silenced, or our stories dismissed, God goes out after us–seeking us until we are found again. And God is seeking out those whose voices we too quickly silence and dismiss, too. Because God’s story is a story of welcome and acceptance for everyone–no exceptions.

Kegler shows us that even when we feel like lost and dusty coins–rusted from others’ indifference, misspent and misused–God picks up a broom and sweeps every corner of creation to find us.

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Revenge: A Story of Hope by Laura Blumenfeld

https://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Story-Hope-Laura-Blumenfeld/dp/0743463390

Laura Blumenfeld’s father was shot in Jerusalem in 1986 by a member of a rebel faction of the PLO responsible for attacks on several tourists. Her father survived, but Blumenfeld’s desire for revenge haunted her. This is her story — and a fascinating study of the mechanics and psychology of vengeance. 

While plotting to infiltrate her father’s shooter’s life, Blumenfeld travels the globe gathering stories of other avengers. Through interviews with Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin; members of the Albanian Blood Feud Committee; the chief of the Iranian judiciary; the mayor of Palermo, Sicily; the Israeli prime minister; priests; sports fans; fifth-grade girls; prostitutes; and more, she explores the dynamics of hate — and the fine line that sometimes separates it from love. 

Ultimately, Blumenfeld’s target is more complex than the stereotypical terrorist she’d long imagined. In a surprising twist, she gets revenge, but not according to traditional expectations. She discovers a third way, a choice beyond “turn the other cheek” or “an eye for an eye.” And with it she answers the age-old question: what is the best revenge?

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