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Book cover for "Truly Like Lightning"
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Farrar, Straus and Giroux

David Duchovny is best known for his work in film and television - but he's also a New York Times bestselling author who has written four novels his latest titled "Truly Like Lightning," about a fundamentalist Mormon family that returns to society after living in isolation in the desert.

Duchovny is an actor, producer, director, novelist and singer-songwriter, best known for playing FBI agent Fox Mulder on the TV series, "The X-Files" and Hank Moody on the TV series "Californication," both of which earned him Golden Globe Awards.

Book cover for "It's Never too Late"
Thomas Nelson / Thomas Nelson

When Kathie Lee Gifford stepped down as cohost of the fourth hour of the Today show with Hoda Kotb, you might have thought her best days were behind her. It turns out, she was just getting started. As Kathie Lee says, “I’m not retiring; I’m refiring!” 

Her new book is "It's Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life.

Book cover for "The Saint Makers"
Hachette Books / Hachette Books

Joe Drape is an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers "Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen" and "American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner's Legendary Rise." His book "Black Maestro" was the inaugural winner of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award.

In his new book "The Saint Makers," chronicles the unlikely alliance between Father Hotze and Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, a country priest and a cosmopolitan Italian canon lawyer, as the two piece together the life of a long dead Korean War hero and military chaplain and fashion it into a case for eternal divinity.

Joe Drape offers a front row seat to the Catholic Church's saint-making machinery-which, in many ways, has changed little in two thousand years-and examines how, or if, faith and science can co-exist.

When the young Alfred Charles Sharpton told his mother he wanted to be a preacher, little did he know that his journey would also lead him to prominence as a politician, founder of the National Action Network, civil rights activist, and television and radio talk show host. His ability and willingness to take on the political power structure makes him the preeminent voice for the modern era, a time unprecedented in its challenges.

In "Rise Up," Reverend Sharpton revisits the highlights of the Obama administration, the 2016 election and Trump's subsequent hold on the GOP, and draws on his decades-long experience with other key players in politics and activism, including Shirley Chisholm, Hillary Clinton, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more.

American politics are obsessed with sex and religion has been wound up in these political struggles, and blamed for not a little of the resistance to meaningful change in America political life.

In "The Sex Obsession," Janet R. Jakobsen examines how gender and sexuality have reappeared time and again at the center of political life, marked by a series of widely recognized issues and movements.

The United States is recognized as the most religiously diverse country in the world, and yet its laws and customs, which many have come to see as normal features of American life, actually keep the Constitutional ideal of “religious freedom for all” from becoming a reality.

Christian beliefs, norms, and practices infuse our society; they are embedded in our institutions, creating the structures and expectations that define the idea of “Americanness.” Religious minorities still struggle for recognition and for the opportunity to be treated as fully and equally legitimate members of American society.

In the new book, White Christian Privilege, Khyati Joshi traces Christianity’s influence on the American experiment from before the founding of the Republic to the social movements of today. Mapping the way through centuries of slavery, westward expansion, immigration, and citizenship laws, she also reveals the ways Christian privilege in the United States has always been entangled with notions of White supremacy. 

A brick building with a metal sculpture of a tree with hebrew letters in its boughs
Josh Landes / WAMC

As Massachusetts slowly begins to reopen, Berkshire County faith leaders are preparing for a new approach to congregational worship.

Joe Donahue: Welcome to The Book Show, a celebration of reading and writers. I'm Joe Donohue. In Sue Monk Kidd's, new novel, "The Book of Longing", she imagines a young woman named Ana, who becomes the wife of Jesus. The novel explores many of the signature themes in Kidd's fiction: feminism, the search for self, the quest for one's voice and purpose, and the power of female community. In particular, this novel explores the longings and virtuosities in women, as well as their silencing and marginalization within Western religion. The story evokes a seminal question: how would the world be different if Jesus had had a wife? Sue Monk Kidd's debut, "The Secret Life of Bees" spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, it has sold more than 6 million copies. Her other novels include "The Mermaid Chair" and "The Invention of Wings". Again, the latest is "The Book of Longings". 

Bart D. Ehrman is a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity, and the author or editor of more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestsellers "Misquoting Jesus," "How Jesus Became God," and "The Triumph of Christianity."

A Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he has created eight popular audio and video courses for "The Great Courses." He has been featured in Time, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post, and has appeared on NBC, CNN, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, BBC, and NPR.

His most recent book is "Heaven and Hell."

Robert Jay Lifton has written over twenty books, including many seminal works in the field such as the National Book Award–winning "Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima" and "The Nazi Doctors." He has taught at Yale University, Harvard University, and the City University of New York.

In "Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry" he proposes a radical idea: that the psychological relationship between extremist political movements and fanatical religious cults may be much closer than anyone thought. Exploring the most extreme manifestations of human zealotry, Lifton highlights an array of leaders who have sought the control of human minds and the ownership of reality.

"The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Speech, Fake News, Post-Truth, and Donald Trump" is a new book from public intellectual and New York Times bestselling author, Stanley Fish.

How does the First Amendment really work? Is it a principle or a value? What is hate speech and should it always be banned? Are we free to declare our religious beliefs in the public square? What role, if any, should companies like Facebook play in policing the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and opinions?

Stanley Fish, “America’s most famous professor” (BookPage), explores these complex questions in "The First."

Book cover for River of Fire and author photo of Sister Helen Prejean
Author photo by Michael Lionstar

Sister Helen Prejean is considered one of the nation’s foremost leaders in efforts to abolish the death penalty.

In her new book, "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey," she shares the story of her growth as a spiritual leader, speaks out about the challenges of the Catholic Church, and shows that joy and religion are not mutually exclusive.

Less and less Christian demographically, America is now home to an ever-larger number of people who say they identify with no religion at all. These non-Christians have increasingly been demanding their full participation in public life, bringing their arguments all the way to the Supreme Court. The law is on their side, but that doesn't mean that their attempts are not met with suspicion or outright hostility.

In "Our Non-Christian Nation," Jay Wexler travels the country to engage the non-Christians who have called on us to maintain our ideals of inclusivity and diversity.

Nathan Englander once again tackles the complexities of contemporary Jewish life in his new novel, "kaddish.com."

When an atheist's Orthodox father dies, he is called upon by his mother and sisters to perform the prayer for the dead - every day for 11 months. Reluctant, he hires someone from the title website to recite the Kaddish for him.

Jewish Voice for Peace -Hudson Valley has scheduled a panel entitled “We All Belong Here: Hearing the Voices of Muslim Women,” the event is a panel discussion with Muslim women to examine the intersectionality of diversity and “otherness” and how those inform our perceptions and governmental policies.

The discussion will be based on the personal experiences and narratives of Muslim women living in our region. This event will take place on Saturday, May 4th 1:30-4 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Kingston.

Our guests are Cheryl Qamar - an Arab-American & social activist from Saugerties, New York who is the Chair of the Anti-Islamophobia Committee for Jewish Voice for Peace-Hudson Valley and Susan Smith, Director of operations at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, community liaison for the Muslim Peace Fellowship, and a member of the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, New York, an intentional residential community of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Author Aatish Taseer was born in the UK, the son of prominent Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and Pakistani politician, Salmaan Taseer. For his new book, "The Twice Born: Life and Death on the Ganges," Taseer traveled to Benares, the spiritual home of Hinduism for an up-close look at what the caste system means in India today.

Taseer says caste, the social and religious hierarchy of Hinduism, can have profound impacts on the trajectory of a person's life and governs any number of social interactions. It remains resilient in modern India, and Taseer considers its link to the rise of the Hindu nationalism.

In February 2013, the arch-conservative Pope Benedict XVI made a startling announcement: he would resign, making him the first pope to willingly vacate his office in over 700 years. Reeling from the news, the College of Cardinals rushed to Rome to congregate in the Sistine Chapel to pick his successor. Their unlikely choice? Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,200 years, a one time tango club bouncer, a passionate soccer fan, a man with the common touch.

Why did Benedict walk away at the height of power, knowing his successor might be someone whose views might undo his legacy? Having immersed himself in these men's lives to write the screenplay for the upcoming motion picture The Pope, Anthony McCarten weaves their stories into one gripping narrative. The Pope is soon to be a major motion picture starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce.

Anthony McCarten is a novelist, playwright, television writer, and filmmaker. He is two time Academy-Award nominated screenwriter for writing the biographical films - "The Theory of Everything" and "The Darkest Hour." He most recently wrote the film "Bohemian Rhapsody" – which has been nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Picture.

Anjali Kumar, a pragmatic lawyer for Google, was part of a rapidly growing population in America: highly spiritual but religiously uncommitted. But when her daughter was born, she became compelled to find God - or at least some kind of enlightenment.  

Convinced that traditional religions were not a fit for her, and knowing that she couldn't simply Google an answer to "What is the meaning of life?", Kumar set out on a spiritual pilgrimage, looking for answers--and nothing was off limits or too unorthodox. She headed to the mountains of Peru to learn from the shamans, attended the techie haunt of Burning Man, practiced transcendental meditation, convened with angels, and visited saints, goddesses, witches, and faith healers.

Her book is "Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In."

Adam Nadal

Ping Chong + Company will present their non-fiction, documentary style production - “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity” on October 14 and 15 at UAlbany Performing Arts Center on the main campus of the University at Albany.

Written by Chong, Sara Zatz, and Ryan Conarro in collaboration with the performers, the work illuminates the daily experiences of five young Muslim Americans who have come of age in a post-9/11 society and are building their lives in a time of continued fear and violence towards Muslims. The cast members are from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and reflect a wide range of Muslim identities, including: those who have converted to Islam, those who were raised Muslim but have since left the faith, those who identify as “culturally” Muslim and those who are observant on a daily basis.

We welcome Maha Syed, featured in “Beyond Sacred;” Sara Zatz, the co-author & co-director of “Beyond Sacred;” and Paul Grondahl, Director of the New York State Writers Institute.

Dr. Willie Parker Is a Christian reproductive justice advocate. Focusing on populations in need, Dr. Willie Parker travels primarily the Deep South providing abortions and other health services. His Book "Life's Work: A Moral Argument For Choice" focuses on violence against women, sexual assault, and reproductive rights and justice through advocacy and provision of contraceptive and abortion services.

Dr. Willie Parker will be speaking at the Women's Leadership Circle Luncheon for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, Thursday 9/27 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Wolferts Roost Country Club.

The youngest of thirteen children in a devout Catholic family, Tina Alexis Allen grew up in 1980s suburban Maryland in a house ruled by her stern father, Sir John, an imposing, British-born authoritarian who had been knighted by the Pope. Sir John supported his large family running a successful travel agency that specialized in religious tours to the Holy Land and the Vatican for pious Catholics.

But his daughter, Tina, was no sweet and innocent Catholic girl. A smart-mouthed high school basketball prodigy, she harbored a painful secret: she liked girls. When Tina was eighteen her father discovered the truth about her sexuality. Instead of dragging her to the family priest and lecturing her with tearful sermons about sin and damnation, her father shocked her with his honest response. He, too, was gay.

The secret they shared about their sexuality brought father and daughter closer, and the two became trusted confidants and partners in a relationship that eventually spiraled out of control.

Tina Alexis Allen’s new book is "Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives."

Dr. Menhaz Afridi is an Associate Professor of Religious studies and Director of Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College. She is committed to interfaith, and the Holocaust education. She teaches contemporary Islam, Holocaust, Genocide and issues of gender within Islam. 

She will join the Sidney and Beatrice Albert Inter-Faith Lectureship Program at The College of St. Rose next Tuesday, April 17 to present a lecture entitled “The Rise of Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Solutions and Challenges.”

Christianity could have easily become a forgotten sect of Judaism, but instead, it spread at a mind-boggling pace, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. How? Bart Ehrman has turned this question over in his head for thirty years, and his new book, "The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World," is the culmination of his work to answer it.

In it, Ehrman combines deep knowledge and meticulous research in a narrative that looks to upend the way we think about the single most important cultural transformation our world has ever seen—one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.

Bart Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books, including "Misquoting Jesus" and "God’s Problem." Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus.

Marilyn Yalom is a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, and the author of "A History of the Wife," among other books.

In "The Amorous Heart," Marilyn Yalom tracks the heart metaphor and heart iconography across two thousand years, through Christian theology, pagan love poetry, medieval painting, Shakespearean drama, Enlightenment science, and into the present. She argues that the symbol reveals a tension between love as romantic and sexual on the one hand, and as religious and spiritual on the other.

In 2016, the president-elect of the United States openly called for segregation and deportation based on race and religion. Meanwhile, inequalities in education, housing, health care, and the job market continue to prevail, while increased insecurity and fear have led to an epidemic of scapegoating and harassment of people of color.

Yet, recent polls show that only thirty-one percent of white people in the United States believe racism is a major societal problem; at the same time, resistance is strong, as highlighted by indigenous struggles for land and sovereignty and the Movement for Black Lives.

Paul Kivel’s book: "Uprooting Racism" offers a framework around neoliberalism and interpersonal, institutional, and cultural racism, along with stories of resistance and white solidarity. It provides practical tools and advice on how white people can work as allies for racial justice.

Paul Kivel has been a social justice activist, a nationally and internationally recognized anti-racism educator, and an innovative leader in violence prevention for over forty years.

God Needed A Puppy

Oct 27, 2017

News10 Anchorman, John Gray, is an Emmy Award winning journalist and writer. When John’s puppy Samuel died unexpectedly at just six months old it brought a profound sadness to their home and a sense that this was just not fair. For the first time John understood how a child must feel when they lose a pet of any age, asking themselves, “Why?”

Hoping to turn his pain into something positive, John put pen to paper and wrote a story to help any child who has lost a pet.

His new book, God Needed a Puppy guides children through the grieving process by using friendly animals from the forest to explain the reasons why a beloved pet sometimes has to leave us.

John will be talking about and signing the new book on Saturday, November 18 at Barnes & Noble in Colonie Center in Colonie at 4PM. He will be at Battenkill Books in Cambridge, NY on December 2.

In his new book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, NYT bestselling author and co-creator of the Peabody-Award winning public radio show Studio 360, Kurt Andersen, provides a new and comprehensive understanding of our post-truth world and the American instinct in make- believe.

This interview was recorded at UAlbany as part of the New York State Writers Institute symposium: Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World.

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve explores the enduring story of humanity’s first parents. Comprising only a few ancient verses, the story of Adam and Eve has served as a mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of our fears and desires, as both a hymn to human responsibility and a dark fable about human wretchedness.

The biblical origin story, Stephen Greenblatt argues, is a model for what the humanities still have to offer: not the scientific nature of things, but rather a deep encounter with problems that have gripped our species for as long as we can recall and that continue to fascinate and trouble us today.

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of thirteen books, including his newest novel: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.

In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California. He became involved in electoral politics, and soon was a prominent Bay Area leader.

In The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, Jeff Guinn examines Jones’s life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America.

Ruth Gilligan At NYSWI

Apr 13, 2017

Ruth Gilligan is an Irish novelist and journalist. With her literary fiction debut, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, she tells the story of Jewish immigrants in Ireland. The narrative gradually weaves together three main characters whose stories are set in 1901, 1958, and 2013 to reveal the unknown history of Ireland’s Jewish community. The three stories revolve around Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who accidentally arrive in Ireland, mistaking “Cork” for “New York;” a teenager who is sent to an asylum in 1950s Ireland because he hasn’t spoken since his bar mitzvah; and a contemporary Irish woman who has emigrated to London and must decide whether or not to convert to Judaism to marry her Jewish boyfriend. 

Gilligan will read from and discuss her novel at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 13 (tonight) in the Huxley Theatre, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center in downtown Albany. Free and open to the public, the events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and cosponsored by the Friends of the New York State Library.

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