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!
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.
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
“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.
But this is not the story of a life.
It is the story of lives, knit together,
overlapping in succession, rising
again from grave after grave.
Wendell Berry, from “Rising”
From the start, the stories of Leo James Wright and Cordelia Davis Wright were never solely their own, but continuations of lives that began long before they were born. And how did I come to discover what happened to my grandparents in events preceding my birth? Where does such information come from?
A curious child, I learned to listen between the lines when the Grans spoke, guessing at what they were trying to hide. I watched the way they looked at each other, held my breath during false starts and sudden silences. I waited patiently for bits of truth, sensing emotional codes hidden beneath the social ones, wondering what was beyond regret. I tried to imagine a family where it was safe to ask questions and to tell secrets of the heart, but that was not the world in which I grew up. Leo and Cordelia maintained order through silence. As a young adult I wished I could be part of a less frustrating family, one with fewer conflicts and hurts, maybe one that knew how to have fun. Over the decades I’ve come to realize that most of us cannot go out and form the kind of family we think is ideal. I have had to accept being part of a long chain of wary ancestors. No amount of wishful thinking can change that. Now that I am growing old, I have also grown more curious about genealogy and genetics, more interested in the forces of history, economics and DNA that shaped my forbears. I see this happening all over America, people my age getting interested in family history. You’ve got to start where you are, with the ancestors you’ve been given. So I asked the Grans for their stories. Leo and Cordelia obliged, offering their lives in bits and pieces, hints and glances.
Silent in life, the Grans now rest in eternal stillness, but in these pages they do not stay dead. As far as Ancestry.com is concerned, the lives of Leo and Cordelia Wright are a closed book, but I brought them back from the grave by “hearing them into speech” and composing their stories from a combination of intuition and imagination. Family memoir, like fiction, requires the reader to act as if things really happened this way and each act of reading SILENT VOICES brings Leo and Cordelia Wright back to life. Essayist James Wood terms it “an allowable resurrection” in his New Yorker reflection titled “WHY?” He insists that it’s never too late to listen for untold family stories and to put them on record even if the writer wasn’t there when they happened. I would add that it’s never too late for compassion, either. If a grandchild can offer any gift to her ancestors, let it be an allowable resurrection.
“Silent voices” is a fresh idea, a truth-filled story (almost a long parable) inviting us to really listen to our own families. Judith Wright Favor made the characters real and the times familiar, reawakening details of food, décor and events with my own grandparents. Not only did I enjoy accompanying her grandparents through their lives, I made mental notes of what I might say if ever I set out on the same journey. In the family tree, the seven sections, the reminder that the sheriff is fictional, the influence of dogs and birds, this book modeled a way to write about my own grandparents.
Nan Cooney, Grandmother / Author
I enjoyed Silent Voices because I can envision the people while reading it. I love that about Judith’s writing. I was glad to know more of the story about how her great grandmother ended up in the poor house, the difficult decision her grandfather had to make, how he and her grandmother had to live with that decision, and how it affected their lives. I really look forward to reading more books by this author.
Deb Noll, Pastry Chef
Reading Silent Voices brought to mind my patrician paternal grandparents behind their polished masks, and my maternal grandmother deserted by her philandering husband and left penniless with four young daughters. Here Judith Wright Favor has dared to inhabit her own grandparents and those with whom their lives intersected, vividly describing and giving voice to the loves and losses that impacted their lives. Silent Voices is part memoir, part meditation and part masterful story; I think the author has invented a new genre!
John Denham, Pastoral Counselor, Retired
I was drawn into this story from the beginning. Having previously read The Edgefielders, the thread that kept drawing me along in Silent Voices was the author’s unspoken hope for her grandparents. Near the end Cordelia asks herself “How long does hope live?” then responds “For an eternity.” The Wrights remind me of my grandparents and leads me to reflect on what may be hidden in the crevices of my own family story.
Joan Stock, Spiritual Director
Do you think about your relatives and wonder what experiences shaped them and contributed to their particular personality characteristics? In this engaging story Judith Wright Favor has found a way to understand and develop compassion for her kin. Drawing upon memory, imagination and intuition she gives Leo and Cordelia Wright new life through poignant vignettes in this highly readable memoir.
Judy Leshefka, Meditation Instructor / Psychotherapist
Silent Voices gives a glimpse of the lives of a man and a woman, from their difficult early days, to their coming together in the bloom of young adulthood, to raising their family. The reader is linked to Leo and Cordelia amidst the story of our nation, Depression, WWII and Hiroshima. It is a captivating read.
Peggy Deal Redman, Professor of Education, Emerita
I saw this as a story of redemption, was very caught up in it and read the book in one sitting. I appreciated the author’s desire to speak to the silences and secrets of our lives. Silent Voices is imbued with the person Judith has become, including her spirituality and her understanding of what people do to make meaning from difficult circumstances.
Lynn Rhodes, Seminary Educator