By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of Read The Spirit magazine
Since the founding of our publishing house and this online magazine in 2007, nearly every May our team has released at least one new book that is ideal for summer reading. Because our motto is “good media builds healthy community,” these books often address timely issues that readers are eager to explore in a balanced, well-researched and helpful way. We feel pride in our collective work when readers tell us that they have eagerly welcomed these books—because they have inspired them to positive action in the world.
So, as May debuts this year, our Marketing Director Susan Stitt suggested that we feature this Cover Story looking back over some of our earlier May releases that remain as timely in 2022 as on the day we published them.
The following is just a sampling of these highly relevant May releases over the last 15 years. Stay tuned, because we plan to feature a few more of our May titles next week.
Time to learn more about Native Americans
For more than a year, our online magazine has been featuring occasional headlines about Canadian and American efforts to come to terms with the government-sponsored trauma of so-called Indian boarding schools. These prison-like institutions operated for centuries—many of them under the direction of American and Canadian church leaders. Official Canadian investigations into this generation-spanning trauma started a couple of years ago and now fresh American efforts are underway spearheaded by the U.S. Interior department. Most religious leaders are cooperating with this historic reckoning, which will unfold over the rest of this decade.
So, this is an ideal moment to learn more, starting with Dancing My Dream (published in May 2009), the inspiring memoir of Warren Petoskey whose family was shaped by that boarding-school tragedy. Then, for a fascinating dive into the vibrant diversity of Native American life, you’ll also want to pick up a copy of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s 100 Questions, 500 Nations (published in May 2014).
“Reading Warren Petoskey’s memoir is like sitting around a fire with the Elder, listening to years upon years of wisdom, reflection, heartache and love. There is much darkness, but in every thing the Creator broke through and led Warren to the dawn. To read—no, rather to listen to—the Elder’s stories is to taste the love in Creation in every leaf and drop of rain, to ache and long with him for years that can never return, and to yet find the Creator still carrying us onward to the next mountain. Warren’s words and the love coming from him have been light in the darkness for me. My only regret about the book is that I wish I could sit around the fire with him longer, to listen to more of his stories and his understanding.”
“Mr. Petoskey is an encyclopedia of knowledge and wisdom, a true Native American treasure. His love and efforts to protect and preserve the Native American culture, tradition and teachings are beautifully documented in this book and no matter if you are Native or not, it will surly touch your heart and mind in a very positive way.”
“This book is an important testimony for the Odawa people, and a significant record the Odawa walk through life. It was an inspiration to me as an Odawa person and it has served to help many people who are not from my culture to understand my culture. The significance and inspiration I found in this book will be relevant to many others from all walks of life.”
“Warren Petoskey is a storyteller and poet, and carries a prophetic word for those who have ears to hear. Without bitterness, but with a cutting edge clarity, he tells the story of not only his family but of Native Americans across this continent as they struggle to come to grips with a forgotten past. Warren reminds us of things that should never be forgotten and offers a spiritual answer that can bring healing to the Native and understanding to the non-Native. Books like this are rare and priceless.”
AND ON 100 QUESTIONS, 500 NATIONS:
“This guide was created by the Native American Journalists Association, which recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on their tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and express.”
Is peace possible?
Given the horrors of war in 2022, consider the reassurance in these words we published when Daniel Buttry’s Blessed Are the Peacemakers debuted in May 2011: “In the pages of this book, you will meet more than 100 heroes, but most of them are not the kind of heroes our culture celebrates for muscle, beauty and wealth. These are peacemakers. They circle the planet. A few are famous like Gandhi and Bono of U2. But most of them you will discover for the first time in these stories. Watch out! Reading about their lives may inspire you to step up into their courageous circle.”
What have readers told us?
“I haven’t felt so good at the end of a read in a long time as I did when I finished Daniel L. Buttry’s collection of over 60 short biographies of men and women working for peace. The peacemakers are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and what have you–women and men, and even in South America a 12 year-old girl.”
“Blessed Are the Peacemakers is not just another collection of bios about inspiring people. It’s educational, putting peacemakers and their work in cultural, historical, and religious context to help readers really understand how these people did what they did for humanity.”
“If you need a lift, this is an inspiring place to go. Mr. Buttry has collected inspiring stories from activists and world changers at every level of notoriety, all doing powerful and effective work in the world. This is no hippie dream or pollyanna denial of the cruelty in the world, however. These are the stories of people doing the real work, facing the real struggles and showing us how to go about the work of changing the world for the better.”
THEN, continue your summer reading with the memoir of one particular peacemaker—pastor, teacher, songwriter and pacifist David Edwards, whose story is titled, What Belongs to God (published May 2021). There’s even a special “gift” inside this book—links to enjoy free selections of Edwards music online.
What have readers told us?
“I’m so grateful for the wisdom of this man’s life and legacy. It helps strengthen me for my own calling to follow Jesus as a peacemaker and justice maker. What a powerful testimony, easy-to-read and easy to relate to.”
“This account of one person’s journey into pacifism moves beyond memoir. His evolving understanding of his faith and commitment to service is informative and inspiring. Cultural and biblical insights encourage unsettling reflection and action. The study guide offers a helpful way to engage others in a vital conversation. I am grateful.”
This book “arrives at a time when the issues of nationalism, militarism, and violence are ever-present and unavoidable challenges in the United States and throughout the world. In a brief, compact volume, Edwards argues passionately for the thesis that ‘nonviolence, refusing to kill, forgiving one’s enemies, is the life for which we are all made.’ ”
“There is so much in this book. It is a manual on character, a guide to decision-making, a testimony to the cause of justice and an affirmation of the dedication to serving one’s brother and sister in love.”
“In times of enduring warfare—and war metaphors for addressing pandemics, climate change and poverty—David Edwards offers a biblically grounded and theologically insightful testimony about what it means to live non-violently for the sake of creation.”
Yes, there are ways to reach across our divides
Across a series of May releases, through all these years, our publishing house has introduced authors’ very practical advice for reaching across the seemingly insurmountable chasms that seem to have formed between Americans and cultures circling our globe. In May 2016, Nathan Albert’s quirky and challenging Embracing Love debuted, springing from an inspiring social media post about a gay-pride parade that went viral and suddenly put Nathan in a global spotlight as a pastor and teacher.
What have readers told us?
“Embracing Love is a timely and needed book in the evangelical world. I appreciate how Nathan presents both theological viewpoints, while allowing the reader to develop their own conclusions.”
“Nathan Albert joins a growing number of thoughtful evangelical Christians who simply lve LGBT people with deep loyalty and care. Nathan’s love for those so long wounded by the church is not despite but because he loves Jesus.
“This is an excellent book for both traditionalist and progressive Christians and church study groups to use for early forays into the conversation about the relationship between churches and the LGBTQ community. Albert’s writing style is easily understandable, is filled with self-deprecating humor, and contains a large number of personal anecdotes. His sections on terminology and problematic phrases will be helpful to all. The six main Bible verses causing so much contention are presented with a short overview and then a balanced summary of each side’s interpretation. Albert’s goal is to unite Christians who are struggling with and against each other over this important topic.”
“Nathan Albert approaches this very difficult topic with honesty, sensitivity, curiosity, passion for knowledge and understanding of others’ experiences. Through his experiences in theater, seminary, and now the pastorship, Nathan has a unique perspective that allows him to shed light and bring two seemingly different worlds together through understanding. His love, knowledge, compassion, and heart shine through his words. Highly recommended for all readers of all backgrounds and walks of life.”
THEN—Readers kept asking us: “But, how do we even start a constructive conversation anymore? Does anyone have fresh ideas?” As Americans increasingly seemed to be refusing to even talk to each other anymore, a Michigan State University scholar, Dr. William Donohue, introduced a unique, research-based approach to conversation—aimed at positive results. As we introduced Donohue’s Critical Conversations as Leadership to a nationwide audience, we wrote: “Effective leaders are good communicators. … Negotiating is often adversarial, but it does not have to be. Learning how to resolve conflict allows effective leaders to communicate in a collaborative and successful way.”
What have readers told us?
“This book is filled with practical tips and effective strategies for improving your communication and leadership skills. As a communication professor, former director of a faculty grievance office, international consultant, parent and spouse, Professor Donohue draws upon his vast expertise and experience to provide guidance for shifting the nature and style of conversation depending on the setting and purpose of the communication.”
“So many leaders struggle to find the right approach to communication that effects positive change. Using the common language of the card game, Donohue masterfully helps each of us identify the various ‘role cards’ that we have in our life’s deck and the best ones to play in various situations (i.e. the Friend card, the Leader card). In this way, we become more self-aware and able to effectively interact with others in a manner tailored to the situation.”
“Donohue’s Critical Conversations is an engaging book well worth reading. His card game metaphor reflects a blend of themes from role theory, symbolic interaction, and games people play. He captures the dynamics of conversations with advice on how to read situations, knowing which card to play, and how to switch cards as the situation unfolds.”
EACH YEAR—and particularly each spring-summer—we return to these vital themes of practical peacemaking and personal resilience. As the current rise in antisemitic incidents was building in May of 2021, we focused specifically on that deadly issue with the release of Mindy Corporon’s Healing a Shattered Soul.
What have readers told us?
“In response to a neo-Nazi’s murder of her son and father in 2014, Mindy Corporon has filled her world with love, compassion and kindness. But as Healing a Shattered Soul reveals, that doesn’t mean she has avoided profound, intense, at-times debilitating pain. Hers is the sort of grievous wound caused by the type of extremism that those of us who are members of 9/11 families know only too well. This book gives you the privilege of sharing both in Mindy’s grief and in her remarkable hope, which is rooted in faith. Let this book heal you so you can help heal the world.”
“I picked up this book and could not put it down. Mindy has a way of telling her story so the reader actually feels they were with her on that horrific day that her dad and son were murdered. I remember when this event happened. I remember I was on vacation and I walked into the living room and saw Mindy on national television. I was immediately amazed at her sense of calm. This book takes the reader through every step of the tragedy: from Mindy driving on to the scene just minutes after the shooting, to her ongoing healing and hard work to take this tragedy and use it to inspire others to love and accept one another. I think every person on this planet should read this book. Her honesty about her family’s struggle to heal from this unthinkable action is both gut wrenching and beautiful. I cannot recommend this book enough!
“Mindy’s story, from the depth of grief to the height of hope, gives each reader the gift of a gentle push forward. Whether we are grieving the loss of a dear loved one or grieving collective/societal divisions, Mindy’s vulnerable words jump out from the page to encourage a next step.”
Finally, take time for some film fun
In May 2016, we published a fun and thought-provoking book by our beloved Faith & Film Critic Edward McNulty, called Jesus Christ Movie Star.
Pop some popcorn and invite your friends. This is fun and spiritually enlightening. From many years of guiding viewers, Dr. McNulty knows what details you will need to host a successful evening. If you are not part of a group right now, you still can enjoy this book for your own home viewing—most of the films included this book are easily available from the media services now reaching American homes, including Netflix and Amazon.
What have readers told us?
“This is a great tool for groups who want to explore some great movies together, or if you just want to delve a little deeper yourself while enjoying a fabulous movie. Rev. Dr. McNulty poses questions to facilitate discussions and thoughtfulness, and help you think when watching other movies as well. McNulty has been a writer and movie critic for years, and is always relevant, thoughtful, and right on. This is not just for church groups, but for anyone who wants to explore the themes of good vs. evil, the Christ figure throughout today’s life situations, humility, and sacrifice.”
“Christian church groups and faith groups, whether Catholic, Protestant, or non-denominational, will enjoy this book and its in-depth exploration of Jesus Christ on film, and will find the discussion questions for each film especially helpful. But it shouldn’t stop there. This book will also be of interest to theologians, Jewish and inter-faith groups, and anyone who just has a love for the movies.”
Keep the Inspiration Flowing
Please, share this story with friends and family across social media and by email.
Those small actions—by one reader at a time—make an enormous difference in spreading this good news.
And, if you order one of these books, today, please take a moment later to stop by Amazon and post your own review. Those reviews inspire all of us!