What power do we hold in the face of death?
We tell the stories.
As we near the end of 2020, our entire publishing house team—including our worldwide community of authors and contributing columnists—is attuned to the losses so many families have suffered this year. We cannot even begin to call out all the names even within our own circle. Just one example: We are proud to be an active part of Agencies United for Healthy Aging, a network of nonprofits with which we are producing an upcoming book to help families cope with the challenges of aging. That coalition of tireless public servants, collectively, has lost many friends and loved ones to COVID this year in Detroit. And, another example from half a world away: We work regularly with Algeria-based journalist Larbi Megari, who also contributed to a chapter in the healthy aging book. This year, Larbi is mourning the loss of multiple family members.
While there is no way to list all the individual losses this year—we are far from powerless in the face of death. Because we are journalists, writers, editors and publishers, we tell stories. We shape the memories by which the world will remember these lives. This is a timeless human instinct, of course, and an ancient truth within the world’s great religious traditions. At a time of loss, we share stories within our circles of family and friends.
We need to continue using that power of naming what names we can, of forming our collective narratives and of shaping our communal legacy. That is why, this week, we are pausing in our regular schedule of weekly ReadTheSpirit magazine Cover Stories to set an example and remember just a few of the lives lost in 2020. In some cases, across our community, lives were lost to COVID. Some were lost to other conditions, including cancer and heart failure. Whatever triggered each death, the losses are real, the grief is long-lasting and the need to share stories will span our lifetimes.
In short: As storytellers, this is why we do what we do.
Our Litany of the Saints
So, to encourage everyone to tell and share stories about their own loved ones, here is our modest starting point on a 2020 Litany of the Saints.
- To set the theme for this special issue of ReadTheSpirit—as founding Editor of this publishing house—I have written our main story, “In nearly a century of living, here’s what my mother taught me about light and darkness”
- Last month, our founding Publisher John Hile lost his wife Janice. The Hile family honored Janice in an inspiring online hour of memories, readings and storytelling in which more than 100 people participated across the U.S. Here is Jan’s online obituary.
- In September, we lost one of our truly beloved authors, Linda Jarkey, who was widely known for presenting popular reading-and-arts programs for children. Here is a remembrance of Linda’s life we published earlier.
- This past week, our author Brenda Rosenberg lost her brother Sanford Allen Cohen, who was retired after a long career as a Detroit teacher and avid writer. Here is the brief obituary posted via The Detroit Free Press and Legacy. Brenda already is planning to publish a posthumous collection of Sanford’s writing with our team—and her family is planning a public celebration of Sanford’s life in the summer of 2021. So, we will share more about his story in the future.
- Our Marketing Director Susan Stitt lost her father in law in the early wave of COVID deaths this year. Here is the story The Detroit Free Press published when he passed.
- In recent days, our Copy Editor Celeste Dykas lost her mother-in-law Mary Carmen Brincat, who was the matriarch of a large family and with her husband also was part of Detroit’s Maltese-American Catholic community. Here is Mary’s online obituary.
And We Also Want to Share …
Some Joyous News as Well
Najah Bazzy: A ‘Michiganian of the Year’
TURN CELEBRATION TO CHARITY—Our whole team at the publishing house continues to celebrate with our author Najah Bazzy and the staff of her Zaman International, as journalists nationwide keep shining spotlights on the work Zaman does to help at-risk families. We’re joyous about these spotlight honors, not just because Najah and her Zaman staff deserve high praise—but because each new story and honor connects with more potential donors and supporters. Please, read the latest news story about their work, courtesy of The Detroit News staff who just named her one of their “Michiganians of the Year”—and consider whether you might want to visit the Zaman International website at https://www.zamaninternational.org/ and make a year-end gift yourself.
Rodney Curtis: A Soupçon of Sausage Silliness
‘THE SAUSAGE THIEF’—That’s what writer and photographer Rodney Curtis calls this silly little column. Read it carefully and you’ll discover it’s a soupçon of real life that could befall any of us in the midst of seasonal stress as we try to navigate COVID-world shopping.
Holidays & Festivals
LIGHTS SHINING FROM BUDDHIST COMMUNITIES—This month brings a season of light for several world religions, and as Christians light candles for Advent and Jews light candles on the menorah, Buddhists celebrate light with a holiday known as Bodhi Day (or, in Zen Buddhism, Rohatsu). Stephanie Fenton has the story.
SUNSET THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10—Many world holiday traditions are being severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but Hanukkah may be an exception—after all, much of the rituals are performed at home! While most synagogues will not be open for in-person services, families can still gather around a menorah, fry latkes in the kitchen and play a festive game of dreidel. Stephanie Fenton has the story.
More of Us Are Reading Right Now
IN OUR FRONT EDGE PUBLISHING COLUMN, Susan Stitt explains why 2020 has been very busy despite the pandemic. Our books are our way of making the world a little better place. Susan Stitt looks at this year’s colorful array of books—which make perfect holiday gifts.
Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com
FAITH & FILM
ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.
Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:
- THE MAN WITHOUT GRAVITY—Ed writes, “The Man Without Gravity is an Italian magical-realist tale from first-time narrative filmmaker Marco Bonfanti. In the film, he whimsically tells the story of Oscar (Elio Germano) from his incredible birth, through childhood, and ultimate reunion with his childhood sweetheart Agata. This delightful escapist film about an outsider has plenty of flaws but none that ought to spoil your enjoyment.”
- THE CROODS: A NEW AGE—”Director Joel Crawford’s film, the second in the series about a Stone Age family, is an amusing tale of culture clash and the need for solidarity. Just as I loved the first film almost seven years ago, The Croods, I recommend this one too. It provides both escapist fare for the whole family and, like the first film, teaches some worthy life lessons.”
- HILLBILLY ELEGY—“The film is flawed but not as badly as the critics would have us believe. If for no other reason, you should tune in to Netflix because of the Oscar talk that is already building up around Glenn Close’s portrayal of Vance’s stern but warm-hearted grandmother, whom everyone calls Mamaw.”
- THE BREAD WINNER—”Irish director Nora Twomey, who co-directed the exquisitely beautiful The Secret of Kells, launches out on her own with the gorgeously animated film set in Kabul in 2001 on the cusp of America’s invasion in retaliation for the attack on the Twin Towers. With its theme of the Taliban’s oppression of women, the film will remind some of another similarly themed film, though set in Iran, Persepolis.”
- FISHING WITH DYNAMITE—Ed writes, “In this documentary, director Paul Wagner clarifies for those of us who are economic dummies the murky subject of capitalism. His film explores the contentious history of American corporate culture. It explores the arguments of two influential theories—stakeholder vs shareholder capitalism. And it does so in an amusing and entertaining way.”
- THE 12th MAN—Norway, 1943: After a failed anti-Nazi sabotage mission leaves his eleven comrades dead, Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud (Thomas Gullestad) finds himself on the run from the Gestapo through the snowbound Arctic reaches of Scandinavia.
- THE LIFE AHEAD—”Even were it only half as good, this remake of the Romain Gary novel that became the Oscar-winning 1977 French drama, Madame Rosa, would be noteworthy because of its star and director: Sophie Loren and her son Edoardo Ponti.”
- FUNAN—Cambodia, April 1975. Chou is a young woman whose everyday world is suddenly upended by the arrival of the Khmer Rouge regime. During the chaos of the forced exile from their home, Chou and her husband are separated from their 4-year-old son, who has been sent to an unknown location.
- THE GOOD LORD BIRD—Ed writes, “Ethan Hawke has the role of his life as fiery Abolitionist John Brown in this tongue in cheek mini-series that he created and helped produce and write. We know at the outset that this isn’t pure history when, before the title we read, ‘All of this is true… Most of it happened.’ The ‘true’ part comes from James McBride’s National Book Award-winning novel of the same name, on which the series based.”
- LET HIM GO—“This is sort of a Gothic horror film for senior citizens, thanks to the goose bump-rising performance of Lesley Manning as the matriarch of a North Dakota family. But writer-director Thomas Bezucha’s adaption of Larry Watson’s 2013 novel does not start there but in neighboring Montana. As all good horror thrillers, it starts on a peaceful note on the ranch of Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner).”