Hey, I’m interested in books, and maybe your book, and you need to know I like to know a little something more about the personal life of authors.



An obsession of fascination I guess.I’ve read some biographies that scalded me, and a few that took me into the abyss, and a few that gave me the wings of a phoenix.

Name them you fool.(Okay, that might have been harsh).Name them you fool for books.By the way, if you want a friendly lesson on trash-talking about your mom (or your dad for that matter) consult me directly.Here’s a mini lesson even if you didn’t ask for it:

*approach an unwary friend and start by saying “Have you talked to your dad recently?”

*remember it’s very important to jump in before they are finished answering

*use a serious trash-talking tone, which means get some torque in your voice, and some shame

*remember deliver the question sincerely and wait until the person gets nicely into their answer

*then jump in quick, breaking off their words, and here’s how:

*cut them off like a night train hits a truck stalled on the tracks and say “Well say hello to Daddy.”

* better if you put a smirk on your face and throw a couple of fingers their way with your right hand

*so the mini version of the above is 1-say “Have you talked to your dad recently?” 2-let the other person start talking, and 3-interrupt them rudely by saying “Well say hello to Daddy!” 4-smirk, throw hand sign

*do try this at home, and with loved ones, and friends, and make sure you deliver it with a smile and joke it off after, unless of course you are trying hard to unfriend someone

*literally, try it, don’t be afraid, it takes some personal power and laughter afterwards, but remember while you deliver to be serious enough and have enough heuvos to pull it off

Okay, anyway, name some of those books you like, the biographies you were speaking of.


No problem, gladly.How about Francis Winwar’s The Immortal Lovers, about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, or Diane Wood Middlebrook’s power-hitter on the life of Anne Sexton, or Gibran’s poetic early autobiography The Broken Wings, or about ten of them on Arthur Miller.So anyway, don’t unfurl the whole canvas, just give me something about you.

Okay, here you go.A novelito in 9 chapters.

1.Childhood in Alaska: silver salmon runs, crabs at war on flat rocks, rain like a kiss from the sky that touches your face and hair and shoulders on hikes in the mountains of Sitka, singlewide trailer house kept precise by my lovely Mom, Sandy Beach out along the coast, and guitar and driftwood, and glass tumbled by the oceans of the world, and Dad and Mom in some hard bone pain there.

2.Childhood in Montana 1: music like silver leaves falling in the house, always, dancing to the Imperials, running like a banshee in Hershey’s track meets and losing, throwing a softball for distance and winning, the early love of basketball, Max and Luke Spotted Bear, Tim Falls Down, Dana Goes Ahead, and Marty Roundface—the mighty Crow Nation, increasingly hard-knotted pain in Dad and Mom and within them the alcohol, the desperation, the divorce, the raft of the human soul over the lip of the abyss and down to the depths.

3.Childhood in Montana 2: the open space forged of the death of my parents first marriage, the silver ring of forgiveness forged of my parents re-marriage to one another a year later, more love and life and basketball and music and wilderness and rivers and sky and stars and wonder, more pain and desolation and fragileness and tenderness and desecration and self-hate and freedom and hubris and humility and good-hearted people with interior imbalance like the edge of a landslide, landslides, a two-shafted mobile home stitched together at the mid-seam, basketball like a waking dream, Stanford Rides Horse, Lafe Haugen, Russell Tall White Man, Richard Little Foot, Blake Walks Nice, Cleveland Highwalker—the Beautiful People, the Cheyenne, to Livingston and Paradise Valley in the great MT and a singlewide trailer with a green skirt, and two State titles and dunk city and hoops with bro and more dunk city (click hear and go to the 4 minute mark for dunk city at The DC) and pro ball in Germany and more dunk city and

4.Marriage to my musician wife who is one with the elements: namely fire.

5.Power in the hand, and love in the vessel of the body.

6.Working like slaves in the mines of Marriage.

7.Liberated like angels in the heart of God.

8.Married like fools in love with today and eternity, together.

9.And of my current life: the same mystery of consolation and desolation, quiet night hours of silence and poetry and prose, listening to the vital heart of so many writers, musicians, composers, artists, memorizing sacred texts, musical compositions, lines of plays, poems, stories, basketball five or six days a week, and of course, the irrevocable grace of still being married to Jennifer, the woman who has my soul, forever, and the beautiful gravity of being the father of Natalya, Ariana, and Isabella, all four of them best described perhaps by their dance styles on family dance night (read more at Largehearted Boy): Jenn dances like a wild celestial being; Natalya (14) is an ethereal young woman who seems to perform her own ballet; Ariana (9) is the soul of rock and roll and not afraid to shake it until you break it; and Isabella (6) dances like a magic mix of mermaid, exotic bird, and a friendly small animal such as a baby cheetah.


I hear some gratitude for life.

Yes, you do.


And can you close the interview by saying something about your work as a forgiveness researcher?

Huge question, so I’ll deflect it mainly, but before I do I’ll give a little taste.Among many other great movements over the centuries, I love the Revolution of the Forgivers, all the great revolutionaries of the human crucible that emerged with mercy in their hands: Tagore, Gibran, the Kokinshū, Nazim Hikmet, Isaiah, the Nez Perce, the Cheyenne, Sojourner Truth, Father Kolbe, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Marilynne Robinson, Claire Davis, Sandra Alcosser, Alice Walker, Mary Oliver, Paulo Freire, Cezar Chavez, Corazon and Ninoy Aquino, Tutu, the Biehl family, Mandela, Frederick Douglas, Wilberforce, Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, St. Francis, St. Ignatius, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Dostoyevsky, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickenson, and bell hooks.  And millions more throughout history.

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SHANN RAY is a poet and prose writer whose debut collection of stories, AMERICAN MASCULINE, was selected for the Bakeless Prize and appears with Graywolf Press. He is also the author of Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield), has served as a research psychologist for the Centers for Disease Control and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities. His stories and poems have appeared in McSweeney’s, StoryQuarterly, Northwest Review, Narrative, and Poetry International among other venues. Ray, who writes in honor of his mother Saundra Rae, was part of a family basketball dynasty in Montana and now lives with his wife and three daughters in Spokane, Washington where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. www.shannray.com

4 responses to “Shann Ray: The TNB 

  1. dwoz says:

    …glad you cleared that up.


  2. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Enjoyed the way this interview starts gushing and turns into a kind of rough, spiritual tell-all. I’ll remember your description of “the mystery of consolation and desolation.” Looking forward to reading the book.

  3. Shann Ray says:

    thanks Nathan!
    desolation in the book too, with some underlines of consolation.

  4. Shann, first of all, happy holidays! Also, how the heck did I ever miss this? It’s like a torrent, like the Snake River after spring downpours. I love it, and if your lovely wife is fire, then surely you are water. Peace, my friend. Happy 2012!

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