Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Donna VanLiere

Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope books and Angels of Morgan Hill. Her most recent book, The Christmas Journey (St. Martin's Press) is a modern retelling of the Nativity with brilliant watercolor paintings inside.

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
As usual, I am reading several books at one time (what is that about my personality?). Azar Nafisi's memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran is not only the author's own story of life in Iran but also a book of social history. For two years Nafisi gathered seven of her female students (she taught at a university in Tehran) to secretly read forbidden Western classics like The Great Gatsby and Lolita. I was drawn to this work because, while Iran's leaders were calling America The Great Satan, Nafisi's life and the lives of her students were becoming intertwined with the ones they were reading about in the pages of each "forbidden" novel.

I'm also reading The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest. I found this book at a library book sale and was interested when I read the back flap. The book is a diary of a seven-month long stay Nouwen spent at a Trappist monastery in Genesee County in upstate New York. Nouwen was at a point in his life where he needed to do some soul searching and the monks gladly welcomed him. I've read other Nouwen works and always find him to be an honest, insightful writer and full of humor.

Two weeks ago I was doing some work for the Nashville Rescue Mission when an employee handed me a book, "My gift to you," he said, "For helping the mission." The book was Same Kind of Different as Me, a true story by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Denver grew up working on cotton plantations and by the age of thirteen he'd dealt with more loss than most of us will have in a lifetime. Ron grew up poor but learned to work hard to keep the wolf from the door. His hard work led him into the world of upscale art dealing. Ron is traveling the world looking for art and Denver is a homeless drifter when their lives intersect. These men, and the gutsy Deborah are all real people and the narrative reflects their voices with gritty pain and emotional warmth.

Finally, I'm reading The Secret Garden out loud to my children each day. It has been so many years since I'd read it that I had forgotten much of the beginning. At one point, my 9-year-old daughter said, "This book sure has a lot of people dying, Mom. Will they ever stop dying so the book can keep going?" Life is hard for little Mary at the beginning: she was born to a mother who never really wanted her and raised by servants till her sixth year when cholera broke out in India and her favorite nurse was the first to be struck, followed by other servants and her parents. Talk about getting the reader's attention! We're halfway through and my kids have been able to put the death and pain of the beginning behind them and are loving this beloved classic.
Visit Donna VanLiere's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Christmas Secret.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Grace.

--Marshal Zeringue