Announcement in Friends Journal
Very Excited to announce that, with ReadersMagnet, I am publishing
a major upgrade to a book I wrote early in my writing career.
Please give this brief entry a good look!
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2019
“In prayer, as in many other areas of life, we ‘learn by going where we have to go.’” I was delighted to see a line from Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” as Marilyn McEntyre’s opening words in When Poets Pray because this was the first poem I ever memorized. The author’s writing captivated me from beginning to end: “Pray in dialogue with a poem,” she concludes, “in ‘call and response’ fashion, pausing after each line or two to speak or write a prayer that the poem evokes or allows.”
I experienced an animated, almost visceral quality in the pages of When Poets Pray. I like McEntyre’s genuine warmth in sharing personal gifts she receives from poets who pray. I like her quiet, unassuming way of weaving prayerful human yearnings into poetic scholarship. I especially like her choice of “Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate, who invites us into nonverbal ways of praying “in languages that aren’t always sound but / Circles of motion/ True circles of motion / like eagle rounding out the morning / Inside us.”
When Poets Pray sweeps from the medieval worldview of Hildegard of Bingen to contemporary poets Lucille Clifton, Francisco X. Alarcon, Anna Kamienska and Wendell Berry. I found the author’s poetry selections as emotionally potent as they are illustrative. John Donne’s “Batter my heart, three-person’d God…” dives down into the dark mysteries of prayer. George Herbert and Thomas Merton penned overtly biblical prayer-poems. Mary Oliver, Denise Levertov and Galway Kinnell remind us how prayer can overlap with our own interior self-talk. “When the disciples ask Jesus, ‘’Teach us to pray,’ writes McEntyre, “they seem to be aware that prayer involves practice – even a learning curve—and some serious retraining in habits of the heart.” I laughed at the author’s playful interpretation of Scott Cairns, whose poetry “offers a wry, timely look at a few of the varieties of self-deception that those who pray are prey to.”
My only critique is that the author, a retired educator, did not include any Quaker poets. I do see McEntyre creating a pioneering archive here, one that links prayer with poetry, and hope she continues in this direction. Friends who treasure Leading From Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead (Introduction by Parker Palmer) will want to invest in a hardbound edition of When Poets Pray, not only to have and to hold but also as a resource in guiding spiritual practice groups.
Judith Favor of Claremont Meeting in Southern California values true prayer and true poetry. Both are essential nutrients for her contemplative soul.
by Eleanor Scott Meyers
ESMeyersPRESS, Claremont CA, 2018
Paperback, 282 pages, $18.95
Available online through Powells Bookstore and Amazon
Ruth meets Cassandra early in her marriage to Ed and gradually becomes central to a quietly piercing, entirely credible three-way love story that sustains an unwanted child, a large extended family, a small Midwestern town – and the reader – until death do us part.
Beloved lesbian commitment is not the book’s only, or even principal subject. One of the pleasures of The Compromise is how sturdily it takes shape in a rural Kansas community during the Depression and how carefully it skirts the high drama to which same-sex-advocate storytellers often resort. Readers will find no treachery in this novel, only delicately nuanced restraint as two women and one man bond in friendship through the hurts, doubts, joys and challenges of a permanently lopsided relationship. Son Taylor eventually “unriddles” his unconventional upbringing to uncover the legacy of being parented by a threesome. His wife Margaret, firmly rooted in the author’s own experience, speaks potently to the questions of generational pain that haunt our times. Her wise, calm voice testifies to the faith, hard work and enduring love that bring grace into the present.
This tri-fold romance unfolds at a deliberate clip with a sharp eye for peripheral detail. Meyers writes in muted, controlled images; she likes to show us the rooms her characters inhabit, the implements they use and the aprons they wear. Many scenes take place in dining rooms and kitchens; the story opens in a cemetery and closes after a funeral. Latter chapters detail the complexities of aging as Margaret helps Ruth and Ed wrestle with decisions about where to live, what to discard and how to manage their final years.
The Compromise is clearly the work of an artist who loves her subjects. In her first novel, Eleanor Scott Meyers gifts us with generational hope, faith and love conveyed in subdued, emotionally layered prose. Her sturdy characters comforted me as I kept vigil at my son’s deathbed. They will speak to Friends facing old age, a testimony to what love can do in complex personal relationships warmed by simplicity, truth, peace, integrity and community. Book discussion groups will find this novel rich in meaning.
Judith Favor is grateful for this loving glimpse into a rural Midwestern household upheld by Quaker values. She is a member of Claremont Meeting in California.
St. Martin’s Press, 2018. 272 pages.
$26.99/hardcover; $16.99/paperback (available June 2019); $13.99/eBook.
Reviewed by Judith Favor on October 1, 2018 in Friends Journal
The Sun Does Shine is the true story of an innocent black man’s unjust conviction, his despair on Alabama’s death row, and his practice of peacemaking behind bars. In “The Death Squad” chapter, Anthony Ray Hinton’s anguish is palpable as he describes men in chains being walked past his cell to the electric chair. He leads inmates to bang on the bars of their cells during electrocutions, raising a holy ruckus of accompaniment and protest.
Hinton eased racial grudges and grievances by aiding KKK and African American inmates alike. “A book club will help things stay more peaceful,” he told the warden, pointing out that reading books would be a good way for the men to quietly spend time and focus on something other than the negative aspects of life on death row. He also added, “I do think it will help [the guards] have an easier time doing their jobs.” His resourcefulness led to the first death row book club. In chapters titled “Love Is a Foreign Language” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Hinton reveals which authors forged community between black and white convicts.
I was disappointed in two aspects of The Sun Does Shine. My friend Rosie on death row cannot read it, because hardcover books are forbidden in her facility (and in many others too). My greater hurt is all the women missing from the afterword. Preceding nine pages of “the men and women who sit on death row in this country” (as of March 2017) listed in “Pray for Them by Name,” Hinton writes:
Statistically, one out of every ten men on this list is innocent.… Read these names. Know their stories.… The moral arc of the universe needs people to support it as it bends.… Read the names out loud. After every tenth name, say, “Innocent.” … The death penalty is broken, and you are either part of the Death Squad or you are banging on the bars. Choose.
He chose a provocative way to conclude, but I am pained that, for some reason, the women on death row in Central California Women’s Facility and other facilities are not acknowledged.
During the author’s reading at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, I was moved by his honesty, his vulnerability, and his simplicity. Hinton’s true voice is inscribed on every page, and his tears, too. Three relationships kept him going through 30 years of wrongful incarceration: his mother’s unconditional love, his friend Lester’s faithful visits, and legal advocate Bryan Stevenson’s commitment to setting him free. Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy, took Hinton’s case to the Supreme Court where all nine justices confirmed his innocence. That day at the bookstore, Hinton gave the crowd one closing bit of advice: “If you ever get arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, do two things. Pray first, then make your 911 call directly to Bryan Stevenson.”
The Sun Does Shine may deepen the commitment of Friends working for prison reform, offer fresh insights to Friends conducting Alternatives to Violence Project workshops with inmates, and perhaps inspire new AVP volunteers.
There’s a lot to love about the women of Saint Lydia’s in San Francisco. Head Beacon Beka and her sidekick Dot turned out to be very good at getting rid of a predatory male pastor. Female church leaders were rare in 1976, but they found an ordained woman to shepherd their flock. The five Beacons, their prickly minister and a young Mexican prostitute all took risks, made mistakes and followed their hearts to set a wild new course for their historic interracial, interdenominational congregation in “The City.”
The Beacons reveals the souls of lay leaders, how they sought spiritual guidance, earned the respect they deserved and gained the freedom to run their church in an egalitarian way. Younger readers of diverse ethnicities and orientations will glimpse pioneering feminine faith in action. Older women will almost certainly remember fights for equality during those chaotic 1970s, and San Franciscans will get a fresh view of that infamous era of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll through the stories of a few memorable Christian visionaries.
Judith Favor offers us a delicious, saucy slice of mid-70s San Francisco. The Beacons provides generous servings of the beautiful city plus a kaleidoscope of characters, lifestyles and spiritual practices. Deeply textured and finely tuned, this novel crackles with lively energy.
Mary Atwood, Episcopal priest
It isn’t often that readers interested in religion have a chance to learn about the inner workings of a small but active congregation, especially when the story entails conflicts between clergy and parish leadership. Judith Favor has beautifully provided such a look with her fictional well-trained older Episcopal priest. The long-time church “Beacons,” each well-described, struggle with their pro and con emotions while the first-time reverend agonizes over her inability to persuade them to an orthodox faith. A carefully crafted microcosm of American congregational struggles in our post-Christiandom era. [Christendom?]
Jean Lesher, religious book editor
Judith Favor has created a delightful gang of deacons here in The Beacons! You will come to know and love them as they grapple with their own psyches, their collective mission, and the evolving conditions of their time and place. The superbly drawn focus of this tale—the trials and tribulations of their courageous choice for replacement priest—rings true and deep, and will leave you hoping for more.
Michael Kirk, artist/designer/editor
Judith Favor’s novel lives next door to Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco of the Seventies. In The Beacons we glimpse a radical Christianity—radical because women took over leadership of an interracial church. Favor gives an insider’s look at what happened in a place few of us have imagined.
John Brantingham, author of Let Us All Now Pray to Our Own Strange Gods
[John Brantingham’s work has appeared in hundreds of magazines in the United States and England, and his poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His other books
Pick those that spark a strong response in you…
The GATE: ENTRY POINTS
- What pulled you into the story; conflict, collaboration or something else?
- Which character made you care? What about her sparked your interest?
- Which themes kept your attention? Say more…
- Have you ever served on a pastoral search committee? Any regrets?
- Have you ever made a life-changing decision, only to wind up doubting your own wisdom? Describe a bit about this…
The TUNNELS: UNDERNEATH
- Have you ever been groped? More than once? What happened?
- Have you ever confronted a sexual predator? When? Where? How?
- Have you ever worked with strong women to get rid of a predator, or bring about needed change in your school, church or neighborhood?
- Have you ever felt oppressed? When? Where? How?
- Have you ever led a guided tour with someone of a different class, age or place so she could come to appreciate your original neighborhood?
The SHORES: LAND’S END
- Do you usually say YES or NO when asked to serve in a leadership role? Why or why not?
- When does the fear of looking bad or sounding stupid keep you from speaking up?
- How might you rebalance a situation of power-over with someone in a position of authority? What might a power-with situation look like?
- Do you like the feeling of blood rushing to your head, making everything heightened and fast and wild? Why or why not?
- What role has the public library played in your intellectual development?
The HILLS: STEEP CLIMBS
- Tell about a time you challenged authority or witnessed others doing so.
- Tell about someone you consider a saint? Describe why…
- Tell about your experience with spiritual-practice circles.
- Tell about someone you know personally who speaks truth with love.
- Tell about something that triggers your animosity, maybe aggression.
The PRESIDIO: TRAIPSING
- For you, is Holy Communion a revered sacrament, an occasional liturgical experience, a paradox, a sacred mystery or something else?
- For you, is heresy a holy truth, an outmoded concept, a way to separate insiders from outsiders, or something else?
- For you, is aggression your first response, a rare but useful form of expression, avoided most of the time, abhorrent or something else?
- For you, which person or situation irritates you like a thorn in the flesh? We aren’t sure what Paul meant by the metaphor; what’s true for you?
- For you, what emotions rise when you read of a modern woman giving herself a penance or setting out to become a connoisseur of pain?
The BRIDGES: CONNECTING
- What did you hunger for when you were a teen? And these days?
- What did you do to ground yourself when you were young? Now?
- What happens when people share food? How does eating together nourish emotional connections and deepen relationships between folks?
- What might happen if more transgender folks had a place at the table?
- What connection do you see between the Beacons’ total acceptance of her and Paige’s capacity to be merciful toward Rev Ruth?
The TENDERLOIN: LURES
- Have you had personal experience with someone who was lured into the sex trade? Tell what you heard, felt, wanted, said or did…
- Describe any links and/or tensions you might have experienced between your own emerging sexuality and your developing spirituality.
- What delights you about San Francisco’s Night Ministry? Discomforts you?
- How does your own faith community respond to the needs of those who are trapped in prostitution? Poverty? Madness?
- Does your town have a Safe House? Do you see the need for one?
The VALLEYS: SHADOWS
- How is your view of Holy Communion affected when you envision it as Rev Ruth and the Beacons do, as a sacrament of feeding?
- Have you ever had a crush on someone? Were you aware of God’s Presence with you during the crush, after it was over, now, or never?
- Have you ever had cancer? Describe your awareness of God during your illness. Did your connection with Sacred Presence change after cancer?
- Have you noticed the little phrase AS IT IS midway through The Lord’s Prayer? What might it mean to you now? In the future?
- Have you ever offered your traumatic memories to Creation for healing? What happened?
The AVENUES: PASSAGES
- Have you ever feared you were losing your mind? Say more…
- Nobody likes everyone. Is there one neighbor, one person at church or at work toward whom you feel a puzzling sense of aversion?
- When have the blues swept over you, and how did you get through it?
- Imagine yourself yourself sitting in the tableau, silently embodying one of the Twelve Madonnas. What are you wearing? Feeling? Wanting?
- Have you ever organized a rummage sale or shopped at one? How do you feel about hearing You can’t put a price tag on love, but you can charge a fair price for the accessories?
The MISSION: ANIMATION
- Have you ever been blessed by a great kindness, a kind of sunlight?
- Ever had an intensely lucid moment, a sudden solution to a dilemma? Some call this ‘women’s intuition.’ How do you name it?
- Have you ever observed someone near and dear, wavering on the edge of cognitive diminishment? Tell about it…
- Have you ever repeated the name of Jesus to connect with the mysterious power of love embodied in this frail scrap of language?
- Have you ever sensed the gravitational pull of love while listening to someone’s truth?
The PIERS: SUPPORTS
- Imagine yourself at the bedside of a loved one, someone who has not yet decided whether to stay alive. What do you say? Do? Want?
- Imagine yourself cleaning house in a flurry of righteous indignation. What do you think? Feel? Want?
- How does angry aggression, when expressed to a trusted person in a safe setting, restore vitality for females?
- How does voluntary withdrawal from everyday responsibilities help women gain perspective and renew inner strength? Can the same benefits come through involuntary withdrawal?
- If power is the capacity to move and be moved in relationship, how does Rev Ruth’s illness change power dynamics among the Beacons?
The BEACH: CURRENTS
- When have you had to put pieces of a challenging situation together without knowing the whole picture?
- Do you believe it’s possible to have a soul connection with someone who has died? Have you ever received a bit of ancestral guidance?
- What do you see, hear and feel when you witness flights of expressive imagination in others? How does expressive imagination happen for you?
- Have you ever gone through a dark night of the soul, a cloudy evening of the soul, or a spiritual rummage sale?
- How is being socially isolated similar to, or different from, choosing to live in a contemplative way? Does seeking to be rooted and grounded in Love have anything to do with it?
Reading connects people;
so does writing.
Writing helps clarify ideas,
keep track of details
and discover hidden meanings.
Expressing our truths with love
connects us—physically, mentally,
emotionally and spiritually—
to our readers
and to our deepest selves.
We read to know we are not alone.
- The Beacons of Larkin Street is a Nineteen-Seventies historical novel written by a contemplative feminist great-grandmother, an ordained minister who once pastored a church in San Francisco.
- Where do you see contemplative perspectives influencing the stories? Feminist perspectives? Grandmotherly points of view? Ministerly perspectives?
- Set in San Francisco, twelve aspects of the City structure the novel. What connections do you see between the human characters and the character of San Francisco?
- Tales of The Beacons move between the perspectives of seven women. Do you find the author’s omniscient POV to be confusing, credible, clear, challenging or something else?
- If Beka were the sole narrator, the reader would get one singular angle on each character. Do you think Beka’s POV would have strengthened the novel? Why or why not?
- If she were the sole voice, Rev Ruth would have told the story very differently. Would you prefer her first-person voice? Why or why not?
- Which of Rev Ruth’s difficulties as a first-time pastor give you the greatest insight into her character? The most compassion for her?
- How about Beka’s efforts to guide things as Saint Lydia’s Head Beacon?
- The seven women have different sexual orientations and diverse attitudes about sexuality and spirituality. Did the author convince you that each is justified in her beliefs and practices? Why or why not?
- In Dot and Rev Ruth’s conflict over communion, do you think the resolution took too long, or came too fast? How might you have done it?
- Who was your favorite character? What about her intrigued you?
- Which scene was your favorite? What made it memorable?
- At the end, several story lines are left unresolved. Do you wish the author had resolved the characters’ dilemmas?
- Do you think Rev Ruth will live or die? Return to guide St. Lydia’s, or go to Cleveland?
- What do you think will become of Paige? Dot? Hope and Millienne? Luz?
- Are there other subplots you wonder about?
- This is the first in a trilogy. Which dilemmas and storylines do you most want resolved in a sequel?
Reviewed by Judith Favor December 1, 2016, in Friends Journal
“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie. I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears––things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.”
In Wolf Hollow, Lauren Wolk introduces a girl who becomes brave and good in the face of something terrible. In 1943, Annabelle lives among people who love her in the hills of rural Pennsylvania, a place she loves. She enjoys a steady life until a dark-hearted girl comes to her hills and changes everything. After Betty punches her and threatens greater hurts, Annabelle finds ways to protect herself and her little brothers by seeking inner guidance.
Toby, a scarred veteran of the first war, lives in the woods nearby. He looks odd and rarely speaks, but Annabelle senses his kindness. She tries to protect Toby from the lying girl who manipulates people into blaming him for the cruelties she has inflicted. Tensions mount when Betty disappears and Toby, suspected of kidnapping her, takes off. As men and dogs search for the missing girl and man, Annabelle searches her conscience and finds courage to speak the truth, a young voice calling for justice.
Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the adult novel Those Who Favor Fire. In Wolf Hollow she writes an indelible account of a reflective child who stands strong on behalf of others. Although this compelling story of moral complexity and quiet heroism is marketed to third through seventh graders, I commend it to Friends of all ages, particularly librarians, First Day teachers, parents and grandparents.
To sum up the power of Wolf Hollow, I affirm the view of Julie Strauss-Gabel, President and Publisher of Dutton Children’s Books: “The stories that lay bare the ugliness of our world are also the stories that stay with us. They inspire acts of everyday bravery and turn small voices big.”
Judith Favor also lives in a place she loves, among people at Claremont Monthly Meeting who love her. She looks forward to reading Wolf Hollow to her grandkids and, some fine day, to her first great-grandchild.
By Colum McCann
Random House, New York, 2013
Hardback, 305 pages $27.00
Reviewed by Judith Favor. Published in Friends Journal, September 2014, pp 42-43
I yearn for writing that is transformational, and this beautifully crafted novel met my longing. Colum McCann braids together the passions of publicly acclaimed men – abolitionist former slave Frederick Douglass, WW1 pilots Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown and peacemaker Senator George Mitchell—with the private stories of feisty fictional women. McCann brings his characters to life through exquisite prose, gifting the reader with story lines that arc across the centuries and crisscross the Atlantic, interweaving Irish and American views and values.
Memorable scenes pulse with Quaker testimonies. In 1845 Irish maid Lily Duggan crosses paths with Frederick Douglass whose integrity and commitment to equality inspire her to escape servitude, sail to America and nurse wounded soldiers on a Civil War battlefield. The novel follows her daughter Emily and granddaughter Lottie whose journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. In 1919 they are influenced by two aviators who set course for Ireland, attempting a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight in a bomber they modified for peaceful means, a flight designed to heal the wounds of the Great War.
In 1998 Lottie encounters Senator George Mitchell in Belfast as he labors to negotiate the historic Good Friday Peace Accords. Mitchell granted the author access to his inner reflections, making para bellum a profoundly moving chapter, worthy of repeated readings. Mitchell’s inner light shines through McCann’s poignant portrait of the contemporary peacemaker who embodies simplicity, equality and integrity under intense international public pressure.
TransAtlantic is not a quick read. McCann’s truthful, tender pages invite pauses for deep thinking, remembering past peacemakers and imagining a more simple, just and equitable future. There is so much goodwill, humor and pure life force in every chapter that this book will lift the spirit of Friends and meet the hunger for transformational fiction.Judith Favor is a member of Claremont Friends Meeting in Southern California. Literary fiction seeded with Friends’ testimonies feeds her hungry soul.