We heard from Eileen Maddocks when she wrote 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith (you can read all about it on Baha’i Blog here) and she is currently hard at work writing a new trilogy called The Coming of the Glory: How the Hebrew Scriptures Reveal the Plan of God. Eileen generously shared with us about the first volume that’s been published, what the whole trilogy will cover, and she shed some light on the process of writing these books. Here’s what she said:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about this book? What is it about?
From the opening chapters of the book of Genesis, the Hebrew Bible hints at the challenges that will face our species–– using the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a symbol for the pitfall of materialism, and the tree of life the station of the Word of God. As we progress through its pages, rich detail is revealed, through its multifaceted allegories, history, hymns and stories, which detail a further succession of Divine Messengers, right down to the present day.
Through the teachings of Jesus and the spread of Christianity, most people have at least passing familiarity with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Some might be familiar with Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets who worked within their traditions to carry forward and reinforce their teachings. These teachings and prophecies were carefully preserved, and guided millions of believers for 2,500 to 3,000 years.
In our modern age, is the study of these ancient writings of interest only to believers, historians and scholars, or could the teachings of such messengers have direct relevance to everyone alive today? I believe that the Hebrew Bible and the messages of its prophets are very relevant to this day.
Revealed in those ancient pages is a God who declares that the end is known from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and that He has made it known to His servants, the prophets. The mission of those prophets was clear. It was to address the problems of their time––idolatry and disobedience to the Mosaic Dispensation––and to call the people to obedience to the Divine Covenant brought by Moses. They also foretold a time of Glory in what was to them the distant future – a time when after much tribulation their descendants would inherit the promises associated with that Covenant. Their prophetic vision reached across thousands of years, announcing an age of global peace and the unity of humankind.
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
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.
If you’ve ever wondered what the most important book of Baha’u’llah is—the one from which you might gain a better understanding of the basic beliefs and spiritual significance of the Baha’i Faith—then look no further than the Kitab-i-Iqan (“The Book of Certitude”). Continue reading
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.
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.
I know I am not alone in my love of beautiful journals and stationery of all kinds. Lily Samii has created a journal, available in an array of colors, aimed at fostering gratitude and mindfulness every day and she shared with us all about her journals, their purpose, how she created them and how she hopes people will use them. Here’s what she said:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
As a citizen of the world, I was inspired to create a universal tool of happiness that is fit for the world we live in today and the future: beautiful and sustainable. With the support of over 30k followers, I created The Gratitude List – an evidence-based journal that helps you be happier and create a life you love.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create a gratitude journal?
I believe in rituals that make us feel happy and calm: whether it’s going for a walk first thing in the morning, chatting with a friend over lunch, enjoying a rooibos cup of tea by the fire, baking a cake – we all wish we had more of those moments. The Gratitude List is the gratitude journal I wish existed. It helps you form positive mindful habits and live in a beautiful state.
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
Playful, joyful, energetic, soulful: these are words that come to mind when describing Jacqueline Claire’s illustrations. (If you’d like see some examples of her artwork you can find it here, or you can learn about her podcast here on Baha’i Blog.)
Jacqueline has most recently created a book that illustrates passages and quotations from the Baha’i Writings and it’s called Noble Beings. Although aimed at a younger audience, I think readers of all ages will delight in her book and find it thoughtful and enriching. Noble Beings is only available for purchase between November 9th and December 8th (you can find copies here) and in the following interview, Jacqueline tells us all about her latest project:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired this project?
Love! On so many levels. Love for the Baha’i Writings. Love for teaching and sharing the Baha’i Faith in a way that connects with people’s hearts. Love for children. Love for the vision of a just, ethical and peaceful world.
I first had the idea in 2017 while shopping for an Ayyam-i-Ha gift for a spiritual and precocious six-year-old. I wanted to give something joyful and relatable that would help nurture a Baha’i identity. I really struggled to find anything that hit the perfect note as far as the aesthetics and spirit of buoyancy and joy I was looking for, so I vowed to eventually make it myself! (In the short run, I illustrated “Blessed is the Spot” for the Ayyam-i-Ha gift). Fast forward to 2020, after working on the book piecemeal over the years, I finally realized that not only was quarantine the ideal time to hunker down and complete my book! But I think we all became aware this year that our lives can change in an instant, and anything really important to us we have to commit to and DO. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Melissa Charepoo has created several children’s books that make the significance of Baha’i holy days accessible to a young audience. You may remember her books about Ayyam-i-Ha, the Fast and Naw-Ruz. She also wrote The Life of Baha’u’llah and most recently she’s released The Life of the Bab. In this post we wanted to focus on her new book titled The Bab and Baha’u’llah: The Twin Manifestations of God. Continue reading