SoJust Book Group

The Social Justice Book Group addresses civic engagement (see the library’s guides for more information) and reads an array of titles about identity, equality, justice, the environment, and much more. Our current vision is to read books that get us thinking and talking about how we as a community can move towards a more socially just future. This informal book group meets at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month for lively conversation and includes a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. Meetings typically do not occur during the months of July and August. If a normal meeting date falls on a holiday, then it is postponed to the following Tuesday. The group is facilitated by Julia Sullivan, (978) 256-5521 ext. 1125,

Please note: this is a hybrid book group that meets both in person and virtually simultaneously. Click the event listed on the Social Justice Calendar to register online if you plan to attend either virtually or in person.

Sign up for email announcements and reminders about this group!

Check out the library’s various social justice and civic engagement resources.

Selected titles for this group 2022-23:

Selected titles for this group 2021-22:

Selected titles for this group 2020-21:

SoJust Speaker Series: Compelling Questions

In addition to book discussions, the group hosts virtual monthly speaker programs and presentations themed around the selected book titles. Check out information from some of our past speaker programs and events below!

November 12, 2021: Why Haven't We Cured Cancer?

Despite decades of effort and huge investments, metastatic cancer is still usually incurable and cancer kills over 600,000 people in the U.S. every year. We heard from Joshua Dempster, PhD on why cancer has proven to be such a hard scientific problem and why promising advances have yet to produce a game-changer for most patients. We discussed how recent progress in biology is enabling cancer treatment discovery.

Dr. Dempster spent four years as an Army officer before entering graduate school. He completed a doctorate in physics from Northwestern University in 2016. Since then, he has joined the Cancer Data Science team at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His current research focuses on predicting the vulnerabilities of cancers and using data from CRISPR gene editing experiments to help build the Cancer Dependency Map project.

Paid for by the Marjorie Scoboria Lecture Fund

September 10, 2021: Is Gender Binary?

Since 1972, SpeakOUT Boston has conducted peer-led training programs to prepare LGBTQIA community members to effectively tell their personal stories to create positive social change. During this program we heard personal stories from two transgender volunteers, Jenn Stephens and Trevor Boylston, from the organization.

Paid for by the Marjorie Scoboria Lecture Fund

June 24, 2021: Why Are LGBTQ+ Historical Figures Missing From Our School's Curriculum?

The time to unerase history is now!

“If you were to look only at US history textbooks, you wouldn’t know LGBTQ+ people helped build our nation. And that’s a problem.

History UnErased (HUE) is solving that problem by putting LGBTQ+ history in its rightful place–the classroom–with our groundbreaking Intersections and Connections digital curriculum for K-12 schools.”

History UnErased is founded by award-winning classroom teachers who bring decades of experience into the development of inclusive curriculum and educational trainings. HUE’s efforts brings LGBTQ+ U.S. history into the mainstream curriculum and ensures that all students, today and beyond, learn about and understand a more complete story of America and a more empowering reflection of who “We the people” includes, allowing for genuine understanding and equality to become a reality for LGBTQ+ people. View the PDF Handout from the event here. 

The HUE team works in partnership with expert historians and archivists, the Library of Congress, New York City Department of Education, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, ONE Archives Foundation at USC Libraries, New York Public Library, National Park Service, and more! For related resources, reading lists, and additional local organizations take a look through our LGBTQ+ Equality Civic Engagement Guide.

May 26, 2021: Who Gets to Tell Your Story? On Disability and Identity.

Developing one’s identity is a complicated business, especially because so much of it is tied to the expectations of others. This is particularly true during adolescence, when the desire to fit in and be loved can cause self-doubt and sometimes even self-loathing. How do your limitations—physical, cognitive, psychological—impact who you are and how you are seen by those around you? Do you have a say in how your story gets told? Using a powerful personal story of his own, interwoven with disarming humor, veteran educator and disability advocate John Sharon will explore the intersectionality of identity development and human limitations and what it’s like to live in a world that rewards the perfect over the good. View the PDF Handout from the event here.

Born with a rare physical disability, John Sharon was educated in independent schools from 1st grade onward, graduating high school from St. Albans School in Washington, DC. He is the founder of Disabilities Understood. He graduated cum laude from Connecticut College with a degree in Government. He has taught in independent schools for more than 31 years, and for 23 of those years he has also worked as a senior-level administrator in various capacities. John is a frequent presenter at the National Association of Independent Schools’ Diversity Leadership Institute, and he has also worked extensively as a speaker and facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League’s “A World of Difference” program. He has been an adjunct faculty member for Independent School Management’s Summer Institutes, and has presented and led workshops at numerous schools and regional conferences around the country. Currently he is both the Assistant Headmaster for the Academic Program and Chair of the Social Studies Department at the Fenn School in Concord, MA, and is also the founder of Disabilities Understood, an organization that seeks to empower people of all abilities through education and training. John is a nationally licensed soccer coach and is a singer, songwriter, and harmonica player—mostly Blues and Bluegrass. He and his wife Amy live in Chelmsford and have two all-grown-up children.

April 26, 2021: When You Think About Climate Change, How Do You Feel?

350MA of Greater Lowell is a Chapter of 350 Mass, A Better Future Project. Node members, Win Flint, Bob Wald, and Jay Mason shared about ongoing efforts and ways that you as a community member can get involved!  View the PDF Handout from the event here.

The best way to get involved in 350 Mass is by attending a meeting held by your local volunteer group which 350 Mass calls a “node!” Members of 350 Mass nodes work together to organize their communities, mobilize their friends and neighbors, and hold their elected officials accountable in the fight for 100% renewable cities and a fossil free future. Lowell ‘node’ members work locally to end the dependence on fossil fuels and foster a clean energy future! The group is open to all residents of the greater Lowell area interested in fighting climate change.  For related resources, reading lists, and additional local organizations take a look through our Environment & Climate Change Civic Engagement Guide.

March 29, 2021: What Can We Do to Reduce Homelessness?

Isaiah Stephens, Triage Manager for The Lowell Transitional Living Center (LTLC), spoke about the Center’s mission and the multitude of ways that you as a community member can get involved! View the PDF Handout from the event here.

LTLC provides the most vulnerable adults in the Merrimack Valley community with shelter, showers, laundry, and food. LTLC promotes overall stability, emphasizing physical, mental, and emotional health and is the largest shelter and homeless support organization north of Boston. LTLC Case Managers specialize in housing, financial assistance, health and wellness and work to empower guests by acting as a partner in the journey from homelessness to housing. This can range from assisting in the obtainment of a form of identification and health insurance all the way to advocating on an individual’s behalf to receive fair access to affordable housing. When needed, LTLC Case Managers also work with those in need of drug/alcohol rehabilitation through establishing relationships with local rehabilitation programs, as well as providing transportation. LTLC owns 12 single occupancy apartments, 55 below market Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units, and 6 units of housing for chronically homeless individuals. For related resources, reading lists, and additional local organizations take a look through our Poverty and Food Insecurity Civic Engagement Guide.