We are proud to announce the release of This Gladdening Light: An Ecology of Fatherhood and Faith, a book by our very own New Southerner Contributing Editor, Christopher Martin. Martin’s book was published by Mercer University Press this month.
“With the eye of a poet and the heart of a saint, Christopher Martin explores a theology of love in this honest, gritty, and transcendent book,” says Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. “Martin’s quest, essentially, is for wisdom, and on this journey he brings his wise and beloved teachers—Toreau, Merton, Jesus, nature—to inform the search. Oh god, if only we all were such seekers.”
Part memoir, part essay collection, part spiritual journal, This Gladdening Light offers a unique perspective on the interconnectedness of universal themes—doubt and devotion, childhood and parenthood, disconnection and ecological mindfulness, anguish and empathy—all told at the level of the ground. This much-anticipated nonfiction debut from Christopher Martin is, ultimately, a work of belonging. Through narrative prose that moves between a rain-soaked Appalachian cove, Thoreau’s hut site at Walden Pond, hospital rooms in Atlanta and Cherokee County, Civil War battlefields crossed by
highways, and the suburbanized, ore-red hills of Northwest Georgia, Martin paints a spirituality of the ordinary, of the creaturely world. Lyrical meditations abound with wasps enduring in derelict farm machinery, wildflowers dwelling on the rocks of Arabia Mountain, and two children—whether singing old R.E.M. songs, seeking insignificant butterflies in a roadside ditch, or simply abiding within the timbre of their mother’s heartbeat—all embody an “anonymous and unknown Christ who comes in merciful
hiddenness to the distraught pilgrim,” as Thomas Merton wrote.
This spirituality of the ordinary cannot ignore violence and injustice—the turmoil so often dismissed by manifestations of faith that lean toward prosperity, individualistic salvation, and the otherworldly—and Martin speaks to these themes, as well. The Gospel of Mary asks its readers to follow the “child of true humanity” that exists within. This Gladdening Light is no map to that inner child, as no map exists. But it is certainly one path along the pilgrimage.
“Over the past few years, I have continued to learn and listen, and in so doing have become much more aware of the pervasive violence and injustice at the core of a white, patriarchal structure that too often passes as Christian but is in reality far from it,” says Martin. “I wish this book to be a testament against that structure, part of the ‘single garment of destiny’ and ‘inescapable network of mutuality’ that Dr. King talked about. This, of course, is a life’s work, and I am grateful for those whose work has enriched and continues to enrich my own.”
Christopher Martin is author of three poetry chapbooks, and his essays and poems have appeared in publications across the country. He is the founding editor of Flycatcher, an ecological journal, and a contributing editor at New Southerner, an online magazine promoting self-sufficiency, environmental stewardship, and support for local economies. This Gladdening Light is Martin’s nonfiction book debut, and his full-length debut of any genre. Learn more about him on his website and purchase his book on Amazon.
Mercer University Press, established in 1979, has published more than 1,400 books in the genres of Southern Studies, History, Civil War History, African American Studies, Appalachian Studies, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Poetry, Religion, Biblical Studies, and Philosophy. Publishing authors from across the United States and abroad, Mercer University Press focuses on topics related to the culture of the South. The reputation of the Press significantly enhances the academic environment of Mercer University and carries the name of Mercer and Macon, Georgia throughout the world.