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Posts Tagged ‘Adelaide Books’

 

Today is Pentecost in the Christian tradition. There was a time, when the word “Pentecost” just conjured little white churches in central Pennslytucky that I knew with a shudder that I should avoid. (Even driving by on the turnpike was a hazard.) But I am now past that. I am really am curious.  I researched the Christian holiday of Pentecost a while ago for my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (being published later this year by Adelaide Books) and found that doves were routinely shoved through a little hole in the ceilings of cathedrals in the Middle Ages. (Doves represented the Holy Sprit and before that they were associated with Aphrodite.)  Perhaps there really is nothing new.

The minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church I attend (now digitally) is from a Christian-background and mentioned that today was the holiday of Pentecost in his background. Then he went on to talk about the events of the day which truly are grim.

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Later,  I received two comments online relating to Pentecost. The first comment was from a colleague I’m friendly with. She quoted a passage from what I assume is the Acts chapter in the New Testament. The quote ended with: “ever with the cross that turns not back.”

I approached this Bible verse like a riddle. To me, not turning back is persistence. 

The second comment I received was from a not so friendly source. It was written in response to my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. He told me that Christ demands the complete and full surrender of self. Then he said, “This not only includes acting upon same sex attraction but all sin.”

I have to confess to being raised secular— something that I have always considered a blessing — so I may have missed something. But I think I was just insulted.

I’m a practicing Buddhist.  That’s my root religion in my Unitarian Universalist faith. As such, I rarely comment on anything personal about my harassers. But I looked at this guy’s Twitter profile and saw that he looked more than a little light in his loafers. He is young looking and rather effeminate. In fact, if he hadn’t just insulted me, I’d think we both played for the same team.

He described himself as a “Catholic who’s doing his best and discerning the priesthood.” Now I don’t know what the latter part of that means. But I do understand the first part. The question is what is he doing his best at? Does he mean that he’s doing his best in his avoidance of same sex attraction? If so, what is his best? Does he act on his same sex attractions now and then?

I hear that thinking you’re engaging in a sinful act might make things seem forbidden, and therefore “hotter.” But to me, it’s easier to believe that there is no such thing as “sin.”  I’ve heard it said that Jesus never said one word about “homosexuality” being a sin.

I’ve come to understand that Jesus is about justice.

In my research today about the holiday of Pentecost, I learned that the holiday is often called White Sunday or WhitSun. And I learned that the wearing of red is customary.

If it is White Sunday — then it is time for white people to stand up for justice. And this time — as in too many instances — it’s about racial justice. As a practicing Buddhist, I try to stay away from anger. But people have a right to their anger and often when it starts, it can’t be stopped. It’s perfectly understandable.

The senseless murder of George Floyd is an outrage. Thinking of yourself as above the law or as the law — is a mindset that has to be stopped. 

The golden rule of ethics (included in the New Testament) of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, is a creed that we live by.

It’s time for justice.

“…. ever with the cross that turns not back.”

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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April is National Poetry Month. Lately, I’ve been reconnecting with the reading of poetry and have re-experienced how healing it can be. The Fumo Family Library featured my friend, the poet, Maria Fama. Her latest book is The Good for the Good, Poems by Maria Fama from Bordighera Press (2019).

Maria’s work revives the past and makes us whole.

On the back of the book, Daniela Gioseffi (an American Book Award winner) writes: “Once again, Maria Fama makes us smile as she cajoles us with profound folk wisdom and ironic wit. This is a book everyone of any background can delight in. The witty folk wisdom it offers can be cherished for a lifetime.”

Maria reads to us from a variety of years and books in this video. Enjoy!

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I do a lot on Twitter, and this morning I had a lot to be thankful for.  Open Table MCC in the Philippines sent me this moving YouTube video.  And then a reader sent me the comment about my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that I posted below for you to read.

 

It’s hard to believe that people are so ignorant that they think that hermaphrodites, gays, and bisexuals didn’t exist in Biblical times. There is evidence on pottery in Greece as far back as 10,000 yrs B.C. “They” is among one of my most recommended books, great job!

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of International Pig Day.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” – Wilbur, the pig, talking about Charlotte, the spider, in Charlotte’s Web, the classic by E.B. White.

I was very excited when I learned that today is national pig day. National Pig Day was started in Texas – in fact it was started by Reverend McKinley’s art teacher, Ellen Stanley. Now it is an international holiday to honor the uniqueness of the pig.

I’ve always been drawn to pigs. Perhaps, it is their innate intelligence made obvious to me at a young age when I read Charlotte’s Web.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that it was so easy for me to move to a plant-based diet last fall which I did for health reasons. This means that I only eat plants and cut out all animal products.

My partner Barbara and I had been moving toward a plant-based diet for several years prior to this because of compassion for the animals and concerns for our own now and future health.

So, when I started seeing an acupuncturist and she emailed me a link to a YouTube video of a physician talking about how a low-protein plant-based diet is the best way to avoid kidney stones, I was right there. The universe must have heard me, because the minute I gave up dairy, the muse descended in the form of a talking dairy cow.

For two and a half months, I wrote — almost without stopping — a novel titled Cinnamon: a dairy cow’s path (and her farmer’s) to freedom. And while I am still in the revision mode, this is the fastest I ever wrote the first draft of a novel. The larger arc of this pro-cow, pro-farmer novel is about the possibility of change.

Call it quantum physics or magic, everything around me seemed to line up for the writing. We had been visiting the cows, the pigs, the sheep and their offspring, the lambs, at Saul agricultural high school on nearby Henry Avenue for several years.  I never anticipated, however, that I would be writing a novel with a talking dairy cow as a narrator. The other narrator is a female dairy farmer.  The farmer and the cow, who she named Cinnamon, become friends which leads to a happy ending – something that is happening all over the world.

The writing of this novel was very intense. I knew that the dairy cows didn’t have an easy time of it – to say the least.  But I learned so much that I went through a period of consciousness raising. In spiritual terms, I began to see the beingness of the farm animals reflected back to me.  I could especially see this in their eyes.

I did write a novel – meaning it is fiction, which loosely interpreted means I made things up. But my farmer narrator, like me, has health issues that lead her to a plant-based diet.  Also, like me, she is lucky enough to have a partner who loves to cook for her. Like me, she starts to get better. And in the meantime, she becomes more connected to the farm animals. Like others who went to a plant-based diet, I became more compassionate – and that compassion extends to the animals, to myself and to the world.

I was delighted to learn that the Unitarian Universalist Association has an Animal Ministry. You may have seen the ad in UU World with a plate at the top with two eggs for eyes and a turned down piece of bacon under that – making a frowny face. A quote on the ad reads, “The United Nations says that a global shift to a plant-based diet is crucial to save the planet and to feed the growing population.” The website quotes the prominent Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh who has said, “Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

This quote from Tich Nhat Hanh bears repeating:

“Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

As my acupuncturist says, “By moving to a plant-based diet you are improving your health, helping the animals, and the planet as well. It seems like a no brainer.”

I would agree. We have plenty of prominent activists who espouse plant-based diets. These include noted activist Greta Thunberg and actor/activist Leonardo di Caprio. And we have the actor Joaquin Phoenix who, in his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, talked about how we have descended into an egocentric world view and about the fact that everything is connected – including human rights, animal rights, and the future of the planet.

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If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Plant Based News which has videos on You Tube — many of them featuring the noted cardiologist Dr. Neal Barnard.

In my novel, the dairy farmer feels very guilty that she sold her pig – who at the time was the size of a small adult human. She sold the pig to pay taxes on the land, which has been in her family for generations. Eventually, when she figures out that she can do things differently – by creating a farm animal sanctuary on her land where her animals can live out their natural lives – she adopts a new pig and names him Wilbur.

Like any writer, I did my research. Pigs and their lineages can be very complex. But here’s some interesting and fun facts that I learned about pigs: Farm animal pigs are direct descendants of wild boars which I understand can be very dangerous.  A boar is an uncastrated male domestic pig, but a boar can also mean a wild pig of any gender.

Pigs are known to be very intelligent. They are considered the fifth most intelligent animal in the world. Some say they are even more intelligent than dogs.

So, in this season of Lent, whether you identify as a Christian or not, consider being kind to your arteries as well as to pigs, by giving up pig products for a while – and see how you feel.

In doing so, you might reflect on the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle:.Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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I am reposting this talk that I gave last year to mark the occasion of Hanukkah which  starts on Sunday, December 22 and ends Monday, December 30th. The talk was a Unitarian Universalist (UU) service that was called “Ringing in the Light.”

I talked about my childhood memories of being touched by Hanukkah and my experiences in celebrating the Winter Solstice and with the Gnostic Gospels. You can see my words below on the YouTube video or read the reflection below that.

As far back as I can remember, the light beckoned.

The sun was a ball of fire in the sky.  The light changed into vibrant colors in the morning and the evening.  It filtered through the branches of trees.  The sunlight had, in fact, shined down and helped to form the trees.  So the light was in the trees (along with the rain and the earth).

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Even when it was cloudy, I knew the sun was there. Sometimes I could see the ball of sun outlined behind the gray clouds.

The first time I remember being drawn to the light in a religious context was when I was in elementary school watching a play about Hanukkah.

Despite its nearness to Christmas on the calendar, Hanukkah is one of the lesser holidays in Judaism. Hanukkah, also called The Festival of Lights, began last Tuesday at sunset and ends this Wednesday, December, 20th, at nightfall.

When I asked my partner what Hanukkah meant to her, she responded that it is a celebration of survival, hope and faith.

The holiday celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, detailed in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

This victory of the Maccabees, in approximately 160 BCE –  BCE standing for Before The Common Era — resulted in the rededication of the Second Temple.  The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea.

According to the Talmud, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah burned for eight days.

But there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. It was a miracle.

Hanukkah is observed by lighting the eight candles of the menorah at varying times and various ways.  This is done along with the recitation of prayers.  In addition to the eight candles in the menorah, there is a ninth called a shamash (a Hebrew word that means attendant). This ninth candle, the shamash, is in the center of the menorah.

It is all very complicated of course – the history and the ritual – but what I remember most is sitting in that darkened auditorium and being drawn to the pool of light around the candles on my elementary school stage.

I am not Jewish.  I say that I was raised secular – but that is putting it mildly.  My mother was, in fact, a bible-burning atheist.  Added to that, I was always cast as one of the shepherds in the school’s Christmas pageant since I was the tallest child in elementary school.

Also, I had Jewish neighbors – and as a future lesbian and book worm growing up in the sameness of a working class neighborhood — I may have responded to difference and had a realization that I was part of it.

Then I grew up, came out, thanked the Goddess for my secular upbringing, and celebrated the Winter Solstice with candles and music. This year, the Solstice falls on December 21st. The Winter Solstice (traditionally the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year)  is this coming Thursday in the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth – which is where we are.

One of our friends who we celebrated the Solstice with is Julia Haines. Julia is a musician who has performed at Restoration.  She has a wonderful composition of Thunder Perfect Mind which she accompanies with her harp playing. You can find her on YouTube. Thunder Perfect Mind, of which I just read an excerpt, is one of the ancient texts of the Gnostic Gospels.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.  Originally written in Coptic, these texts date back to ancient times and give us an alternative glimpse into the Gospels that are written in the New Testament. They are so important that they are banned in some conventional religions.  And in my book, that’s a good reason to read them.

Reading them led me to think of myself as a Gnostic – meaning one who has knowledge and who pursues knowledge – including mystical knowledge.  The Gnostic Gospels have provided me with inspiration for my writing, particularly in my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, soon to be published by Adelaide Books. And they also inspire me in the novel I am currently writing — titled The Unicorn, The Mystery.

I am inspired by the Gnostic Gospels in part because they let in the light.  In particular, they let in the light of the feminine.

As Julia says in her rendition of Thunder:

am godless

I am Goddess

So how does finding the light factor into my experience of Unitarian Universalism? Later in life, after fifty, I found a religion that fit my values.  I found a religion wide enough – and I might add, secure enough – to embrace nonconformity.

In finding a congregation that is diverse in many ways – including religious diversity – I have found a deeper sense of myself.

And in that self, I recognize that the darkness is as least as necessary and as important as the light.

As a creative writer, I spend much of my time in the gray-matter of imagination.

It is in that darkness where I find the light.

 

Namaste

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders ( published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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I received an online comment this morning that to my inquisitive mind might have well had said: why encourage people to think for themselves?

“Can we just not encourage people to read gospels written hundreds of years after Jesus’ life? They are all interpretations of him and not actually his words?” [sic]

The comment brought to mind an incident that occurred some years ago. At a meeting of the worship associates (I am one of the lay ministers at a Unitarian Universalist church) the then intern minister mentioned that the professors at the seminary she was attending “hated” Elaine Pagels (a champion of the Gnostic Gospels).  Despite my Buddhist inclination not to engage with negative comments, I had a knee jerk reaction (in religious terms one might say I had an Ejaculation) and responded that the professors probably “hated” Elaine Pagels because they were jealous that she had published so many books. Another lay minister agreed with me. Even though I hadn’t meant to, I had started a religious war. Apparently, it’s easy.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. There are some conflicting theories about when they were first written but some historians say that they were written before the New Testament was written.

The Gnostic Gospels are very different from Genesis in telling the story of how the human race was created. Readers can experience the Garden of Eden from the serpent’s eyes and ears!

3BDB915D-309B-403F-9E02-4628201F2FABThe Gnostic Gospels were known throughout history – particularly in the Middle Ages – but were always banned by the Church.

Those who were known followers of the Gnostic Gospels were deemed as heretics and burned.  Granted, in those days you could be burned at the stake for many things. But the last time I searched Twitter for the Gnostic Gospels – people were still saying to be careful of the Gnostic Gospels – because you could still be branded as a heretic.

Given the scant evidence that Jesus actually existed, you’d think the Gnostic Gospels would be welcomed as further evidence that Jesus did exist since many of them refer to him. (There also is no evidence that Jesus wrote any of the New Testament or left any writings behind.)

The Gnostic Gospels are living documents.

I and many others have been inspired by the Gnostic Gospels.

In particular, my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books – New York; Lisbon) was influenced by the Gnostic Gospels.

Also my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (forthcoming from Adelaide Books in 2020) was inspired by the Gnostic Gospels (in particle by Thunder Perfect Mind).

Perhaps the reason the Gnostic Gospels are scorned is in the name: Gnostic (“knowing”). Apparently, it is heretical to know your own truth.

 

To read more about the Gnostic Gospels, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/inspiration-by-gnostic-gospels-thunderperfectmind/

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on the secular, humanist and holiday theme of “myth.”

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

In first grade, the teacher firmly put me in the hallway of the private Episcopal school I was enrolled in because I had told the entire first grade class that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.

Outraged that the adults were lying to us, I had leapt to my feet to make this announcement.

I remember being angry as I stood in the hallway. Afterall, I had been put there because I was telling the truth.  (I had it on good authority – from the older sibling of a friend – that my information was correct. Once I heard this, everything fell into place.)

I imagine some adult, telling me that I shouldn’t burst other people’s bubbles, finally got through to me.

It’s little wonder that I went on not only to pay attention to myth – but to turn it inside out, to inhabit it, and to write new myths and rewrite old myths. My own belief in myth is that it all started with the winter-solstice, which is not a myth, in itself,  but scientific. The Winter Solstice is the briefest day of the year. This year the Winter Solstice falls on December 21. This is the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice lets in the dark. I believe that myth was created in the dark.

 

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In my view, myth was created to explain ourselves and our origins. So, I don’t always believe myths, but I believe in myth.

There are lots of untold stories in myths. One could say there are minor characters whose stories are untold. From there, one might begin to question the veracity of the major characters whose stories are told.

If you follow this line of thinking, you can see my point that myth is ripe with possibility.

I heard it said that we are hard wired for belief.

Several months ago, I would have said of my own hard wiring that religion has given me more belief in myself. But now I see that it is also true that I believe in the myth of myself.

As I tell my students, a myth is a story that tells us about ourselves — that can come from any culture. Consider, for example, the Hopi myth of Grandmother Spider Woman. This Native American myth, prevalent in the Southwest among the Hopi and other tribes, is about a woman (a goddess figure) who wove the web of existence and thought the world into existence. This myth tells us where we came from – and perhaps from there we can figure out how to do things differently.

Also, as I tell my students, a myth can be from your childhood (such as the story of the Tooth Fairy); a myth can be classical; a myth can be biblical; a myth can be whatever – you can write your own myth.

It’s entirely possible that thinking about myth – and putting yourself into it – can make you stronger.

Recently, I had my students write themselves into a myth and read their story to the class. One of my younger students wrote about herself as Sisyphus, taken from the Greek myth, that you may be familiar with, that depicts a man pushing a huge boulder up a steep hill. At the end of the story, this student revealed that she is making a new path up this old mountain.

The Myth of Sisyphus is a popular one – and an apt one for a writer – although it can also be a metaphor for life. When I was a young adult, I had a postcard on my bulletin board in the cubicle where I spent my days — depicting a tiny Sisyphus pushing a huge boulder up a steep mountain.

When my student finished her story, I smiled and nodded.

She had just taught me something about myself. I didn’t do it alone. But with the help of many, including this Unitarian Universalist congregation, I forged my own path.

Namaste

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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I was really saddened this morning to learn of the passing of Toni Morrison. It’s true that she lived a good long life with many books and awards (she was 88.) But the feeling I felt was reminiscent of losing my father who died several years ago when He was 98. I had never conceived of a world without him in it.  He was that important to me.

I felt much the same way about the passing of Toni Morrison. The news of her death was like a punch in the gut. I had to think about it. Toni was not a friend, but I did meet her several times. Her books were immensely important to me. I thought she would live forever because she was such a source of goodness.

Now it is up to us to carry that torch of goodness by being extra true to ourselves and by being kind.

Fortunately, an excellent movie was made of her life before she passed.  To read my impressions of that movie, click here.

 

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Last night a friend and I went to see the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am and I loved every minute of it.  For as long as I can remember, I have long been inspired by the work of Toni Morrison and was again inspired by the movie as a writer and as a human being.

I am far enough outside the mainstream not to have heard the criticism of the white, male (straight I assume) literary establishment who criticized her and said she did not deserve to win the Nobel Prize.  But the comments were, unfortunately, predictable.

I have long considered Morrison America’s greatest living writer and was motivated by the movie to go back and reread her books.

As a writing teacher, I have often quoted Morrison’s statement that revising is the “delicious” part of writing, that the writer goes back and sculpts the hollows that brings forth the characters.

The movie brought me to tears more than once.

I was moved by her discussion on internalized self-hated – that her first book, The Bluest Eye, strongly addresses.  As a lesbian writer, I have often written and thought about internalized oppression – the fact of its existence, where it comes from, and how it can be overcome.

 

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I was struck with what she said about white people and racism.  She said that racist white people are “bereft” and that by being racist, they are also damaging themselves. She asked the question that what are you without your racism? Are you still strong? And she said that if someone needs to feel better than someone else, they need to process that by themselves – without her.

So, thank you Toni Morrison. I recognize genius when I see it/read it – and am uplifted by your gifts not threatened by them.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.
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Many thanks to the Philadelphia Gay News for the article they ran this week before my reading at the Penn Book Center (with Anjali Mitter Duva) at the fiction series at the Penn Book Center, 130 S. 34th St., on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m.

Mt. Airy author Janet Mason is well known on the Philadelphia literary circuit and within the local LGBTQ community for her provocative writing that includes poetry, memoir and fiction. Her last book, “Tea Leaves,” won the Golden Crown Literary Award for lesbian memoir.

Mason’s new novel is set primarily in biblical times. “THEY: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders” (Adelaide Books, $22) is quite different from Mason’s other work. The novel details the story of Tamar of the Hebrew Bible and a twin sister Tabitha, Tabitha’s intersex twins and the dawning of the concept of defining male gender as preferential, along with the concept of gender as finite — two genders with no variants.

Mason, who will be reading (with Anjali Mitter Duva) at a fiction series at the Penn Book Center on Jan. 30, delves deeply into the variants with her lesbian protagonist and the character’s family.

It’s a complicated story that evolved over the past couple of years as Mason experienced her own awakening with regard to religion, the Bible and gender.

“I was raised secular,” Mason said. Her mother, the subject of “Tea Leaves,” was “a Bible-burning atheist.”

About five years ago, Mason joined the Unitarian Universalist Church where she became a lay minister.

they_cover1_300“I started reading the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, which I’ve always been curious about,” Mason said. “There is some great stuff in both books of the Bible, but there’s also a fair amount of misogyny and violence. I remember that in my high-spirited 20s, I announced at some opportune time that someone needed to rewrite the Bible.”

Mason says while reading the Bible for the first time, “I came across the story of Tamar in Genesis, the muse descended, and I was off and running. I was also influenced by taking yoga and developing a daily practice that included Buddhist meditation.”

Other influences included “knowing a young family on my block whose child transitioned at age 5 to become a happy little girl. I was also reviewing several books on trans issues,” Mason explained. “Later, when I was finished writing the novel, I found out that Biblical scholars — including a rabbi who published a piece in The New York Times — had found that the Hebrew Bible, in particular, did have original words such as ‘they’ to connote both and all genders.”

 At a time when the political climate has turned anti-LGBTQ and evangelicals seem to have taken ownership of the Bible, Mason said she wanted to “send the message that we are all valued. The evangelicals definitely don’t ‘own’ religion, even if they think they do. Many of their children are staying in the religion and changing it to be more liberal. And there are plenty of liberal religions — and they are changing, too.” Religion, she says, “is becoming more inclusive of LGBTQ people.”

For Mason, “Working on ‘THEY’ was my way of entering the stories and myths of the Bible made real to me by my imagination. My hope is that ‘THEY’ might be an opening for some to enter the stories and find that there’s room for them, too.”

Though Mason is currently promoting her new book with readings and book signings, she is also working on new projects, which include revising another novel titled “The Unicorn, The Mystery,” of which several sections were recently short-listed for the Adelaide Literary Prize.

“It’s a novel that is set in an abbey in medieval times where several nuns who happen to be in love with each other live. A monk and a talking unicorn narrate
the story.”

Mason will be reading (with Anjali Mitter Duva) at the fiction series at the Penn Book Center, 130 S. 34th St., on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m.

(interview by Victoria Brownworth for PGN)

 

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