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Immigration Book 'Common Read'
Immigration Book Suggested as Congregational 'Common Read'

Congregations are being invited this fall to engage in a “Common Read” of the new Beacon Press book on immigration issues, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands.

Gail Forsyth-Vail, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Adult Programs director, says the hope is that all types of small groups within congregations—lifespan education programs, small group ministry groups, book groups, etc.—will read the book and discuss it between now and next spring.

A discussion guide for the book, being written by Forsyth-Vail, will be available by October 1, possibly earlier. Beacon Press’s paperback edition of The Death of Josseline will be available October 12 and can be preordered from the UUA Bookstore for $16 per copy, with discounts for multiple copies. The hardcover edition is available now for $26.95. The book is also available in many public libraries. Plans are also underway to make the author, Margaret Regan, a longtime Tucson immigration reporter, available in some form, possibly a podcast or webinar.

The Death of Josseline includes the accounts of what happened to several border crossers in recent years. Josseline, 14, was trying to bring her 10-year-old brother to their mother in Los Angeles when she died in the Arizona desert of exhaustion and exposure. The “Panda Express 11” were swept up in a raid at their fast-food restaurant and most were deported. Another story is about a young mother, who, badly injured, was rescued by the Border Patrol.

In addition to migrant stories, the book also describes the work of the Border Patrol, without vilifying it, and the humanitarian group, No More Deaths, which is a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.

“This book is a fabulous resource for our congregations,” says Forsyth-Vail. “Educators know that people learn best through personal stories and this book provides many of them. This is a really good way for us to get a handle on what’s happening with immigration in the Southwest.”

“We hope that by reading this book in community with each other, people in our congregations can share their feelings and they can discuss together how they feel called to respond to this issue,” she adds.

Forsyth-Vail says the study guide will be usable for “one-shot discussions of an hour or more” as well as for multiple discussion sessions. She says she believes this is the first “Common Read” the UUA has done in recent memory. “Our hope is that this will be a way to move the discussion of this issue beyond a congregation’s social justice committee, as important as that group is, and into the rest of the congregation so that more people might begin to make a connection with this compelling issue that has come to dominate our political and moral dialogue.”

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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