Coronation on Carmel by Michael V. Day is the second book in a trilogy that tells the story of the Shrine of the Bab, the resting place of the Bab, a Messenger of God whose revitalizing message prepared the way for the coming of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
Michael’s skills and talents as a journalist and his deep love for Baha’i history make for an exciting read. I was delighted to hear from Michael about his book, the process of putting it together, and its uniqueness in the trilogy. Here’s what Michael shared with me:
Baha’i Blog: So good to talk to you about this second book in the trilogy, Michael! Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
Coronation on Carmel is the second book in the trilogy I wrote to tell the story of the Shrine of the Bab. It starts just after where Journey to a Mountain finished. It covers the period 1922 to 1963, the time when Shoghi Effendi took on and fulfilled the responsibility given to him by the Abdu’l-Baha to complete the Shrine of the Bab.
The book traces the drama from start to finish. First, it lists the problems in the early years and then shows how by drawing on spiritual resources and through careful planning and attention to practicalities, Shoghi Effendi engaged the brilliant architect, William Sutherland Maxwell, motivated the Baha’is to donate the funds, and with an acute sense of timing, achieved his goal.
The book details the design of the arcade and superstructure, and how it was built. There are lots of descriptions of events in and near the Shrine.
The story is set against the background of the economic depression, communal conflict in the Holy Land, the anxious times of World War 2, and the establishment of the State of Israel.
With Oars and Compass is a book I wish I had read many years ago. Written by Hamed Javaheri, it frames an exploration of the meaning and purpose of life in a narrative that is philosophical, romantic, and mysterious. We meet Jane Luwi Flynn and get to eavesdrop on the meaningful conversations she has with her friends, her growing friendship and attraction to Xavier, and her recurring dreams. The story pulls the reader along and the conversations among its characters make you pause and think. Compelling, informative, engaging, light-hearted, humorous and thought-provoking, With Oars and Compass would have been a book that I read cover to cover as a teenager and young adult when I was asking myself the same questions Jane asks. But really, it’s a novel for anyone and anytime.
Hamed graciously agreed to share what inspired him to write the novel. Here is our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Zambia, Southern Africa, and have lived here for most of my life, with the exception of a brief period in Montreal, Canada, where I pursued my university education. My wife and I married when we were young, and we have three children—the first of which is about to venture off for his year of service before he enters university.
As a Baha’i, I am privileged to witness the impact of the Teachings on the human mind—and on youth in particular—as they come to recognize the potential they have to contribute to the wellbeing of their communities, and to the betterment of the world.
The Primal Point is a significant and timely paperback volume recently published by George Ronald that contains testimonials and tributes to the Bab and some of His early followers. The anthology was put together in honor of the bicentennial anniversary of the Birth of the Bab and rather than capture a comprehensive chronological account of His life, it focuses on the importance of His station and the impact of His Revelation. In its preface, the book’s compiler, Rob Weinberg, writes that it is particularly hoped that the book will inspire Baha’i youth, “who follow so conscientiously with such ardour in the footsteps of their God-intoxicated spiritual forebears.”
The book begins with excerpts from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi about the Station of the Bab and His Revelation. You’ll also find extracts from Babi and Baha’i authors that discuss some of the events of His life and their significance. Many of the writers quoted may be familiar to Baha’is; authors such as Hasan Balyuzi, Horace Holley, Nabil, and Lady Blomfield are included. These writers and their works are priceless in their own right but it’s valuable to see selections of pieces that pertain to the Bab collected all in one place. Continue reading
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