Tom Lysaght is an accomplished playwright with some 30 plays in both English and Spanish to his name. He also founded “El Teatro de Pan y Paz” in rural Peru, where he wrote circus drama plays about economic and health challenges, utilizing masks, stilts, and 15-foot high puppets for open-air performances, and he’s travelled extensively to help launch similar community development theatre projects.
While his latest project is not a play, it is nevertheless dramatic. 35 years in the making, his novel, Persian Passion: Of Gods and Gargoyles, is a work of creative non-fiction set in Persia during the time of the Bab. Actor Rainn Wilson said it’s “… an expertly written look into the parallel histories of the founders of the Baha’i Faith, the Bab and Baha’u’llah. It evokes the spiritual passion and political complexity of mid-nineteenth century Persia in beautiful prose…”, and Dr. Nader Saiedi calls it “A captivating account of a dramatic summer that questioned traditionalism and patriarchy, and celebrated the resurrection of the human spirit”. This new book holds particular interest this year as Baha’is around the world celebrate the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i Faith, so I was excited to hear from Tom about his new novel, and here’s what he had to say: Continue reading
Part of Baha’i Blog’s mission is to support Baha’i-inspired content online: we strive to see what’s currently out there in English and we try to lend support by highlighting initiatives, interviewing creators, and curating videos and songs. Susan Gammage has been tirelessly creating and promoting uplifting and resourceful Baha’i-inspired content for many years. When her website was hacked and taken offline, we keenly felt the absence of her online voice for many, many months — as did a whole community of people who have found Susan’s materials helpful. We are thrilled that she’s back online, with a newly designed site, and has recently released not one, but eight new books! Continue reading
Immortal Youth: A Tribute to the Life and Station of the Bab is a new volume released in honor of this year’s bicentennial anniversary of His Birth. Initiated and compiled by the editorial department of the US Baha’i Publishing Trust, this softcover book offers some sacred and authoritative texts of the Baha’i Faith that pertain to the life and station of the Bab. The 118 page book is organized in an accessible manner and is divided into sections covering the birth, declaration, martyrdom, and station of the Bab, followed by a selection of His own prayers and meditations. It includes Writings of Baha’u’llah and the Bab as well as Writings and recorded utterances of Abdu’l-Baha and writings of Shoghi Effendi.
Immortal Youth gathers together passages and Writings found elsewhere into one commemorative book: it is beautifully designed and a befitting tribute to the Bab. While neither an exhaustive or comprehensive collection, the book’s introduction explains that “it is hoped that this book will offer an opportunity for readers to reflect on the life and station of the inaugurator of the Baha’i Dispensation, the towering Figure described by Baha’u’llah as ‘the Primal Point, the Divine Mystery, the Unseen Essence, the Dayspring of Divinity, and the Manifestation of Thy Lordship, through Whom all the knowledge of the past and all the knowledge of the future were made plain.'” Continue reading
My dear friend and prolific writer and scholar Hussein Ahdieh has just released a memoir of his experiences as a Baha’i in Iran and an immigrant to the United States. You may recognize his name from the books Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz or The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries. Both books were co-written with Hillary Chapman, and now the dynamic duo have teamed up again for their latest book based on Hussein Ahdieh’s life, called Foreigner. It’s funny, it’s tender, and it sheds a powerful light on what it feels like to be an immigrant.
Hussein agreed to tell us about his book and what inspired him to write it:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Hussein, can you tell us a little bit about your new book ‘Foreigner’, and what it’s all about?
‘Foreigner’ tells my story as an Iranian Baha’i immigrant to the United States in a series of moving and humorous episodes set against the backdrop of a changing Iran, the plight of the Baha’is there, and the tumult of the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. It’s a vivid re-telling of a foreigner’s experience — as a Baha’i in a Shi’a Muslim country, as an immigrant in a foreign land, as a poor person in New York City, as a Middle Easterner in the West – it’s full of my experiences with challenges and personalities from all walks of life.
Earl Redman is a master storytelling and his books captivate my imagination. He’s the author of Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst, Shoghi Effendi Through the Pilgrim’s Eye (Volumes I and II), and The Knights of Baha’u’llah. George Ronald recently released a new book, called Visiting Abdu’l-Baha, that makes up the first volume in a two volume series. The books feature stories illustrating how Abdu’l-Baha taught the principles of the Baha’i Faith to others and how He embodied those principles in His interactions. I was eager to catch up with Earl and here’s our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: It’s wonderful to hear from you again, Earl! What have you been up to since we last interviewed you?
Since 2014, my wife Sharon and I have been traveling extensively from Tasmania, through the Pacific, the US, Canada and Alaska, to Iceland, Europe, Tunisia and Israel sharing stories from the two volumes of Visiting Abdu’l-Baha, mostly in small communities who do not get many visitors. And it has been amazing to see the reactions of both Baha’is and their friends to these stories.
While reading Remembrance Suite by the poet Shirin Sabri, I found myself getting caught up in emotion.
Thinking about my tearful reaction to these stunning poems, I traced them back to an unusual mixture of feelings of outrage and inspiration.
The poet tells of the wrongs done to some of the women in history but gowns the exposure with descriptions of their achievements, and their eternal glory. The vocabulary is rich, the images suffused with colour and beauty, the message as clear as a bell.
Most of the subjects of the poems are women unknown to most people in the world but they clearly made significant contributions to the great ongoing spiritual journey of humanity. We learn of Hajar and Hatshepsut, of Zenobia and Hypatia. For Baha’is we are treated to new perspectives on Khadijih Bagum, on Navaab, and on Ruhiyyih Khanum. Other subjects are Aseyeh, Maria the Jewess, The Magdalene, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.
In her poem “Grandmothers”, Shirin Sabri lives up to her own injunction in the final verse:
So, tell their stories, breathe upon history’s blood red ember
and light their lovely faces with that flame. We will remember.
I relished the opportunity to ask the poet some questions. Continue reading
Perhaps you have seen volumes of The Baha’i World line a bookshelf in a Baha’i home. They are serious and dignified tomes, rich in information about the growth of the Faith, tributes to prominent teachers and promoters of the Cause, and thoughtful commentary. They were first published under the care and supervision of Shoghi Effendi, in the early years of his ministry, and they continued to be published until 2006.
Now The Baha’i World is an online publication. While other websites currently feature sections and the type of information found in older printed volumes, the online platform of The Baha’i World elegantly showcases in-depth articles and thoughtful essays. The site launches with articles that explore various themes such as technology, peace, rural development and agriculture, the emergence of Baha’i Houses of Worship, and humanitarian relief. Continue reading
I grew up listening to William Sears read some of the stories from The Dawn-Breakers for children and I am delighted that I can now share that same recording with my own kids. Zoe Meyer originally wrote Stories from the Dawn-Breakers and William Sears’ reading of it is warm, captivating and charming — which makes it a fantastic resource for children and junior youth.
Restored and remastered in honor of the upcoming bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, the the four disc set is now available for purchase.
If you’d like to read more about The Dawn-Breakers, we shared an article that introduces that priceless historical text here on Baha’i Blog. Continue reading
Louis Venters is a historian and historic preservationist with a particular interest in the histories of race, religion, and social change in the United States. He has just released a new book titled A History of the Baha’i Faith in South Carolina and it features some incredible photographs.
I first met Louis in West Africa when I was a junior youth — many more years ago than I’d care to admit! My family was pioneering in Benin and he was completing a year of service in Togo and Benin. I learned some valuable lessons from Louis about speaking truthfully, lovingly and at times courageously, about being a Baha’i. I feel really honoured that our paths have crossed again, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from his experiences once more. Here’s what he shared about his new book:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in South Carolina, and I became a Baha’i in the late 1980s when I was a junior youth. In fact I first heard about the Faith on Radio Baha’i WLGI, the station that broadcasts from the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute, so in that sense I’m a product of the large-scale growth that made South Carolina such an important part of the American Baha’i community in the 1970s and 1980s. I teach African and African diaspora history, U.S. history, and public history at Francis Marion University, a small public institution in Florence, South Carolina. I also do some public history work, especially through Preservation South Carolina and the state’s African American Heritage Commission. One of the public history projects I’m proudest of is the Green Book of South Carolina, a new mobile travel guide to African American heritage sites across the state. When I’m not being a historian, more often than not it’s my wife and me trying to keep up with our two little boys and serve in our cluster. Otherwise, I’m either at the gym lifting weights or outside running or working in our garden.
Englisi Farsi is a wonderful resource for parents who wish to teach their children Persian (Farsi), the language of Iran, even if they can’t read or write the language themselves. Using the familiar phonetics of the English alphabet, the learning aid includes a series of lively e-books with an interactive audio and pronunciation guide, giving anyone who reads and speaks English a entryway to the rich and lyrical language that is Farsi. Created by Mona Kiani, Englisi Farsi includes colorful books for young children about animals, virtues, fruits and vegetables. They also have a Baha’i prayer book as well! Mona shared with us how she created these books and about the process of putting together the prayer book. Here’s our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Mona! Could you please tell us a little about yourself and Englisi Farsi?
I am an English-speaking Australian of Iranian descent with a Singaporean spouse of mixed ethnicity. We are currently speaking Persian and Mandarin to our son. While I could converse fluently in Farsi, I was not fully acquainted with the Persian written word. That is, untiI I started this journey!
I knew in my heart that I wanted my son to know Farsi. My language defines who I am and, in turn, who he is or will be. I wanted my son to have a good start. But I couldn’t find any resource that didn’t require me to master the Persian alphabet. After a period of futile searching, I decided to develop my own teaching tools in Pinglish/Finglish (Farsi in English) for my son — and my husband as well as the English-speaking wives of my Persian brothers.