Amy Renshaw wrote a book several years ago about Abdu’l-Baha’s travels. It’s called Voyage of Love and I still remember its attractive and clever cover and the well told stories it contains. As this year commemorates the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s passing the US Baha’i Publishing Trust has released a new edition of the book. I was eager to hear from Amy about this new edition and she very graciously agreed to tell us all about it:
Baha’i Blog: To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself?
First of all, thank you so much for reaching out to me. Baha’i Blog is a wonderful resource, and I’m grateful to everyone who makes it happen.
As for me, I’ve always loved books, writing, and learning. I have degrees in English and Sociology, and I work full-time as the Senior Editor at Brilliant Star Magazine and Brilliant Star Online. I’ve been blessed to be part of that team for about 21 years so far.
My free time looks a lot like my work time—I’m usually either reading or writing. I just published my first historical mystery novel, and I hope to write more books. My husband and I live in Wisconsin, where we grew up, and we have two adult children.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Voyage of Love: Abdu’l-Baha in North America is a collection of stories about Abdu’l-Baha’s journey in 1912. It covers some of the places He went, the people who met Him, and the historical context of those events. I had fun researching what the world was like in 1912 and what was happening with things like race relations, gender equality, children’s lives, travel, and technology. The book also includes excerpts from some of Abdu’l-Baha’s amazing public talks. It’s written to be accessible for junior youth, youth, and adults of any faith.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write it?
A big part of the inspiration was one of the first Baha’i books I read as a young adult—The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Juliet writes about Abdu’l-Baha with so much love and devotion. It really touched my heart when I was learning about the Faith. The first chapter I wrote in Voyage of Love was the chapter about her. I also wanted to include some of my favorite passages from Abdu’l-Baha’s beautiful talks, which are collected in The Promulgation of Universal Peace.
Baha’i Blog: What makes this centenary edition different from the first edition?
Since we’re honoring the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s passing this year, my friends at the U.S. Baha’i Publishing Trust asked me to write a preface about this special time. We also added discussion questions for each chapter. The hope is that families, neighbors, communities, and classes will use them to spark discussions about Abdu’l-Baha and the Baha’i teachings.
Baha’i Blog: What was your creative process in putting this book together? What was a particular challenge?
I love history, so the research was a fun challenge. In the book God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi describes some of the highlights of Abdu’l-Baha’s journey, so that gave me a starting point. I pulled together all the resources I could find. So I looked at things like the Baha’i World volumes, the magazine Star of the West, biographies of Baha’is, and accounts of the journey like Mahmud’s Diary by Mírza Madhmud-i-Zarqani, who traveled with Abdu’l-Baha. I found some fascinating stories about the Baha’is who met Abdu’l-Baha, such as Louis Gregory, Corinne True, John Bosch, Agnes Parsons, and many others. I included some of the key events in their lives before and after 1912. They had great stories about how they found the Baha’i Faith and how they served the Faith.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away with them, long after they’ve finished reading?
I think what someone takes away from a book is unique to each person. But from the writing experience, I think I gained a deeper appreciation for the incredible gift of Abdu’l-Baha’s journeys in the West. He was in His late 60s, and in poor health after spending 40 years as a prisoner. But He traveled around the world—He was here in North America for eight months, but He traveled for three years, from 1911-1913, spending time in Egypt and Europe as well. He covered thousands of miles, and met with people and gave public talks day after day, from morning to night. His energy and sacrifice is mind-boggling. Nobody I can think of would even attempt such a thing, even in good health and with modern conveniences. Not only that, but He had a profound, life-changing effect on so many people. When those people describe their experiences and share what Abdu’l-Baha meant to them, it gives us a little glimpse of what that might have been like. He was known as the Master and the Mystery of God. There’s no end to what we can learn from His example.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Amy!
You can purchase the new edition of Amy’s book here on Amazon: Voyage of Love, Centenary Edition: Abdu’l-Baha in North America