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.
A friend just sent me an article about Janis Joplin because a new biography is just out about her. She was a blazing comet on the rock music scene in the 1960's, but, like all comets, vanished too quickly to be taken in fully. The new biography talks about how much...read more
If "Carla Hayden" is not a household name, I understand. And, if you don't know a lot about our Librarian of Congress, I understand that as well. But in these days of dangerous mayhem and destructive hate speech, Ms. Hayden and her title give me hope and comfort. I...read more
This past week, TV stations across the country showed us an amazing scene: Brandt Jean, the 18 year old brother of Both Jean who was shot and killed by a white female police person who went home to the wrong apartment after her night shift was over, asked the trial...read more