Tag Archives Baha’i author

An Appreciation of Marzieh Gail

Marzieh Gail (1 April 1908 - 16 October 1993). Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.

In this article I would like to pay tribute to one of the most distinguished authors of Baha’i literature, Marzieh Gail, by offering a brief biographical sketch of her life and by providing some excerpts of her writing.

My reason for paying tribute to her is that I believe she is an individual whose life and service illustrates two core principles of the Baha’i Faith; the equality of women and men, and the oneness of mankind. She embodied these principles through her outstanding services to Baha’i scholarship as a writer and translator at a time when women often found doors closed to them, and by her serving to humanity in both Western and Eastern communities.

Marzieh was born April 1st, 1908 and her parents, Ali Kuli Khan and Florence Breed, were the first Persian and American Baha’i couple. This cross-cultural family upbringing prepared her for a life of service to both the East and the West. She later recorded some of the details of her childhood and youth in a relatable and humorous tone in her biographical book about her father, Summon Up Remembrance. In addition to being raised by a Persian father and American mother Marzieh spent her childhood from the age of 10 travelling across Europe and the Middle East with her family, learning from tutors along the way. She also had a profound connection to the Baha’i Faith from her early years, meeting Abdu’l-Baha when she was a child and receiving a Tablet from Him, and later meeting Shoghi Effendi. Continue reading

Together, Even When We’re Apart – A Children’s Book About Serving Others & the Pandemic

I interviewed the dynamic duo, writer Linda Ahdieh Grant and illustrator Anna Myers, previously on Baha’i Blog about their children’s book I Love My Name (you can read the interview here). Arising to meet the needs of our age, they have partnered up again to create a children’s story book called Together, Even When We’re Apart. Its subtitle is “My Neighborhood’s Stories of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which offers us a glimpse of what to expect in its pages.

Linda and Anna graciously agreed to tell us about their latest project, how it came together, and what they hope it will offer children and their families. Here’s what they said:

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?

We initially got the idea to write a book about COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 in response to a contest announcement to create a children’s book to help explain COVID-19 to children. By the time we found out that we didn’t win the contest, we were super excited about the endeavor and decided to move forward with it anyway. 

Throughout the time that we were working on the project, Anna and I were experiencing the pandemic first-hand together with our families and our neighbors and, like people all over the world, we were having all kinds of conversations – about how to keep everyone safe, about how to help others, and about what would happen next. Both Anna and I felt really fortunate that during this time, the Universal House of Justice wrote several amazing letters to Baha’is all around the world to assure us of prayers, to share encouragement and love, and to give guidance about how the Baha’i community was responding and could further respond. We found the themes and concepts of these letters to be tremendously comforting and also clarifying — themes about hopefulness, about service to others, about manifesting unity and solidarity in action, about the cultivation of spiritual qualities needed during a crisis, about bending our minds to the needs of our communities, and about how the pandemic could give us insight and appreciation of our inherent oneness and interdependence. Continue reading

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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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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The Chosen Path: Tahirih of Persia and Her Search for God – A Book For Junior Youth

Not that long ago Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman wrote a scholarly work about Tahirih, the poetess and Baha’i heroine, called The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries (you can read all about it here). They have now created a work about her for young readers. It is titled The Chosen Path: Tahirih of Persia and Her Search for God and it includes the artwork of Ivan Llyod and Simina Rahmatian (whose work you can see here on Baha’i Blog). We are much obliged to Hussein for taking the time to tell us about his new book. Here’s what he shared:

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create this book?

Tahirih has been an inspiration for me all my life and for as long as I can remember. Learning more about her and sharing what I learn with others has been a big part of my life.

Tahirih, the Pure One, was a gifted teacher and was at the vanguard of spreading the Bab’s teachings. She was the only female Letter of the Living. She unceasingly proclaimed the Babi Faith and brought a deeper understanding of its teachings to the rapidly growing number of followers. Her courageous act at the Conference of Badasht signaled a break with the past and is a key moment in the history of our Faith.

She wrote vibrant poetry that eloquently and powerfully gave voice to her spiritual longing and reflected the vitality of the new spirit of her age. She emerged as the only woman and the most outspoken of the Babi leaders. The authorities responded by having her murdered in the middle of the night. The memory of her life survives in her poems.

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Man of the Trees – A Book about Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist

One of the early pioneers of the global environmental conservation movement was British Baha’i, Richard St. Barbe Baker. Often referred to as St. Barbe, much of our understanding of environmental conservation, and many of the practices used today, can be directly attributed to his efforts, and so I was excited to discover a new book about St. Barbe’s life called Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist written by Paul Hanley.

It’s been a delight to touch base with author Paul Hanley once again since we last interviewed him about his fascinating book called Eleven. With issues around climate change and the environment making headlines daily, I was eager to hear about Paul’s wonderful biography about Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Baha’i Blog: Hi Paul! Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Well, for starters, there are actually two books to talk about. Both tell the story of a truly one-of-a-kind man, a pioneer of the environmental movement, who traveled the world incessantly trying to convince people to plant trees—billions of trees—to save the planet, and civilization.

The first, ‘Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist’, is a full biography. Later, I was approached to write a version for children: ‘Richard St. Barbe Baker: Child of the Trees’ is a shorter, illustrated biography aimed at the middle school or junior youth age group. Continue reading

Two New Children’s Books about Prayer and the Nineteen Day Feast by Sahar Sabati

There are many ways to help foster a Baha’i identity in children of Baha’i families but I think Sahar Sabati’s work will also do wonders. When I was younger I cherished the books about children whose patterns of family life were similar to my own but those books were few and far between. It is very exciting to see more and more titles becoming available by writers and mothers who are addressing this need. Sahar has decided to release a series a children’s books and the first two about prayer and Nineteen Day Feasts are already available! They are titled Nuala Says Her Prayers and Starr and Her Family Host a Feast, are illustrated by Tina Toosky and Nelli Newport respectively, and they are lovely! Here Sahar shares with us what she’s been working on and how this series came to be: Continue reading

Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet – A Book by Peter Gyulay

Peter Gyulay’s Baha’i Blog articles offer much food for thought, and I find myself thinking about them long after I’ve closed my laptop. If you’re interested, you’ll find all his work here but one of his pieces that I think is really relevant to this post is called My Thoughts on the Mystical Dimensions of the Baha’i Faith. In it, he shares an introduction to what mysticism is and how it is aligned with Baha’i teachings and principles. In fact, Peter wrote a whole book on the topic and it’s called Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet: The Baha’i Approach to Spiritual Transformation.

Here’s what Peter shared with me about his book and what he learned in the process of putting it together:

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

 I was born in Newcastle, Australia. I’ve been a Baha’i since 2003. I earn my living as an English language teacher but my passions are writing, music, being in nature and living an eco-friendly life on a plant-based diet and a bicycle.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

I have been interested in mysticism for a long time, even before I became a Baha’i, and for my whole Baha’i life, I have been trying to understand the mystical dimension of the Baha’i Faith. Although my understanding will continue to deepen, I felt the need to crystallise my thoughts and share them with others as I think the topic is an important one.

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The Wise Men of the West – New Novels by Jay Tyson

It’s been exciting to showcase Baha’i-inspired novels on Baha’i Blog such as The Woman Who Read Too Much by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, The Consulting Detective by Alan Manifold, or Persian Passion: Of Gods and Gargoyles by Tom Lysaght.

The Wise Men of the West (volumes one and two!) are new novels to hit the shelves by Jay Tyson. They’re about the prophesies and expectations of the return of Christ or the Messiah. We’re excited to hear from Jay about his novels, how they came together, and what he hopes readers will take away with them, long after they’ve finished reading the last page. Here’s what he shared with us:

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

I grew up as a Presbyterian, but always wondered why God had not spoken to us in almost 2000 years. So, in my youth, I was attracted to the Baha’i teachings and became a Baha’i before entering college. I studied civil engineering at Princeton and used my education to enable myself and my wife to serve as Baha’i pioneers to Liberia in the late 1970s. It also provided a foundation for work at the Baha’i World Centre, where we served from 1982 to 1989. Since then, we’ve raised two daughters in my wife’s home state of New Jersey and are now proud grandparents.

As a first-generation Baha’i, I’ve felt a special obligation to share something of my experience with other Christians who may be willing to tread a similar path. But I felt that a novel might be more interesting and more frequently read than a simple memoir.

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