Vital Friends: Five Quaker Authors to Follow
Quaker authors have been a transformational presence in the Religious Society of Friends since its founding in the 17th century. Friends were originally referred to as the “Publishers of Truth,” and the writers featured here are living into this title with their contributions to the world of literature.
Here are five Quaker authors whose work we’re blessed to follow.
In her work as FGC’s Ministry on Racism program coordinator, Vanessa seeks to create opportunities where Friends of Color can connect and worship (including virtually during the pandemic), and “to help the Religious Society of Friends be whole” (she describes her ministry in detail in an interview here, and it’s worth reading). As an author, she confronts the myth of racial justice in Quaker history and challenges each of us to examine our role in confronting racism, and how to help the Quaker community be whole. This summer, she will co-facilitate the Challenging Ethnic and Racial Divisions workshop as part of the virtual FGC Gathering.
- Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship (co-written with Donna McDaniel)
- The Seed Cracked Open: Growing Beyond Racism
- A Journey toward Eliminating Racism in the Religious Society of Friends (Friends Journal article)
Eileen’s work is informed by her activism, her faith, and her curiosity. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, an environmental activist, a devoted parent, a gifted public speaker, and a Friend who not only wants to change the world, she wants to help you do it, too. Through Earth Quaker Action Team, she worked with activists to wage a non-violent campaign against one of the largest banks in the United States, and won. Her book The Wisdom to Know the Difference is especially worth reading now, as it teaches readers to recognize when change is needed in our lives and when acceptance is the answer. In addition to her writing, she also offers virtual classes and workshops through her website (where you can also sign up for her monthly newsletter).
- Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope
- Pendle Hill Pamphlet 396 – God Raising Us: Parenting as a Spiritual Practice
- How to Move a Utility: Get Moving Yourself (HuffPost article)
Dwight L. Wilson
Dwight’s work as a poet and storyteller is inspired by his experiences as a Friend and leader (noteworthy fact – he served as FGC’s General Secretary in the 1980s). He also takes a deeper look at sacred texts and history to offer a new dimension of faith and understanding. In his latest book, Whispering to Babies, Dwight reflects on his experiences as a volunteer baby-holder in the pediatric ward of a hospital, and shares how even the smallest beings can teach us so much about our humanity and capacity for compassion.
- Whispering to Babies: a Womb to Tomb Memoir
- Modern Psalms: In Search of Peace and Justice
- The Kidnapped: A Collection of Short Stories
J. Brent Bill
A self-proclaimed “Bad Friend,” Brent has written about his humble stumble toward grace across 24 books, more than 100 short stories and non-fiction articles, and through his blog, Holy Ordinary. Brent also explores beauty and truth as a photographer, and leads workshops for writers and aspiring Bad Friends. This summer, he will release his newest book, Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times (look for it online at QuakerBooks.org in the coming weeks), and he’ll facilitate a workshop at the virtual FGC Gathering, called Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: Bad at Being Good?
- Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love
- Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality
- Pendle Hill Pamphlet 460: On Vocal Ministry (Co-written with Barry Crossno)
Raised in a family that instilled a passion for storytelling and reading from a young age, Becky Birtha writes stories for children that depict moments in history as well as real-world issues like racism and poverty. Grandmama’s Pride and Lucky Beans are set in the South during segregation in 1956 and the Great Depression respectively, while Far Apart, Close in Heart describes the relationship between a child and their currently-incarcerated parent. Before writing books for children, Becky drew from her experiences as a Black, gay woman to pen short stories for various anthologies and a volume of poetry. Though they are out of print, copies of these works can be found online via ThriftBooks.com or at your local library.
This article was created for the April 2021 issue of the Vital Friends eNewsletter.