Shining Light is a collection of 22 revealing conversations, including black and white portraits, with people who share amazing stories about their lives.
I have often wondered, “What a fascinating story. How come I’ve never heard of this person or their work?”
“No one ever asked,” they usually reply, shrugging.
I think the real answer is they never sought the spotlight. They are completely engaged in their work, not seeking publicity for their efforts. In all of the 22 interviews published here, I felt I have developed a certain friendship with the other person. That is not simple journalistic fact gathering. And when the other person began to share very personal life details, I was uncomfortable at first, but learned that was why I had been called to this work — to be a confidant, and with their permission, to share with you, the reader, what they had told me in their story.
You will meet people such as:
John Shaffner – cowboy poet and chuck wagon cook
Mick Bolger – Irish storyteller
Will Morton – carousel conservator
Marjorie Lansing Porter – Adirondack ballads collector
Dr. Bonnie Clarke – Japanese Relocation Camp archaeologist
Badger Puthoff – Mountain man re-enactor
Mike Keefe – Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist
And so I would have to agree with Muriel Rukeyser who said, “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” Ms. Rukeyser was an American poet and political activist, best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism.
Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words
That’s what human beings do. Storytelling. We spend our lives talking and telling stories. When we’ve taken care of shelter and food and reproduction that’s what we do next.
That’s a quote from the interview in Shining Light with Mick Bolger, frontman for Colcannon, a Colorado based band who play traditional Irish music (plus, original compositions inspired by the same). It struck me as a good explanation of the point of this book. Most biographies and memoirs tend toward the extraordinary, the celebrity, successful business person, politician, or sports star. We all have stories that, presented in the right light, could provide entertainment, life lessons, and inspiration, to name a few of the potential reasons for reading memoirs.
With this book, the author has given twenty-two people a chance to tell their story and us the opportunity to learn from them. None are famous (at least not outside of a niche or small group, and we’re all famous somewhere, even if just within our immediate family). The common thread each has, as implied by the subtitle, is dedication to their particular interest, whether they’re a cowboy poet, editorial cartoonist, or mountain man re-enactor. One subject could be described as “just a farmer,” although he’s a farmer dedicated to growing a unique crop.
When I read something like this one of the things I’m looking for is how this person’s experience might apply to another area or insights I can use in my own life. One example of this sort of thing gleaned from Shining Light came from Dr. Bonnie Clarke, an archaeologist who has been exploring a World War II Japanese Relocation Camp who had this to say about those camps:
It’s a reminder that when people are feeling threatened that civil liberties are often the first thing to go. Fear and racism are a very, very dangerous mix.
A thought to keep in mind, both to guard against the potential of this reaction in ourselves, and to help recognize it in others.
Another is from Cole Thompson, a “fine art photographer,” who had an insight that I thought was applicable to many areas. Certainly any indie authors will understand where he was coming from:
We’re trained to think of certain people as experts and to hang on every word they say. As well intentioned as these experts are, they are giving advice from their perspective. Their advice may be good, but it may not be good for my vision and my definition of success.
Overall a fun, educational, and inspiring read. Well worth the time.
Other books by Charles McNamara: THE JOINT, a documentary of prison life.