Featured book: Diamonds in the Rough by Jenina S. Lepard

This book presents a fictional account of a weekly youth gathering through the eyes of a young Baha’i who has initiated it. He enlists the aid of his parents in arranging the comfort of his guests with refreshments and an inviting space, and two older Baha’i youth who agree to act as facilitators. As the story develops, the young man and his friends explore the stories of several early Baha’is, in the context of an overall discussion of virtues and how to practice them in daily life. Each week, two members who have researched an individual historical Baha’i present the story of that person’s life, and the group decides which virtue that person exemplifies. The early heroes and heroines they learn about are William Sears, Dorothy Baker, Martha Root, Louis Gregory, Fred Mortensen, Florence Mayberry, Músá Banání, May Maxwell, and Rúhú’lláh Varqá. Their presentations include both basic information about their subject, as well as lesser known anecdotes that provide additional interest.

Although no guidelines are specified, Diamonds in the Rough is written clearly and simply enough to engage readers as young as twelve years and older. Some readers even younger might appreciate the story and the history, although parents should probably read the book first to ascertain its appropriateness for their individual children (some children may find some of the history upsetting). The history is presented in the form of informal reports by the individual youth, and the dialogue appears at times charming, silly, poignant, and funny, just as would be expected of boys and girls exploring meaningful topics in a group of friends. The book shows how the gathering becomes a true group over time, as the characters learn about each other and the Baha’i Faith.

From the book:

“You’re right, Jim—there are differences, but there are also similarities among all the world’s religions,” answered Kristy.“We look forward to learning from you as well so that we can discover what we all share in common.”

“What if you’re not religious?” piped in Alan. “I’m not sure what I believe. My family goes to the Unitarian Church, but I guess you could call me agnostic. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m doomed.”

“It means you’re a thinker, Alan,” Grant said to his friend, glad to be supportive. “You’re not just blindly following what someone tells you to believe. You’re sorting things out for yourself.”

“You mean you aren’t going to try and convert me, Grant?” Alan was joking, but he was also serious.

“Definitely not,” replied Grant firmly. “It’s against the teachings of the Baha’i Faith to pressure anyone about their beliefs.”

“Your spirituality is a very personal matter,” Ali added. “The best outcome of your being a part of this group would be that you will come to a better understanding of what it is that you believe.”

Find this book at the Bahá’í Center of Washtenaw County Bookstore.