Category Archives Interviews

For the Wellbeing of All: Eliminating the Extremes of Wealth and Poverty – A New Compilation

Bonnie Taylor has compiled a selection of passages on one of the key aims of the Baha’i Faith: the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty on a global scale. The excerpts from the Baha’i Writings gathered in her book, titled For the Wellbeing of All: Eliminating the Extremes of Wealth and Poverty, present the vision of a just and unified global civilization that is both materially and spiritually prosperous.

I reached out to Bonnie to hear about her work in compiling this volume, released by the Baha’i Publishing Trust, and I am grateful she took the time to tell us all about it:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in the country in Ohio, and had virtually no contact with people of other races or cultures until I turned 21. That year I signed up to serve as a volunteer under a U.S. government anti-poverty program. This was during the 1960s. As part of our training for service I learned a great deal about the history of slavery in the U.S., the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the history of the Native peoples in this country. I had known very little of this history previously, and it aroused in me an intense aversion to injustice.

After our training, I was stationed on a Native American reserve. It was there that I heard about the Baha’i Faith. I was immediately attracted. I became a Baha’i shortly thereafter, and fell in love with both the content and the eloquence of the Baha’i writings.

My husband and I now live in Northern Illinois. We have a growing multi-racial family that we proudly refer to as “our coat of many colors.”

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John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop – A Book for Junior Youth & Young Readers

Bellwood Press has created a series of books for junior youth and young readers called the Change Maker series which tells the true stories of individuals who worked to bring about positive social change. So far the series includes three titles: Robert Sengstacke Abbott: A Man, a Paper, and a Parade; John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop; and Richard St. Barbe Baker: Child of the Trees.

Susan Engle authored the first two titles, and I wanted to hear more from her about the book about Dizzy Gillespie (you may also remember Susan from when she shared all about her enchanting tiny books). Susan is a delight and I hope you enjoy this conversation:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about who Dizzy Gillespie was?

If you had lived in his neighborhood when he was a child, you might have heard his family and neighbors calling out, using his first two names as is a southern tradition, “John Birks, sit a spell, why don’t you?” He was constantly on the move. When he was in elementary school, he was provided with a trombone for a small school band. From then on, he channeled most of his energy into playing music. Since his arms were too short to play all the notes on trombone, he would often borrow a neighbor’s trumpet, taking turns with Brother Harrington, practicing for hours at a time. As he grew and became better and better, finally leaving South Carolina for Philadelphia and New York City in his teens, he had years of playing and working out sounds and keys for trumpet tunes under his belt.

Trying out for the Freddie Fairfax Band when he was about 18, one of the band members said, “That dizzy little cat’s from down South.” The nickname “Dizzy” stuck. By the time he had helped bring about a new style of jazz called Bebop, performed for more than one President of the United States, traveled around the world for the State Department, and recorded dozens of records, Dizzy was well-known and loved—not only by many of his fellow musicians, but by jazz fans across the U.S. and around the world. He had many official and unofficial titles, including “King of the Trumpet,” “Ambassador of Jazz,” and “Diz the Wiz.” By the end of his life, he had also received many awards including 14 honorary degrees, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He even has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.

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Will You Break the Silence? Poetic Practical Steps Toward Race Unity – A Book by Andrea Hope

Poetry is powerful. Writer, poet and spoken word artist Andrea Hope has penned a poem about racism and what we can do to heal its wounds. Will You Break the Silence? is a work we’ve needed now more than ever before.

Andrea Hope has appeared on Baha’i Blog wearing various hats: you can watch her perform her spoken word piece called “World Citizen” here; you can read her thoughts and reflections on that poem here; you can also read an interview with her about her children’s book A is for Allah-u-Abha here; or you can read and reflect on her article on failure (titled “Failure…You’re Doing it Wrong”).

I was grateful to Andrea for taking the time to tell us about this book. Here’s what she shared:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us about this work of poetry?

Will You Break the Silence? Poetic Practical Steps Toward Race Unity is composed of a single poem, accompanied by black and white illustrations. It uses simple, evocative stanzas to envision how a friend or ally might support a person struggling with the harsh realities of racial injustice.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired or compelled you to write it?

After several stories of racial injustice gathered media attention yet again in the United States, I was feeling quite exhausted and wondering what more I could do to contribute to enlightening and encouraging others. I also face the challenge in my personal life that I am in an interracial marriage, with a partner who has not been raised in the United States. After a restless night, I recorded a video calling on my friends and allies to take a larger role in addressing prejudiced statements, outlooks, and laws before they become dangerous actions. It felt like for too long the responsibility of explaining and overcoming injustice has fallen on the minority and the oppressed. Little did I know, at the same time, many Black artists and businesspeople like myself were feeling that heaviness and were creating content that asked people in positions of privilege to show their concern and support. I received several emails and responses from friends who wanted to help, but who didn’t quite know where to start. Drawing on my own insights and information gathered for an article I did with Brilliant Star Magazine called “More than Two Colors”, I sat down to put some practical steps into poetic form.

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George Ronald: Publishing Authentic, Accurate & Inspiring Baha’i Books Since 1943

George Ronald is a publishing company in the United Kingdom that has been producing Baha’i books for nearly 80 years! It was founded in 1943 by David Hofman and became a full-time business in 1947, after consulting with Shoghi Effendi and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the British Isles. When Mr Hofman was elected to the Universal House of Justice in 1963, his wife, Marion Hofman, became its director and from that point onwards it concentrated solely on books of interest to Baha’is. Eight Hands of the Cause can be counted among its authors, as well as other distinguished Baha’is. George Ronald has published hundreds of titles on history, business, ethics, comparative religion, studies of sacred texts, poetry, music, novels, biography and philosophy.

As a third generation Baha’i writer, I grew up in a house that treasured George Ronald’s publications — especially the one by my very own grandmother! And I have a particular soft spot for George Ronald’s logo, or colophon, that was designed and fired in clay by Bernard Leach, the world-famous Baha’i potter.

David and Marion Hofman’s daughter, May, is currently one of the directors of George Ronald. I am so grateful to her for sharing with us a little bit about this distinguished publishing company and what its future holds. Here’s what she shared with me: Continue reading

Beyond Pandemic – A Book by Michael Winger

The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and has catalyzed us to think of what lies ahead, and to question who we are and who we want to be collectively as humanity. Michael Winger has recently authored a book that guides us through this subject and it’s called Beyond Pandemic: A Rebirth of Collective Consciousness.

We are grateful to Michael for taking the time to chat with us about his book. Here’s what he shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I became a Baha’i in the early 1970s. There were seven of us who, in a short period of time, became Baha’is in a community where Hand of the Cause of God Bill Sears and his dear wife, Marguerite, lived. We were blessed to be inspired, guided and taught what service to humanity required. We were immersed in the writings of the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi and had almost daily access to Bill and Marguerite when they were in town. So in love with the Teachings and the opportunity to serve, all of us over the years pioneered to far flung places such as Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Taiwan, Portugal and Croatia. We all arose and remembering always the words of dear Bill, “Go and serve and die with your boots on.”

So, here I am in Croatia. Thank you Reed, Kenton, Gene, Tom, Andrea and David for assisting me and giving me examples to follow.

My career was in the field of innovation as an advisor to executives in government and business. I spent most of my time working with executives in assisting organizations to develop processes that enhanced and facilitated innovation in large bureaucratic organizations with focus on product development and strategic planning.

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Another World – An Interview with the Team Behind the Film

Another World is a poignant and thoughtful short film about how children are coming of age at a time when humanity is also struggling to come to maturity. The film is based on a poem by Esther Maloney and between June and December 2020, she, along with a small team of creators from Winnipeg, Toronto and New York, regularly met and brought the poem to cinematic life. Continue reading

Varqa and Ruhu’llah: 101 Stories of Bravery on the Move

Boris Handal has penned a tribute to two outstanding heroes of Baha’i history. Titled Varqa and Ruhu’llah: 101 Stories of Bravery on the Move, this book shares an intimate portrait of an incredible relationship between a father and son, and other members or descendants of their family. The legacy they have left the Baha’i community will undoubtedly inspire greater efforts and sacrifices in contributing to the betterment of the world, and Boris’ book will help share their stories.

I am grateful to Boris for agreeing to tell us a little about his book and the acts of bravery it describes. Here’s what he shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Varqa and Ruhu’llah: 101 Stories of Bravery on the Move is the story of a father and a son that arose in the 19th century to spread the Faith of Baha’u’llah throughout Iran with great strength and resilience. Varqa, the father, was a physician and a talented poet, and his gifted junior youth son, Ruhu’llah, taught the Baha’i Faith with zeal and courage to a country sunk in the most dire fanaticism, corruption and bigotry. Varqa and Ruhu’llah were able to teach both the rich and the poor, the prince and the commoner, the scholar and the illiterate, the clergy and the laic, in freedom or in prison.

For their teaching activities, they were imprisoned more than once. Both attained the presence of Bahaʼu’llah and Abdu’l-Baha. Their saga ended with their tragic martyrdom in the royal prison of Tehran in 1896 but has continued to live like a legend inspiring Baha’is around the world to serve humanity.

The book describes four generations of the Varqa family starting in 1846 when Mulla Mihdi, Varqa’s father and a perfume-maker, accepted the Faith of the Bab with great zeal in the city of Yazd. Varqa was posthumously elevated to the rank of Hand of the Cause. Born Mirza Ali- Muḥammad, he was given the designation Varqa (Dove) by Baha’u’llah because of his eloquence as a poet and a Baha’i speaker and travel teacher. Varqa’s son and grandson, Valiyu’llah Varqa and Dr. Ali-Muḥammad Varqa, respectively, were appointed Hands of the Cause by Shoghi Effendi.

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6 New Prayer Books for Babies and Toddlers Illustrated by Elaheh Bos

I first spotted a couple of Baha’i prayer books for babies and toddlers a few years ago. Their cardboard pages (which make them commonly known as “board books”) are perfect for hands still learning how to turn pages. I wasn’t a mother at the time, but I was eager to purchase them for babies I knew because it was so exciting to see the Baha’i Writings in a format accessible for the very young. Mothers often pray to the babies in their wombs, and sing them prayers from their earliest hours, so it was wonderful to see books safe and strong for really little hands to hold. The first board books I came across were illustrated by Elaheh Bos and I’m really excited that she’s been making more! A Tiny Seed, Rose of Love, I am a Child, Like Unto a Pearl, This Fresh Plant and With Loving Kindness are six newly available board books of prayers and devotions for young children published by Bellwood Press. Three are exquisitely illustrated with plasticine art and three feature color pencil illustrations. Elaheh agreed to tell us a little bit about them and I’m so glad she did. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading

Crimson Ink – A Novel of Modern Iran by Gail Madjzoub

In my interviews with authors for Baha’i Blog, I have noticed a quiet flourishing of Baha’i-inspired novels and they range widely in their genres and styles. Gail Madjzoub has penned a novel titled Crimson Ink which features the workings, struggles and hopes of three families — some Baha’is and others Muslim — in near-contemporary Iran. Curious to know more, I reached out and am grateful Gail responded. Here’s what she shared with me:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Although I was brought up near Boston, Massachusetts, I lived and worked most of my life in Europe and Africa, and traveled widely. I’m currently on the West Coast of Canada close to family.

My professional background has been in education, coaching, and healthcare and I’ve drawn on these a great deal in Crimson Ink.

I have a “Persian connection” through my first husband. I was immersed in a marvelous Persian family and its rich history for the 20 years before his death. Before, during and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, we kept a close watch on the renewed persecution of the Persian Baha’is, and their situation struck a particular chord in me.

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The Independent Investigator – Resource Books for Junior Youth

Tahirih Lemon has written a series called The Independent Investigator that is inspired by the peerless Some Answered Questions, but it is for junior youth readers. She’s currently working on the third title in the series and she needs our help!

In the interview below, Tahirih shares with us about The Independent Investigator and what we can do to help her with the third book.

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Virginia in the United States, and when I was eleven my family immigrated to Australia. I’ve lost most of my accent and occasionally people ask me if I’m Canadian.

I currently live in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. I have also lived in Tonga, teaching at the Ocean of Light International School for a semester in 2005, and I spent a year in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Although, I am a trained primary teacher and obtained a Master of Education, I have been working in the field of child protection for the past decade following a passion to seek assistance for vulnerable children.

I have two now adult children, Nadim and Adia. Adia, the youngest who still lives at home, started her first year of university which transitioned to online learning due to the pandemic after the third week. Another member of our family is our cat Zeba, who rules the house, and thinks she’s a human. I have recently caved into my daughter’s ceaseless requests for a puppy, apparently her ‘therapeutic pet’ to cope during these challenging times.

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