Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Katie Couric’s Interview with God

Posted August 31st, 2010 by Tom

My friend Molly Secours has written a brilliant and thoughtful essay entitled “Katie Couric Interviews God About Ground Zero Mosque.”

I encourage all my friends to read it. I look forward to your thoughts…

Reconsidering John Adams

Posted August 23rd, 2010 by Tom

Throughout American history John Adams has mostly lingered in the shadows beneath his contemporaries George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Washington was “first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Adams was a one-term president sandwiched between those two American giants that both served two terms.

Adams has often been most remembered for signing into law the terrible Alien and Sedition Acts that critics said were designed to stifle Adams’ political opponents. Adams was also the only one of our nation’s first five presidents who was not an enslaver of African people.

Adams’ reputation has enjoyed a well-deserved dusting off over the past several years beginning with David McCullough’s excellent–and Pulitzer Prize winning–biography. Lindi and I recently watched the HBO series based upon McCullough’s book that stars Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams (available on Netflix).

For a fresh view of Adams, his contemporaries, and the founding of our nation, you can’t do any better than this book and mini-series.

Win Free Books!

Posted August 20th, 2010 by Tom

My friend, Literary Publicist Stephanie Barko, is kicking off her new web site with a daily book giveaway! It begins TODAY and runs through September 19.

One year ago at this time Stephanie helped me to embark upon a Virtual Book Tour. Over the course of six weeks I visited more than a dozen different websites and blogs, participated in online chats and interviews, and contributed guest blog posts and essays. I discussed my book and related issues, and also the craft of writing, the process of getting published, and the experience of traveling throughout the United States speaking at colleges and universities and other venues. I connected with lots of people who were previously unaware of Inheriting the Trade. It never would have happened without Stephanie.

Whether you are an author needing a higher profile for your book or a reader who loves books (or both), I hope you’ll take a few moments to check out Stephanie’s new website and “comment to win” at

UPDATE: I just found out that this week’s book giveaways are:

Saturday, August 21 The Glades by Clifton Campbell, pilot screenplay for the A&E drama series

Sunday, August 22 Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening by Stephan Bodian

Monday, August 23 Autographed copy of 2010 Willa Award Winner, A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick

Tuesday, August 24 No Jerks on the Job: Who They Are, the Harm They Do, and Ridding Them from Your Workplace by Ron Newton

Wednesday, August 25 Hardwired for Love: Nurturing Yourself to Vibrant Health by Helene Leonetti, MD

Thursday, August 26 The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram

Friday, August 27 Days of Grace: Meditations & Practices for Living with Illness by Mary Earle

Are We Born Racist?

Posted August 16th, 2010 by Tom

Much of the research I’ve done (and classes I’ve taken through the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University over the past few years) to help me understand the history, legacy, and present-day impact of slavery and racism has led me to the brain. Understanding historic trauma and how it is passed down from generation to generation requires a better understanding of how trauma impacts, and is incorporated into, the brain.

My publisher, Beacon Press, has recently put out a terrific new book that I highly recommend to everyone who is interested in digging beneath the headlines about Shirley Sherrod, Dr. Laura, and other stories where accusations of  “racism” are tossed about, to understand what’s really at work when it comes to our prejudices.

Are We Born Racist? New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology is written in lay terms and is easy to read. It will increase your understanding about how deeply embedded, and normal, our harmful prejudices are, where they come from, and how significantly they impact our daily lives and harm our health.

The good news is that the scientists, psychologists, and educators who contributed to Are We Born Racist? show that we are not stuck with our prejudices. We can override the hard-wiring in our brains and reduce our harmful impulses. But it takes more than good intentions (and we all know where the roads are paved with good intentions). It requires dedicated effort to understand the root causes and then working together to challenge harmful, systemic, societal stereotypes.

The first step is to learn about the “hows and whys” of prejudice. Reading Are We Born Racist? is a great place to begin.

Interested in Genealogy? Check this out!

Posted August 13th, 2010 by Tom

For anyone interested in genealogy, and especially people of color, this Sunday should be a real treat. My friend and Coming to the Table colleague, Sharon Morgan, founder and webmaster of Our Black Ancestry, is going to be featured in a two-hour radio program on WVON AM 1690 in Chicago this Sunday, August 15, 3-5pm Central time. Anyone outside Chicago can listen live online at

Sharon will help listeners understand the importance of genealogy for African American people, help them understand how to undertake their own research, and share stories of her personal genealogical pursuits and findings. There will also be call-ins from family historians and book authors including Melvin Collier (the author of Mississippi to Africa who appeared as the expert genealogist on the Spike Lee episode of Who Do You Think You Are on NBC that aired in April). I’ve also been asked to participate briefly to discuss the idea of reconciliation among black and white people who are linked through the history of enslavement; an area of keen interest as a result of my involvement with Coming to the Table over the past five years.

African Diaspora Today was launched on WVON just a few months ago. The host, Dr. Carol L. Adams, is the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. “African Diaspora Today” encourages discussion about politics, economics and culture as related to Africa and the African Diaspora.

Callers are welcomed from all over the country. lllinois Callers Dial 773-591-1690; Out of state Callers Dial Toll Free 877-591-1690 or 866-591-1690.

It should be a lively and interesting conversation!

Senate Republicans block Obama circuit court nominee

Posted August 7th, 2010 by Tom

So what? Political wrangling over political nominees happens regularly. But this time the Emmy-nominated film of my family’s journey, Traces of the Trade, is tangled in the intriguing web.

Thank you to my cousin James DeWolf Perry for alerting me to this latest action through his excellent blog The Living Consequences.

Earlier this year President Obama nominated Goodwin Liu, an Associate Dean and Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, to serve on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Opponents to the nomination seized upon comments Liu made during a panel discussion on May 6, 2008 following a screening of Traces of the Trade at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Much like the recent controversy over comments made by Shirley Sherrod, in which clever video editing gave a false impression of her views, Goodwin Liu’s comments from 2008 have also been taken out of context.

Senate Republicans have now employed a rarely invoked rule to send Liu’s nomination back to the White House. My cousin James notes that President Obama plans to re-nominate Liu when Congress returns from recess in September.

Five Minutes of Heaven

Posted August 5th, 2010 by Tom

Every time I’m tempted to believe I’ve encountered a model of healing that will work for people who have been seriously damaged by oppression I”m slapped upside the head by a reminder of just how difficult healing is.

In Ireland during the 1970’s, Catholics and Protestants were attacking and killing each other. People were dying in the streets and in prison. Five Minutes of Heaven is the story of two Irishmen. One, an eleven-year old Catholic boy, witnessed the brutal murder of his older brother. The other, a Protestant at age 17, is the man who fired the shots. More than thirty years later they continue to try to cope with a past filled with extreme violence and psychological damage from which neither has healed.

Much of this story is fictionalized but is based on the true story of Alistair Little and Joe Griffin. In real life the two men have never met but both met with the screenwriter, Guy Hibbert, in a series of separate interviews over the course of three years. The result is a story of the complex relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed and the damage that both experience.

For anyone interested in truth and reconciliation, in the human impact of guilt, thoughts of revenge, and in healing, this film will force you to question things deeply; to test your assumptions. Can all wrongs be forgiven? Should they be? How do we move on when the past won’t let us go? What is at stake? Is healing even possible?

There is nothing simple or predictable about Five Minutes of Heaven. There are definitely no easy answers. This is a classic Shakespearean tragedy of two men whose destinies are forever intertwined as the result of one tragic choice. They both want relief and neither knows how to get it. They are destined to crash into each other. They want relief through revenge or forgiveness; something… anything.

This universal story could just as easily be set in the Middle East, Rwanda, or Montgomery, Alabama. My strongest personal interest in truth, reconciliation, and healing is connected to the legacy of enslavement and racism in the United States. Change the names and location and a few other details and the same story took place in the American South in 1950’s and 60’s. It’s a story about people, their families, their fears, their hopes and their tragic losses. It’s an intense experience for the two main characters and for those of us who witness this powerful film. It reminds me of how complex the impact is from deep damage, of how to repair the damage, and of just how difficult the challenge of reconciliation truly is.

We shouldn’t give up hope; in believing that healing is possible. It is critical to understand how hard it is.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry