“Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.”
― Shūsaku Endō, Silence
Japanese 1st edition of Silence (1966)
Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) was a Japanese Roman Catholic novelist. Silence, first published in 1966, has been hailed as Endo’s masterpiece and one of the most significant Christian novels of the twentieth century. To coincide with the January release of Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited film of Silence, the Library Book Club will begin 2017 with this book.
The subject of Silence is the persecution of Japanese Christians in the seventeenth century. In 1637, two Portuguese missionaries undertake a perilous search for their missing Jesuit tutor. The Shogun and Samurai have purged Japan of Western influence, rooting out Christians and subjecting them to torture until they renounce the word of God. Father Rodrigues knows that if they are discovered, they face the same brutal treatment as the Christian peasantry. The deeper Rodrigues journeys into Japan, the more he finds himself questioning the meaning of God’s silence in answer to their prayers and to the suffering of the Japanese Christians.
The Book Club’s discussion of Silence will take place on Tuesday, January 31 at 12:00 in the Library Conference Room. Dale Coulter, professor of historical theology in the School of Divinity, will lead our conversation. Dr. Coulter has just published his reflections on Endo’s work in the influential journal of religion and culture First Things.
The Library has multiple copies of Silence. Distance students and faculty are invited to join in via Google Hangouts.
During January, the Library is also hosting an exhibition of artifacts associated with the persecution of Christians in Japan as well as responsive works by Makoto Fujimura. The works in this exhibition were on display last fall at Wheaton College, which is still hosting photos and outstanding explanatory materials on its website.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct thy paths.”
-Proverbs 3:5 (KJV)
One Hundred Pieces of Sun: Diary of a Potted Plant is really three books in one: (1) a social history of the American Deep South and northern Rust Belt in the 1950s and 1960s, (2) an autobiography of C.L. Kennedy’s childhood and youth, and (3) a travelogue through Africa during the 1970-71 academic year. Remarkably, the author weaves these disparate subjects into a unified whole.
Simply put, this is the freshest, most unique memoir I have ever read, charting a trajectory from the author’s childhood in Jim Crow Alabama and a not-exactly-equal-rights northern industrial city, to Sarah Lawrence College, and ending with her junior year abroad at the University of Ghana, followed by travels through most of the continent using only local transportation. (Yes, her mother threw a fit when Kennedy first told her about her plans.)
The marvelous writing is infused Kennedy’s personality – strong, highly opinionated, but always honest and with an eye for the humor in life. Here, for the benefit of prospective readers, are three excerpts to give an idea of the book’s historical and emotional range:
- Traveling by train from Alabama to Ohio in 1956:
“Before the trip North, Brenda [the author’s sister] and I were repeatedly coached, drilled, and cautioned not to say anything to any white person, no matter what they said, did, or called us…We were rehearsed in acceptable docile and self-effacing ways to respond if it became absolutely necessary to engage in eye-contact or communication with a stranger” (p. 19-20).
- Using the public library in Ohio:
“Laws prohibited Blacks from checking out public library books and from entering the front door of the public library. Our parents took us to the library just as they took us to church…They showed us the way to carry and conduct ourselves with integrity, dignity, and pride, and they always reminded us that we were responsible for leaving a legacy, adding something to posterity, and never shaming the race” (p. 81).
- Discovering a possible origin of her ancestors (or at least her own spiritual homeland) through music:
“In Mali, I was introduced to the cora, a bowl-shaped musical instrument that is made either from dried gourds with leather chords extending along an attached long handle or a flat wooden box enhanced with wood or metal picks held in place along the bottom and spaced along the top…Music from Mali featuring the cora soothes my very soul. Much to my surprise, many times I have felt that Mali was my home place, the country of my ancestors” (p. 211).*
The author’s understanding of the violence and injustice blacks (in both Old and New Worlds) have suffered at the hands of whites is never far removed in the text, but Kennedy’s gratitude and enthusiasm for life ensure that her lessons are always delivered with a light touch. Another constant in the book, especially at critical moments, but never sermonized about, is her deep Christian faith instilled by her parents.
Although not a work of fiction, it does not seem inappropriate to call One Hundred Pieces of Sun a Bildungsroman, as it completely convincingly tells the story of the coming-of-age of a highly sensitive and intelligent young woman. Kennedy has written a book that engages with and invites the reader to see the world through her eyes. And that, I think, is one of the best things any book can do for us.
*For a sample of this remarkable music, click here.
At only 100 pages (Penguin edition), Ethan Frome may be the shortest masterpiece in American literature.
Edith Wharton’s tale of forbidden emotions is set on a New England farm in the first decade of the twentieth century. Ethan Frome works and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeenie. But when Zeenie’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a “hired girl,” Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and the dream of happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s most intense narratives, Wharton moves the ill-starred characters toward their tragic destinies.
On Friday, December 9, professor of literature and film Pete Fraser will moderate a discussion of Ethan Frome. The discussion will take place at 12:00 in the Library Conference Room. We will also view a clip from the 1993 film adaptation starring Liam Neeson, Patricia Arquette, and Joan Allen. The Library has multiple print and electronic copies of the book.
Distance students and faculty are invited to us via Google Hangouts.
For a complete schedule of 2016-2017 book discussions, see the Library Book Club webpage.
A selection of the recent faculty monographs. See our Facebook and Google+ pages for more photos from this event.
On November 15, the Library inaugurated what it hopes will become a long-standing tradition on campus: a special event to honor faculty authors and formally induct their scholarship into the Library collection.
As this was our first time holding such an event, we included works published from January 2014 through May 2016. The numbers are impressive: 33 books or book chapters by 36 authors, as well as scholarly articles by 49 authors. A total of 82 members of the faculty were honored.
In addition to recognizing all the recent faculty authors, our event featured book talks by two of them: Dr. Joseph Bucci from the College of Arts & Sciences gave an overview of his book Redemptive Leadership: Offering Second Chances as a Value-Added Management Practice, and Dr. Diane Chandler, from the School of Divinity presented some of the main themes in her monograph, Christian Spiritual Formation: An Integrated Approach for Personal and Relational Wholeness.
At the end of the book talks, all monograph authors were invited to inscribe the Library’s copies of their works, and article authors received a special bookmark with the title and publication of their work. In April 2017, we will hold our second Spotlight on Faculty Scholarship to honor faculty publication beginning with June 2016.
Photos from this event may be viewed on our Facebook and Google+ pages.