Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

Service of Hope

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Forgiveness, grief, perseverance, guilt, disabilities, World War II, 9/11 and racism are all powerful, life-changing emotions, conditions and events that don’t always evoke hope.  Yet the books, TV programs and films that The Christophers selected for their 2018 Christopher Awards, celebrated last Thursday in NYC, characterize and exemplify optimism and courage. The 69 year old awards laud writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose films, TV/cable programs and books “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Here are just a few examples from this year’s winning books:

Dr. Edith Eger, who at 90 lives in La Jolla, Calif., was a holocaust survivor pulled barely alive from a pile of bodies when the camp that held her captive was liberated. An eminent psychologist, she maintains a busy clinical practice and lectures around the world helping survivors of abuse, soldiers suffering from PTSD and others she wrote about in her memoir “The Choice.” She experienced and observed that many live within a mind that has become a prison. She described how she achieved freedom by confronting her suffering and how she helped others do the same. Far from a Pollyanna take on her life, “The Choice” is a compelling, thoughtful–and helpful–read.

Rev. Jonathan Morris presents Meadow Rue Merrill her Christopher Award.

Meadow Rue Merrill, in “Redeeming Ruth,” wrote about her severely disabled adopted child, abandoned at birth in Uganda, whose short life she and her husband Dana and their three kids made the best possible. “She was more than just our daughter; she was an ambassador, who opened our hearts to the needs of children with disabilities in the developing world,” said the award-winning journalist. “We miss Ruth every day, but we wouldn’t trade one day we had with her for the world.” Ruth’s spirit lives on well beyond the hearts of her loving family. Proceeds from “Redeeming Ruth” support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda and Meadow and Dana Merrill are dedicated to assisting these otherwise helpless people and to drawing attention to their plight.

From left Jameel McGee, Father Morris and Andrew Collins

“Convicted” is about a crooked white police officer, Andrew Collins and the innocent African American man, Jameel McGee, he sent to jail. Collins arrested and charged McGee, who was launching a business at the time, with possession of crack cocaine. Sentenced to 10 years in federal prison McGee served three until his conviction was overturned when Collins admitted to falsifying evidence. Collins resigned due to an investigation for misconduct and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for drug possession with the intent to distribute, serving 18 months. Years following their release, the men worked together at Café Mosaic, a coffee shop and community development program in Benton Harbor. Spoiler alert**: McGee forgave Collins, they are friends today and they travelled to and attended the Awards together. **I’m being silly as the subtitle, “A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship” gives away what happened. And you thought your sister in law was unforgivable.

Children 8 and older will read about an American child who makes the decision to stay with her French grandmother, whom she doesn’t like, on a farm in Alsace just as World War II breaks out. They’ll see what happens when Nazi’s move into their home. Thanks to Patricia Reilly Giff in “Genevieve’s War,” they’ll learn about deprivation, hunger, fear and anxiety when Genevieve shares a secret with someone who may be collaborating with Germans. She was warned not to whisper a word. In addition to seeing how a clash of cultures can affect family members, they’ll observe the child’s change of heart when love and respect take the place of the disdain Genevieve once felt toward her grandmother.

This year’s Christopher Life Achievement Award winner, Ken Burns, who has also won previous Christopher Awards said that it will be through storytelling, not political debates, that people will change their minds.  “In an awards environment that is all ego, it is refreshing to have the Christopher Awards around to remind us all of the real purpose of our work. Without much fanfare or hoopla, and with the simple grace that echoes their objectives perfectly, The Christophers reaffirm the best impulses we have – that is to transform humanity for the better with our hard work, compassion and art.”

Have you read books or seen films/TV programs or experienced dire situations in which the ancient Chinese proverb “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” led the way? In addition to The Christophers, for which that proverb guides all its programs, there are other sources that celebrate people who turn negatives into positives such as “The Moth Radio Hour” on NPR and “The Kindness Challenge” on Facebook. They share instances that build people up and shed light on possibilities and solutions. Can you name others?

Authors at Christopher Awards from left Amy Guglielmo, “Pocket Full of Colors;” Kate Hennessy, “Dorothy Day;” Andrew Collins and Jameel McGee, “Convicted;” Meadow Rue Merrill, “Redeeming Ruth” and Jacqueline Tourville, “Pocket Full of Colors.”

Service of Being Blind to Poverty

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Photo: locerdome.com

Photo: locerdome.com

I consider myself observant, empathetic and sensitive but unintentionally I’ve been at fault when it comes to being blind to poverty. Here’s just one of many instances that still haunt me. I was planning a visit to a city for business before Yelp and Google existed and asked a couple what their favorite restaurant was as I wanted to invite them for dinner. They said diets prevented them from going out to eat which is why they didn’t have a favorite. I later learned that they didn’t go out because they were in dire financial straits.

Photo: boston.com

Photo: boston.com

I had a college roommate whose family was affluent. She stood on every picket line and joined any and all protests and I felt she had real compassion for the less fortunate. Yet she didn’t realize that the reason one of our dorm members didn’t eat on Sunday night when the dining room was closed was because she didn’t have the money for even a hotdog.

Ivanka Trump is only the latest wealthy high profile person to pontificate and share advice in a book “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.” The subject is life/work balance. Apart from the reviews that trashed the book, I’m not rushing out to buy copies for friends who are stretched to the limit juggling jobs, kids and board positions who don’t work for their fathers and whose excellent salaries don’t reach the ankles of Ms. Trump’s income and the support it affords. In addition to paying for the best nanny care, should she want cooks and social secretaries to keep track of play dates and after school activities, all would be available at the snap of her smartphone. My friends and colleagues could teach Ms. Trump a thing or three. She would have done better interviewing them for her book.

FuneralSheryl Sandberg’s second book, “Option B,” is about dealing with loss. The Facebook COO’s husband died suddenly leaving her to raise young children alone. Her grief is poignant and her advice heartfelt and well meant, I’m sure, and writing about her pain was no doubt therapeutic. I saw a snippet of an interview with her on “60 Minutes.” Nevertheless as I heard her speak this jumped to mind: Can she fathom the circumstance of a poor widow with an hourly part-time job faced with losing her home, with no access to childcare and with insufficient resources to think past cobbling together something for the kids to eat tonight? Would a high powered technology executive’s thoughts resonate with those caught up in survival mode with little if any time to grieve, console the children or even think?

Have you been inadvertently poverty blind? Have you observed instances of such blindness?

 

Photo: keywordsuggests.com

Photo: keywordsuggests.com

 

Service of Putting Your Money Where Your Talent Is: What Books Do Authors Read & Pictures Painters Collect?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

"Thoughts" by John Henry Henshall, 1883

“Thoughts” by John Henry Henshall, 1883

Books

Authors are always asked to name writers they admire and books they’ve loved and all are brimming with lists. Lisa C. Hickman, Ph.D is no exception. When I asked her by email she responded in minutes, “That’s a tough question, I admire so many. I recently finished Rick Moody’s Hotels of North America which was super smart and funny.  I also liked his novel The Ice Storm. But that’s all I’ve read by him.”

Author Lisa Hickman

Author Lisa Hickman

Hickman wrote William Faulkner and Joan Williams: The Romance of Two Writers (McFarland); edited Remembering: Joan Williams’ Uncollected Pieces (Open Road Media) and authored the narrative nonfiction book, Stranger to the Truth, (IndieAuthor LLC), a recounting of a Memphis matricide case.

She continued: “I’ve read a significant number by contemporary authors such as Jim Harrison, Valerie Martin, T. C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Oscar Hijuelos and Per Petterson, to name just a few.  In the southern literature genre–the subjects of my first book—in addition to William Faulkner and Joan Williams are Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy, Lewis Nordan and William Gay.   

“I think Andre Dubus III’s novel, The Garden of Last Days, about the terrorists who orchestrated 9/11 was a marvel, yet it didn’t get the traction it deserved.  An author with a lot of wit and talent—often overlooked–is Stanley Elkin.  I’m also a big Judith Rossner fan! And so it goes…”

David McCullough

David McCullough

In The Christian Science Monitor Danny Heitman reported that David McCullough likes to read what the subjects of his books did. In 2011 the Pulitzer Prize and National book Award-winning author told Heitman that John Adams carried a copy of Don Quixote and as he had not read it, he added it to his list. Among McCullough’s favorites are “historians Barbara Tuchman, Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote,” wrote Heitman, and he “is also a big fan of William Trevor, the Irish author and playwright, as well as mystery writer Ruth Rendell.” Quoting McCullough: “I love Anthony Trollope, I’m a Trollope nut. I also like [Canadian novelist] Robertson Davies. I love  Charles Dickens’ ‘American Notes.’”

Pictures

Authors aren’t the only ones to collect the work of colleagues. Mary Tompkins Lewis wrote in The Wall Street Journal about pictures by famous artists chosen for a London exhibition because other famous artists had bought them, which, she reported, happens a lot. [I never thought about it before but imagine it’s a superb subject for a museum exhibition!]

Lewis identified some of the artists and the paintings that will be on view at the National Gallery through September 4: 

  • Lucian Freud bought “Italian Woman” by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Paul Cézanne’s “Afternoon in Naples”
  • Henri Matisse owned “Three Bathers” also by Cézanne and a picture of a Tahitian by Paul Gauguin
  • Lewis wrote “Degas, whose buying habits bordered on addiction, briefly considered establishing a museum of his own.” Degas owned works by Gauguin, Manet and Cezanne, to name a few. Today Jasper Johns owns one of the Cézanne pictures that Degas had also bought—“Bather with Outstretched Arm.” 

“Countless artists have collected the work of their peers or masters of the past. As the exhibition shows, their motivations for doing so—which can include emulation, kindred pictorial ambitions, rivalry, prestige of ownership, or even investment—offer intriguing insights into their own artistic makeup,” she wrote.

Do you have a job, vocation, or hobby that inspires you to collect or read the work of others? Have you read books that your favorite authors say have inspired them? Do you enjoy identifying influences of other artists in some of the paintings you love most?

Paul Cézanne's "Bather with Outstretched Arm"

Paul Cézanne’s “Bather with Outstretched Arm”

 

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