On July 10th, we are hosting a book signing and reading for Margaret Mann, a self-described “old, bi-racial, lesbian, Buddhist in a wheelchair” and author of A Dramatically Different Direction.
Mann, now 66 and living in Honolulu, has worked as a community organizer for her whole life. Disabled in 1997 by a small blood vessel bursting in her spinal cord, she rebuilt her life through Buddhist teachings, good humor and sarcastic wit and has now written a series of essays about her experiences and perspective on life and suffering. A Dramatically Different Direction has been called “profound”, “wise”, “poignant”, and “a hoot”.
I asked Margaret some questions:
Is this your first book? What inspired you to write an autobiography?
Yes, first book. I wrote a letter to the editor of New Mobility Magazine and he said if I expanded it he would print it as an article. So I did and he printed it. Then he asked if I had some other essays and he published three of them. I had all this material written from working with Cathy Cade, personal historian among many other things, she and I met at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change gathering in North Carolina and she said my story really needed to be written. She interviewed me for many hours and provided me with a transcript on a disk in exchange for a trip to Hawaii.
How long did it take you to finish A Dramatically Different Direction?
The whole process took about three years. It came out in November 2011. It has been very well received by my friends and is just starting to circulate beyond them, hence the idea for the book tour of the West Coast. I will be doing four readings in the Bay Area, one each in Sacramento, Redding, Eugene, Portland and Seattle.
Does the book chronicle your whole life?
The book mainly focuses on my life since the onset of my disability but I was 52 at the time and much of how I dealt with the challenges had their beginnings in an earlier time. So there some earlier autobiographical content also.
What would you say is the overarching theme of the book?
My message is you will suffer in life to the same degree you wish things were different. The more you accept what is instead of wish what was the happier you will be.
How would you describe your writing style? Are there any particular writers you look to for inspiration?
My style is clear, direct, conversational, and sometimes witty. The writers that have inspired me are Byron Katie, Pema Chodron, Margaret Atwood, Mary Oliver, Starhawk, Mary Hunt, Alix Dobkin’s book directly inspired me to finish mine.
When did you start practicing Buddhism? How has it influenced your perspective/world view?
My father was a Zen Buddhist and often gave dharma talks at the dinner table, sent me to Japanese Language School in my elementary years, and sent me to karate lessons as well. He was the inspiration for my spirituality. In my early 30′s I was drawn to the Christian faith as I was living far from Hawaii and any Buddhists. I was baptized and became an ordained Presbyterian Elder. But I had a falling out with the Christians over ordaining LGTB clergy and few other things like God the Father and believing in one Christ and went back to my Buddhist roots. I am with the Dalai Lama, my religion is kindness.
The signing will take place from 5-7 PM and is free to attend.