toni mcnaron's garden

Toni McNaron has been talking about and writing books and stories for many decades. As a child, she often chose to read a good book rather than going to the local ice cream shop with neighborhood friends. After trying to be a physics and math major in college, she admitted that it was her literature class and teacher who really inspired and satisfied her intellectual curiosity. As a college professor for thirty-seven years, Toni worked with young people to help them feel the power of beautiful language and the centrality of reading about people whose actions and cultures stretched students’ perspectives and awakened empathy even for characters who overt actions might offend or frighten them.

Her own writing has ranged widely:  editing a pioneering collection of stories by women who survived incest; two memoirs of growing up in an unreconstructed South and, more recently, of wrestling with God until she has forged a comfortable faith for herself as a lesbian-feminist; editing essays about famous sister pairs in literature; editing and writing articles about Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, writing in code, pedagogical concerns, and attraction based on sameness rather than opposition.

Since 2001, Toni has been able to refashion how she wants to spend her time, finding in retirement creative ways to “teach” good books to curious adults even as she has turned her considerable yard into a series of wonderful gardens that sustain her, lots of local birds, and the occasional welcomed bunny rabbit. In these times so full of race-based inequities, Toni has decided to use her considerable teaching skills to introduce mostly white and older readers to books by and about black life now and into the inglorious past. This is her way to resist as she enters more seriously into consideration of mortality.

Read more about Toni


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Am I Civilized?

Catholic priests are not known for preaching profound sermons, so it’s a blessing that most conform to the idea of making homilies short.  Custom has it that ten minutes is the ideal length.  But every now and then, congregants are surprised, as I was a few... read more

Dr. Martin Luther King Day, 2019

In a recent interview, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, Alabama, was asked what Dr. King would think if he were alive to witness our political world today.  He said he’d be heart-broken but also excited to know that if he called a... read more

Dancing to Sound

Recently, a good friend and I attended an unusual dance performance entitled “WEAVE.” The choreographer, Rosy Simas, Native American of the Seneca, Heron Clan, worked with a handful of mostly Native dancers to give us an intense exploration of movement... read more