Publishers Letter For April 2023

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Dear Friends,


This month brings news of two prestigious awards for two Orbis authors. First, the Grawemeyer Award in Religion has been given to Kelly Brown Douglas for her Resurrection Hope: A Future where Black Lives Matter. Inspired by questions from her adult son in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Douglas offers a deep exploration of the roots of white supremacy in America along with an account of her personal struggle for faith in the face of ongoing racial injustice. As Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington notes, “Douglas takes us with her on a journey in which she gives herself and every other Black person in America good reason to walk away from the Christian faith, and then tell us why she perseveres in hope.”

Secondly, a Christopher Award goes to Dawn Eden Goldstein for Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.’s Spiritual Sponsor. This biography of Jesuit Father Edward Dowling (whom Fr. James Martin has called “one of the most influential, yet most unknown, spiritual figures of modern times”) tells how his spiritual guidance transformed the life of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson and helped bring A.A. to international prominence.

            Along with these two awardees, several new Orbis books address the quest for hope, healing, and transformation in the face of injustice and personal trauma. These include The Healing Path: A Memoir and an Invitation by James Finley, whom Mirabai Starr calls “one of the great living mystics of our age.” His work, a contemplative reflection on the spirituality of healing, draws on lessons from Thomas Merton, who was Finley’s novice master at the Abbey of Gethsemani, as well as the wisdom of the mystics, and the story of his own recovery from the wounds of his early life. As Starr observes, James Finley inhabits “a luminous landscape drenched in love, rooted in the sacred ordinary, where our most devastating wounds become portals to the divine encounter.”

            In Ecomartyrdom in the Americas: Living and Dying for Our Common Home theologian Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo examines the growing list of environmental defenders whose care for the earth has cost them their lives. Her work reflects the intersection of two strands of recent Catholic teaching. One of these is the expanded understanding of martyrdom to include those who die in defense of gospel values and the other the expansion of Catholic social teaching to include care for creation. As Leo Guardado observes: “Beautifully written with piercing analysis, this is a book for re-forming the church into solidarity with all Creation.”

            Finally, in Divine Rage: Malcolm X’s Challenge to Christians, Marjorie Corbman examines Malcolm’s impact on the development of the Black Power movement, the emergence of Black theology (especially in the work of Orbis author James Cone), and other Christians, including Thomas Merton. Jeannine Hill Fletcher calls it “a love letter from Malcolm passed through the hands of so many who have been inspired by his word and committed their lives to the end of White supremacy.”

            May these books offer resources on your own path of hope and renewal.


Robert Ellsberg


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