John Woolman: A Nonviolence and Social Change Source Book (Second Edition)
Edited by Sterling P. Olmsted and Mike Heller. Wilmington College Peace Resource Center and Friends United Press, 2013. 164 pages. $10/paperback.
2014 started out for me as a year during which I intended to spend a year with John Woolman, reading his Journal and some of the collected essays along with a recent biography. As a convinced Friend of 11 years, I felt the need to delve more deeply into our Quaker heritage; being from south-central New Jersey, it seemed only fitting for me to start this spiritual journey with New Jersey’s own best-known Quaker native son. And then this slim volume serendipitously landed in my lap as a convenient, concise outline for my trip (thanks, Friends Journal!).
This updated edition of John Woolman: A Nonviolence and Social Change Source Book (the first edition was published in 1997) is part of a series which also includes a source book on the writings of Mohandas Gandhi. (According to the editors, future additions to this series are to include books on Friends Lucretia Mott and Bayard Rustin, and Catholic social justice activist Dorothy Day. Here’s hoping those happen.) Clerks of religious education committees for monthly meetings should rejoice in its publication: you now have an entire year’s worth of readings and springboards for adult First-day discussion sessions within easy reach. In fact, this book is appropriate for adults and high school age Friends as well.
The source book is conveniently divided into sections, including necessary historical, cultural, and theological background information; selections from The Journal, the essays, and personal letters; and other writings. There are carefully selected samples of writing from some of Woolman’s contemporaries, along with maps, illustrations (including photos of Woolman’s actual texts), timelines, and a bibliography that will provide readers with an extended reading list. But to me, the strength of this text rests in the discussion questions provided for every selection. These questions will be equally beneficial to an individual like me, who is involved in a personal study of Woolman, or to a group seeking to work through Woolman’s writings and philosophy together.
Friends living a twenty-first-century, American lifestyle may frequently find that aspects of that lifestyle conflict with our Quaker testimonies on a daily basis (for example, reconciling the fact that the cellphone that we need to live a more convenient, efficient life may have been assembled in a sweatshop by workers who are underpaid and otherwise ill-served by their employers). Because of concerns like those and so many others, Woolman’s life and words speak to many of us with urgency and resonance 240-plus years after they were set to paper. This book is a terrific place to begin conversation.
Dave Austin is a member of Haddonfield (N.J.) Meeting. He lives in Marlton, N.J., where he teaches middle school world history and Holocaust studies. He is currently at work on a young adult novel about Quaker conscientious objectors during World War II.
Early Quakers and Islam: Slavery, Apocalyptic and Christian-Muslim Encounters in the Seventeenth Century
By Justin J. Meggitt. Swedish Science Press, 2013. 102 pages. £13.40/paperback; free PDF at justinmeggitt.info/publications.
I was pleased to be asked to review a book about early Quakers and Islam since I briefly discuss this topic in my pamphlet Islam from a Quaker Perspective. Justin Meggitt’s book is a thoughtful and scholarly account explaining why early Friends were more open to having positive encounters with Muslims than were most other Christians. Ironically, the fact that Friends were captured and enslaved by Turkish pirates helped George Fox and others to become more aware of aspects of Islam they liked and didn’t like, and to discern that of God in Europe’s arch enemy, the Turks. Perhaps that’s how God works sometimes: it took the tragedy of 9/11 to motivate me (and other Friends) to reach out to our Muslim neighbors, and to become friends with those who belong to what James Michener called “the world’s most misunderstood religion.”
During the seventeenth century, Christians and Turks engaged in low-intensity warfare, often capturing each other’s vessels and taking sailors and passengers captive to be sold as slaves. Christian slaves redeemed from captivity came back with mixed reports of how they had been treated in Muslim lands. Some endured great hardship, but most were allowed a measure of religious freedom because of the Qur’anic injunction that “there shall be no compulsion in religion” (Sura Al Baqara: 2:256). (Sadly, religious toleration is no longer as widely practiced in Muslim lands as it once was, in part because of the rise of Islamic extremism—which some see as a response to Western colonialism and imperialism.)
The experience of Islamic tolerance in the seventeenth century gave Quakers a unique perspective, one that Fox and others used for polemical purposes. In a letter addressed to Quaker captives in Algiers, Fox wrote: “I think you have more liberty to meet than we have here [in England]; for they keep us out of our meetings, and cast us into prison, and spoil our goods.” In contrast, Quakers in Algiers were allowed to worship legally, a point that Fox used to shame the British magistrates who persecuted Quakers under the Conventicle Act of 1664, which effectively made Quaker worship illegal. “For our Friends (the people called Quakers) in Algiers, that are taken captive by the Turks, have their liberty peaceably to meet together, to serve and worship God there without disturbance.”
Another reason that Quakers responded differently from other Christians was theological. Quakers believed that the Logos—the Light of Christ—was present in all people, including Muslims. As Fox wrote to the Quakers in Algiers in 1683:
God, who made all, pours out of his spirit upon all men and women in the world, in the days of his new covenant, yea, upon whites and blacks, Moors and Turks, and Indian, Christians, Jews, and Gentiles, that all with the spirit of God might know God and the things of God, and serve and worship him in his spirit and truth, that he hath given them.
Quakers went around the world to proclaim this message, and were often severely persecuted, especially among their fellow Christians. Quakers who went to Muslim countries often received a more favorable reception. Mary Fisher, a servant turned missionary, went to the Sultan of Turkey and preached the Quaker message, and was cordially received. She later wrote: “I have borne my testimony to the king [sultan] unto whom I was sent, and he was very noble unto me. . . . He received the words of truth without contradiction . . .”
In writing a letter to the Sultan of Turkey, calling for the release of Quaker captives and asking for humane treatment, Fox quotes from the Qur’an as if it is authoritative, asking Muslims to live up to the ideals of their scripture. Such a respectful approach was rare among Christians of this time.
The author takes pains to point out that Quakers were a small and marginalized sect, without much influence, but worth studying nonetheless because of their peculiar perspective. It is hard to prove, but I like to think that even though Quakers were few in number, they planted seeds of toleration and openness that have grown and borne fruit in many ways. Quakers were among the first to repudiate slavery, and among the first to affirm there is that of God in people of all races and religions—ideas that are now widely embraced. Perhaps this is one of the advantages of not identifying with the dominant culture: Friends have the freedom to be peculiar, and blaze a trail that others eventually follow.
Anthony Manousos, a member of Santa Monica (Calif.) Meeting, is a peace activist, teacher, author, and editor.
Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes
By Mitri Raheb. Orbis Books, 2014. 166 pages. $20/paperback; $16.50/eBook.
Each year when I return from trips I lead to Palestine/Israel, I am asked, “Do you see any hope?” In spite of the reality that the facts on the ground seem to indicate that matters are only getting worse, I always respond in the affirmative. Summarized in his concluding paragraph, Mitri Raheb’s book offers an explanation for the kind of hope I do see: “Hope is faith in action in the face of the empire.”
Raheb is senior pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem and a trained theologian. As a theologian educated in Germany, he initially approached hermeneutics (the interpretation of biblical texts) by using the standard tools of the academy. But as a Palestinian serving a people living under military occupation, he found that a far more effective—and accurate—hermeneutic was the longue durée (loosely translated in the Palestinian context as “long patience”) lens of the experience of “the people of the land.”
For millennia, the indigenous peasants of the region have endured a succession of empires, crushing defeat, and hopelessness. It forged in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam a particular theology and understanding of God which has served them well, enabled them to endure, and is still meaningful today. This book presents that history, describes the theology that has been defined by geopolitics, and urges the continued application of the lessons of that theology.
The concise chapters of this short book cover traditional hermeneutics and its alternative in the Middle East, the historical politics of empire and colonialism in the region, and how understandings of God, Jesus, Spirit, and resistance are formed by the confluence of geography, politics, and empire.
For those of a certain vintage, the book will remind them of Ernesto Cardenal’s The Gospel in Solentiname, a hermeneutic developed by peasants living in Nicaraguan base communities during the war in Central America. I was also reminded of the work of Swiss theologian Samuel Laeuchli, a classically trained hermeneutics scholar who abandoned traditional textual interpretation for “Mimesis,” a method of role-playing in which readers enter into the life of the characters and situations in the Bible.
Faith in the Face of Empire not only describes how hope can be found in the face of overwhelming odds, but also offers a glimpse into the emerging “beautiful resistance” to occupation taking root in Palestinian civil society. The next time someone asks me, “Do you see any hope?,” I may just hand them a copy of this book!
Max L. Carter is the director of Friends Center and campus ministry coordinator at Guilford College, where he also directs the Quaker Studies program. He taught in the Ramallah Friends Schools as his alternative service as a Vietnam War-era conscientious objector and returns annually to the Middle East leading work/study groups in RFS and Israeli and Palestinian peace communities.
Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human
By Walter Wink. Image, 2014. 174 pages. $15/paperback; $9.99/eBook.
Perhaps the spirit of Walter Wink’s autobiographical book, Just Jesus, is best revealed in a story he tells about his confrontation with South African apartheid in 1988. The South African branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) had invited him to do workshops on nonviolence in the midst of their country’s turmoil. The South African authorities denied him a visa, however, no doubt because of his reputation as an American minister and theologian-activist who had participated in numerous sit-ins, marches, and other nonviolent demonstrations; who had given workshops on active nonviolence in over a dozen countries; and who had written pointedly about “systems of domination” that crush people’s aspirations for dignity and freedom.
At the time of the FOR invitation, the apartheid government exemplified the domination about which Walter Wink wrote. It was not about to grant a visa to a person who challenged its system so deeply.
In the 1980s, both the South African anti-apartheid movement and its supporters outside the country were deep in debate. Could the seemingly solid wall of apartheid best be dismantled by violence or by nonviolent action? Wink jumped into the discussion with his 1987 book, Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa: Jesus’s Third Way. Wink had become convinced years before that “nonviolence was the only way to overcome the domination of the Powers without creating new forms of domination.” In Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa, he had the audacity to urge South African churches to become more involved in nonviolent direct action against the apartheid regime. He argued that nonviolence does not mean passivity or nonresistance (as it was so often interpreted), but rather open, courageous, militant resistance to apartheid—without violence—appealing all the while to Jesus’s own teaching.
The book infuriated some, both in the United States and in South Africa. “How dare a white, American male tell those who are already suffering to suffer more, voluntarily and deliberately,” Wink writes of the reaction. Yet the book undoubtedly had an impact on the debate, as Frank Chikane, head of the South African Council of Churches, called on the churches to engage in active nonviolence.
In 1988, however, Wink faced the practical question of how to enter South Africa without a visa. He decided to try his own nonviolent civil disobedience. He and a South African friend drove to the border between South Africa and Lesotho, where (not needing visas) they had been doing workshops on nonviolence. They prayed that, just as God had opened the prison doors to let Paul and Silas out, so the same God would let them in, even without a visa.
As they neared the border crossing, the sky suddenly turned black, and they were drenched by a powerful rainstorm. They ran inside the border post, where it had become so dark that Wink had to read their passports to the soldier in charge. The soldier never even looked for a visa. Wink and his friend then drove to Johannesburg, where they did a week of nonviolent workshops. Then they turned Wink in to the authorities, who immediately ordered him out of the country.
The book has many such examples of the power of faith-based, nonviolent direct action. Wink’s participation in the meetings, marches, and fearful confrontations in Selma, Ala., in 1965 was especially poignant, as Wink describes his transformation from what he calls “a craven coward” with badly shaking legs to one who was willing to risk his life by marching nonviolently with other civil rights demonstrators into the midst of sheriff Jim Clark’s police with their billy clubs and Alabama State Troopers on horseback.
The book also is laced with rich theological insights, uncommon biblical interpretations, prayers, and reflections on what it means to be “truly human.”
We are fortunate to have this final book of Wink’s reflections, since he died in 2012 at age 77. His life reflected both meanings of “just Jesus” in his following of just or only Jesus, and in his faith in the justice of Jesus, and its power as a reliable guide to Wink (and to us) in our own struggles for true social justice.
Richard Taylor is a member of Germantown Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa., and is active in the meeting’s task force on ending mass incarceration. Dick also is developing a website designed to encourage Christian preachers to avoid anti-Judaism in their sermons and in the church’s readings from the New Testament.
A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God (Devotional Edition)
By Joan Chittister, icons by Robert Lentz. Orbis Books, 2014. 208 pages. $24/paperback.
This book was published several years ago in a large format that did full justice to the brilliant icons. The present smaller, handsomely produced “Devotional Edition” is much more portable and will deservedly claim wider attention. The author is a Benedictine Sister already well known for a number of books such as For Everything a Season, The Gift of Years, and The Friendship of Women. Here in 29 short chapters she has selected 38 persons—half of them women—stretching from the creation story to the present, who have dared to abandon “the ecclesiastically docile, the morally safe” and “held a fire in their hearts bright enough to light a way for many.” Most of us might also have included Martin Luther King, Teresa of Ávila, and Mahatma Gandhi, but possibly not the activist gadfly Mother Jones (1837–1930) or Hagar of the book of Genesis, as Chittister does.
All reflect the face of God, each in a unique way: Eve is “the image of God,” Rumi “icon of wisdom,” Simone Weil “icon of the face of truth,” Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe “the face of gentle strength,” Hildegard of Bingen (twelfth century) “the feminine voice of God,” the seventeenth-century Algonquian Kateri Tekakwitha “icon of otherness,” Mary Magdalene “icon of ministry,” Bartolomé de Las Casas “icon of justice,” Dorothy Day “icon of the streets,” the Nazi-resister Franz Jägerstätter “icon of conscience” (“this book may be more about him than about any other,” remarks Chittister), the prophet Amos “icon of compassion,” Martin of Tours (fourth century) “holy disobedience,” and Joan of Arc “a voice of conscience.”
Even this smaller format does full justice to Robert Lentz’s 22 well-known illustrations inspired by Orthodox Greek icons. Each one glows with an individualized personal presence that lends a vivid clarity to the story of the life being presented, and yet all of them radiate the magic stillness and peace of traditional Eastern icons. A wise, aged Eve offers the viewer an opened pomegranate, and Dorothy Day is holding a copy of the Catholic Worker. Las Casas, advocate on behalf of Native Americans, is accompanied by Mayan figures; Martin Luther King matter-of-factly wears his prison number; and Julian of Norwich (fourteenth century) is stroking a peacefully contented cat. Bishop Oscar Romero, assassinated in 1980 in El Salvador, is holding a small boy, with attack helicopters and flames in the background; Thomas Merton sits in the lotus position in front of an Oriental painting; and a serene-looking Gandhi holds a palmful of salt. The priest Charles de Foucault (d. 1916) is surrounded by the stony mountains of the Moroccans he was a brother to; Edith Stein, courageous opponent of the Nazi regime in Germany, is dressed as a nun and wears a yellow “Jude” star; Catherine of Siena, who in the fourteenth century wrote sternly admonishing letters to the Pope, quietly but defiantly holds up a model of the Papal sailing ship.
“Every age needs models . . . from the past [to] encourage us in our own times.” Living so as to meet the challenges of our times means being ready to undergo personal transformation, and the model provided by these saints lies not only in their courageous righting of wrongs but in the sometimes radical transformation that made that possible. Gandhi was at first a successful lawyer; Las Casas profited handsomely from the Spanish colonization; St. Francis was first a soldier and party-goer; Dorothy Day was a disillusioned church-goer and unwed mother; Bishop Romero was a dependable power in a repressive church hierarchy; and the young Thomas Merton was a fun-loving college playboy.
The title’s “fragments of the face of God” refers not only to the few iconic “saints” featured here but to all the poor and neglected that their lives were dedicated to—and often sacrificed for. John XXIII, Rumi, Baal Shem Tov, King, Gandhi: saints like these may arise in any belief system, and by reminding us of this, both text and icons build sturdy bridges between faiths. Friends will have little trouble catching the resonance of the passion common to all of them: for the lives of all the underprivileged and powerless everywhere.
William Shetter is a member of Bloomington (Ind.) Meeting, where he has served on both the Ministry and Counsel and Pastoral Care Committees.
Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse
By Nathan Schneider. University of California Press, 2013. 194 pages. $60/hardcover; $24.95/paperback or eBook.
Nathan Schneider experienced the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) as an apocalypse, a revelation about the deep nature of the world. One of the fascinating features of this journalistic account of the first year of OWS is the way that Schneider uses his idiosyncratic reporting style to recount what happened, how it felt, and what it might reveal to him. Schneider is well acquainted with the history of other movements for social change and understands that when such a movement captures you, its value can be either short- or long-lived, depending upon how deeply you can see into it and how much you let it shape the way you live thereafter, when the revolutionary urgency has waned:
One faces two options after experiencing an apocalyptic moment. Neither is comfortable. First, one can return to the world outside, in defiance of the knowledge still creeping within oneself that the world is not in fact the same and should not be . . . second, one can try to keep the spirit of moment alive within and in one’s way of being, aiming one’s defiance at the world outside, which carries on in ignorance. In doing so, one is true to self but a stranger among the principalities and powers that still pretend to rule the world—an exile and a prisoner.
It is this understanding of how historical moments change their shape and definition against the backdrop of what came before that can move us past the conventional narrative that the Occupy movement is over. It is not a momentary expression of outrage or ebullience, mounting no lasting challenge to the status quo. The conversion of moment to movement involves an increasing proportion of reflection, discipline, patience, an ever-renewed yearning for justice, and a living sense of wonder which allows for experiment and the in-breaking of fresh light.
Movements don’t work without human sacrifice, without consecrating our lives to something beyond. They demand that we turn society into a school to study power, organize, clarify visions, and sustain one another. . . . An apocalypse is when we enlist our reason to faith, the already to the not-yet.
It’s a challenge Quakerism has confronted, not always well, since its explosive opening years. Rufus Jones in his final message to New England Yearly Meeting issued a call “to a fresh installment of the heroic spirit,” in times that were just as needful of prophetic living as ours. It seemed to me during the Occupy year (2011–12) that Friends found refreshment and encouragement in being part of an emerging movement again. Many Friends participated (and are participating) in Occupy groups around the country (Schneider occasionally notes their contribution to the movement in New York City), and it would be good to hear more of their stories about what happened both then and since, reports from their spiritual-social experiments. Perhaps this book may encourage such storytelling.
A key tension that Schneider makes vivid is that between coherence and diversity (another tension Friends are familiar with). The OWS General Assembly continued for a remarkably long time to be a very open forum, largely self-regulating, in which every point of view was heard, and had an influence based on the merits perceived in the course of debate and experimentation. Very often, the announcements and messages offered in the assembly were about actions proposed, many of which were tried by some or all of the participants. Schneider, drawing on other writers about radical democratic experiments, says:
By emphasizing participation over privilege, directly democratic structures (like the General Assembly) have the benefit of innate resistance to being co-opted by charismatic individuals or sold out to moneyed interests.
This was one of the great Occupy messages. It is remarkable how radical and liberating democratic practice can be, as long as the other core democratic values of respect, open critique, and stewardship of the good of the whole, are held alive as well.
Within OWS, leaderlessness—or, as it was sometimes said, “being leaderful”—was a big part of why Occupiers were finding the movement so revolutionary, and so empowering, and so right.
I recommend Schneider’s book to people like myself, who were sympathetic but peripheral during the most visible days of the movement, and to people (like many of my f/Friends) who were deep in the midst of things in Boston, New York, and elsewhere, because in addition to being a lively narrative and great stories, Thank You, Anarchy challenges us all to make meaning from the movement and to use that to interrogate our own commitment to reverent and participatory living. It helps us to be mindful that the private and the public spheres are really one and that democracy is a process, a never-finished project.
Brian Drayton is a member of Weare (N.H.) meeting.
The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places
By Bernie Krause. Little, Brown and Company, 2012. 277 pages. $26.99/hardcover; $15.99/paperback; $9.99/eBook.
I’m sitting in my living room this morning with the spring sun streaming through the windows, listening to some incredible music written and performed by a young man who is a senior in a local high school. Music fills our indoor space daily—all kinds of music, from classical to world beat, from folk to Celtic—and it fills our hearts. It connects us, not only to the human condition but also to nature. And right outside our doors, there is the wonderful music of nature.
What would human life be like without music? Have you ever wondered what led to humans first making music? I hadn’t thought much about it, though I did understand that rhythms and sounds in nature must have inspired those first drumbeats or flute sounds. Bernie Krause not only discusses the origins of music in his book, but also points out that nature’s soundscapes are their own symphonies. He writes that this sound we hear “is the tuning of the great animal orchestra, a revelation of the acoustic harmony of the wild, the planet’s deeply connected expression of natural sounds and rhythm. . . . And it is likely that the origins of every piece of music we enjoy and word we speak come, at some point, from this collective voice.”
Krause has recorded sounds in the wild across the globe (some of which he has made available to the public). His early years as a musician (replacing Pete Seeger as guitarist for the Weavers) helped him develop a good ear for those sounds. He has created what he calls “base lines” to help scientists learn about changes that have occurred since the early recordings. Many of those changes have occurred because of human encroachment into wild places. He shares many graphs of his recordings to help us see the changes.
Krause says that there are no places remaining on earth that have not been affected by at least airplane flyovers. That revelation is one of the reasons this book is important for today’s age. We humans are affecting every inch of the globe, including the symphonies of nature. And when those symphonies are diminished, life in those habitats is diminished as well. While the book is inspirational and uplifting, I also find it sobering to read of his discoveries of that diminishment. He writes, “Biophonies from stressed, endangered, or altered biomes tend to show little organizational structure. When habitat alteration occurs, vocal critters have to readjust. I’ve noticed that some may disappear, leaving gaps in the acoustic fabric.” In other words, the animals need others’ sounds to complete the symphony.
The author says emphatically that we can’t fix this problem by re-engineering habitats. The wild needs to repair itself. To do that it needs to be left alone. Many places need to remain truly wild. We need to keep people out! We need to prohibit airplanes from crossing those sites. It’s up to those of us who are beginning to understand this problem to help change humans’ largely destructive relationship with the wild. Wild places are sources of inspiration for many, suggesting that they are essential for humans’ spiritual well-being. We have a stake in defending what might one day become truly wild again.
Krause leaves us with this suggestion: “In the end, before the forest echoes die, we may want to step back for a moment and listen very carefully to the chorus of the natural world, where rivers of sound flow from crickets, the tiniest frog, whirring insects, wrens, condors, cheetahs, wolves—and us. The whisper of every leaf and creature implores us to love and care for the fragile tapestry of the biophony, which—after all—was the first music our species heard.”
Ruah Swennerfelt, a member of Burlington (Vt.) Meeting, is active in the Earthcare Ministry Committee of New England Yearly Meeting. She lives with her husband in a beautiful, rural location that is filled with the sounds of nature.
The Braided Path
By Donna Glee Williams. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2014. 200 pages. $14.95/paperback.
The vertical landscape and the path linking high and low villages is the setting of this allegorical pre-modern tale. The Braided Path focuses on the ways folks form relationships in a time before technology. Villagers at different elevations ply their crafts and trade their goods by traveling the one path. In this nature-based craft society, everyone’s survival depends upon each person’s gifts and skills, but when an earthquake wipes out a section of the path, traditional ways are threatened.
The gentle plot follows two central characters, Len Rope-Maker and her son Cam Far-Walker. Alternating viewpoints center on the evolving relationships and the growth of each as she works to restore the path and he explores the wider world. Characters named for the craft they employ (Baker, Fisher, Dyer) also follow their leadings and explore their limits. People come together and drift apart in locations ranging from alpine peaks to riverbanks to ocean beaches.
The tale’s questions are simple: Will the unified efforts of Climbers, Masons, Rope-Makers, and Stone-Carvers manage to rebuild the path? Will sweethearts Cam and Fox be reunited? Will Len Rope-Maker ever see her Far-Walker son again?
In lucid prose, Donna Glee Williams introduces a society limited by two-dimensional geography yet enriched by three-dimensional strands of kindness, generosity, and trust. She describes fine details of the fiber arts, braiding them into metaphors for the ways humans interact in a simple society. I found myself wanting more introspective characters and a few overt spiritual references but settled for poetic descriptions, good-hearted folks, and a collaborative community spirit.
The Braided Path ambles along at the pace of a walker carrying a full pack. Even if its heartbeat rarely rises above a healthy resting rate, its pulse resonates. The literary style is lovely and the coming-of-age themes of Cam and Fox make this a right-sized story for young adults as well as mature readers.