‘Common Ground’ Matriarch Brings New Story to South End

Joan Diver, the matriarch of one South End family profiled in J. Anthony Lukas’ 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winning account of court-ordered busing in Boston – “Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families,” discussed and read from her new memoir that documents her spiritual journey on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the South End Branch Library.

“The South End is in my heart, and I’ll always be connected to the South End because of Tony Lukas,” said Diver, who once lived in the shadow of the library at 118 West Newton St. and was on hand to promote her “When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey.”

Acting on a tip from then-U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, Lukas found Diver and her family two months after they moved from the South End to Newton. Diver admits at the time she was still grieving for leaving her friends behind and not facing her problems, and she said she was initially reticent to open up to Lukas for the controversial book.

“Telling him our story was a healing process for [my husband Colin and myself]…and my book is so much more personal and intimate because Tony taught me the power of truth,” Diver said.

Soon after she and her husband Colin agreed to allow Lukas to tell their story, Diver dislocated a disc in her spine while playing squash. The injury brought her to acupuncture, acupressure and other alternative medicine practices, and eventually to Chris “the Healer,” who was based in Santa Fe, N.M.

“I didn’t know what I was seeking when I thought I was just looking for a solution to my back pain,” she said.

After Chris helped her learn to balance her physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies, Diver came to the realization that she too possessed the power to help heal others, including one instance in which she came to the aid of a newspaper vendor on Commonwealth Avenue who collapsed in her presence.

“What I’ve learned from my healers and helping others is that some physical and emotional challenges come from beyond places we know,” Diver said.

After serving for 17 years as the first executive director of the Hyams Foundation a Boston-based non-profit whose mission is to “increase economic, racial and social justice and power within low-income communities.”

Diver left the organization when WBZ-TV asked her to help identify three urban problems and possible remedies.

“I saw that society’s problems have always been there,” Diver said. “All the problems created by fear can’t be solved by ideology or money. Hearts have to open…and I knew at this time I would leave the Hyams to help open hearts.” 

Meanwhile, Diver’s spiritual quest brought her to Egypt, where she traveled to the great pyramid of Giza and lay in a granite sarcophagus. Here, she said she had an epiphany regarding “the universal consciousness that connects us all to one another.”

Diver said, “The striking thing about these adventures is that none of them were planned. I hope that people will be inspired by my story to seek healing and wellness for themselves, so together we can make a batter world.” Joan Diver’s  “When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey” is now available in paperback from Monkfish Book Publishing at local bookstores and at amazon.com.

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