Free Speech and Religion

Six Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

June 14, 2022  • Emily Chaudhari & Religion & Society Program

Need a good book for the summer? The books on this list, curated by the Religion and Society program, amplify diverse perspectives on religion, culture, politics, and justice. They offer readers the opportunity to learn from leading scholars, educators, theologians, and thinkers working to advance religious pluralism in their communities. 

Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation
Ekemini Uwan (Powering Pluralism Network member), Christina Edmondson, and Michelle Higgens
Publication: April 26, 2022

“Once upon a time, an activist, a theologian, and a psychologist walked into a group chat. Everything was laid out on the table: Dating. Politics. The Black church. Pop culture. Soon, other Black women began pulling up chairs to gather around. And so, the Truth’s Table podcast was born.

In their literary debut, co-hosts Christina Edmondson, Michelle Higgins, and Ekemini Uwan offer stories by Black women and for Black women examining theology, politics, race, culture, and gender matters through a Christian lens. For anyone seeking to explore the spiritual dimensions of hot-button issues within the church, or anyone thirsty to deepen their faith, Truth’s Table provides exactly the survival guide we need.”

Why we like it: This book illustrates that there are spiritual dimensions to all parts of our lives and that many facets of pluralism–race, religion, gender–shape how we move in the world.


Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction 
Edited by Wendy Cadge (Powering Pluralism Network member) and Shelly Rambo
Publication date: June 14, 2022

“Wendy Cadge and Shelly Rambo demonstrate the urgent need, highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, to position the history and practice of chaplaincy within the rapidly changing landscape of American religion and spirituality. This book provides a road map for training and renewing chaplains across a professional continuum that spans major sectors of American society.

Written by a team of multidisciplinary experts and drawing on ongoing research at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis University, Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century identifies three central competencies—individual, organizational, and meaning-making—that all chaplains must have, and it provides the resources for building those skills.”

Why we like it: Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century shines a light on the significance of the spiritual and religious dimensions of the human experience, prepares chaplains for ministry within interfaith and multicultural contexts, and pays particular attention to the intersectional issues of religious diversity, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.


Blackness and Islam
Dawud Walid (Powering Pluralism Network member)
Publication Date: February 10, 2021

“Despite the egalitarian spirit of Islam, the lived reality of many Muslims is very different, and this is most apparent when we observe how Muslims deal with race and ethnicity. Muslims who are Black in the West in particular, have found that while Islam may not discriminate based on race, many Muslims do. To make matters worse, some of those Muslims will delve into the Islamic tradition to justify their biases and bigotries, seeing no contradiction between their racism and the Islamic ideals.

This work seeks to clarify and debunk some traditions which support their racist positions and presents biographies of early Muslims who were Black. The biographies of these great Muslim personalities show us how Blackness was a normal part of life for early Muslims, in sharp contradistinction to modern prejudices against Black folks found in some Muslim communities.”

Why we like it: Blackness and Islam works to dispel bias and bridge religious divides by examining Islam’s rich multi-ethnic and multi-racial history.


Teaching Religious Literacy to Combat Religious Bullying: Insights from North American Secondary Schools
W.Y. Alice Chan (Powering Pluralism Network member)
Publication Date: 2021

“This text explores the phenomenon of religious bullying as it manifests in two North American contexts and theorizes religious literacy as a viable school-based intervention to promote understanding of religious and non-religious differences.

Teaching Religious Literacy to Combat Religious Bullying will benefit researchers, academics, and educators with an interest in religious literacy, religious education, the sociology of education, and those looking at the field of bullying and truancy more widely. Those interested in intersectionality, marginalized communities, secularism, and educational policy will also benefit from the volume.”

Why we like it: Chan’s book examines teacher and student attitudes toward religious and non-religious differences and offers practical recommendations to promote religious literacy and religious pluralism in the classroom. 


The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life
Simran Jeet Singh
Publication Date: July 19, 2022

“The Light We Give lays out how we can learn to integrate ethical living to achieve personal happiness and a happier life. It speaks to those who are inspired to take on positive change but don’t know where to begin. To those who crave the chance to be empathetic but are afraid of looking vulnerable. To those who seek the courage to confront hatred with love and compassion. Singh reaches beyond his comfort zone to practice this deeper form of living and explores how everyone can learn the insights and skills that have kept him engaged and led him to commit to activism without becoming consumed by anger, self-pity, or burnout.

Part memoir, part spiritual journey, The Light We Give is a transformative book of hope that shows how each of us can turn away from fear and uncertainty and move toward renewal and positive change.” 

Why we like it: Singh (the Religion & Society Program’s executive director) demonstrates how spiritual wisdom can inspire and empower us to connect with others and commit ourselves to justice, equity, and inclusion. 


We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy
Eboo Patel
Publication Date: May 10, 2022

“In his youth, Eboo Patel was inspired by love-based activists like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Badshah Khan, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Their example, and a timely challenge to build the change he wanted to see, led to a life engaged in the particulars of building, nourishing, and sustaining an institution that seeks to promote positive social change—Interfaith America. Now, drawing on his twenty years of experience, Patel tells the stories of what he’s learned and how, in the process, he came to construct as much as critique and collaborate more than oppose.

His challenge to us is clear: those of us committed to refounding America as a just and inclusive democracy need to defeat the things we don’t like by building the things we do.” 

Why we like it: Patel lays out how to create effective and efficient institutions and structures that help foster a diverse democracy and promote religious pluralism.  

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