ALTAR TO AN ERUPTING SUN
I hope this story has sparked your interest in learning more about the real people and history fictionalized in Altar to An Erupting Sun. While there are no footnotes in a novel, this brief section includes links to information and inspirations.
There are great and growing number of resources about the culpability of the fossil fuel industry's role in climate change. A good start is the 2022 PBS Frontline Documentary The Power of Big Oil. The documentary has three sections appropriately titled Denial, Doubt, and Delay. And check out these books:
Geoff Dembicki, The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change (Greystone Books, 2022)
Naomi Oreskes & Erick M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (Bloomsbury, 2010)
James Gustave Speth, They Knew: The US Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing Climate Crisis (MIT Press, 2021)
To get flavor for Montague, Massachusetts in the 1970s “No Nukes” movement, see the 1975 documentary, Lovejoy’s Nuclear War which if available on YouTube. Directed by Dan Keller and my Guilford neighbor Chuck Light at Green Mountain Post films.
To learn about the Clamshell Alliance and the anti-nuclear power movement in New England, see this great introductory article with many more links to oral histories and documentaries at New Hampshire Radical History. Anna Gyorgy’s 1979 book, No Nukes: Everyone’s Guide to Nuclear Power, remains a classic.
To learn more about Wally and Juanita Nelson, see the website, Nelson Homestead. Watch a 2005 interview with Amy Goodman where Juanita Nelson reads her full poem, “Outhouse Blues.”
To learn more about the movement to shut down School of the Americas, see: James Hodge & Linda Cooper's, Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of the Americas (Orbis, 2004). And see School of America’s Watch.
About Brian Willson, see his book, Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson (2011, PM Press).
About the witness of Norman Morrison, see the book by his spouse, Anne Morrison Welsh, with Joyce Hollyday, Held in the Light: Norman Morrison’s Sacrifice for Peace and His Family’s Journey of Healing (Orbis, 2008).
About the Witness for Peace movement in Nicaragua, see Ed Griffin-Nolan's, Witness for Peace (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991). See Robbie Leppzer’s documentary, “Harvest of Peace/Cosecha para de Paz,” about the harvest brigades to Nicaragua. It depicts scenes from the cotton harvest and the fire in the fields.
To learn more about the life and scholarly work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer could be a full-time job. Reading his primary texts is challenging, though you might wade into Cost of Discipleship if you’re grounded in the context of his theology and history. For a beginner, I recommend watching the full 2003 documentary Bonhoeffer, by Martin Doblemeier which is on YouTube. Like the fictional Rae Kelliher, you might start with the novel, Saints and Villains, by Denise Giardina, and a new graphic book depiction of Bonhoeffer’s life, The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix. After that, see Robert Saler’s essay, A Reader’s Guide to Bonhoeffer Biographies at the Lutheran Forum, though several more biographies have been published since.
To learn more about writings of Dorothy Day, see Robert Ellsburg’s collection, By Little and By Little: The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day (Alfred A. Knopf, 1983).
The Green Burial Practices and sacred grove depicted in Altar to an Erupting Sun are inspired by the Manitou Project and the Higher Ground Conservation Burial project in Windham County, Vermont. The Manitou Project was founded in the 1980s on 223 acres of conserved land in Williamsville, Vermont. The Higher Ground burial grounds are located on five acres surrounded by the Manitou Project lands. A community has come together to consider end-of-life plans and conservation burial practices. The willow coffin weaving practices were inspired by Mary Lauren Fraser and her Fraser Baskets enterprise in Windham County. See the writings of Stephen Jenkinson, including Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (North Atlantic, 2017)
To learn about the early uses of opioids in Vermont, see Green Mountain Opium Eaters: A History of Early Addiction in Vermont, by Gary G. Shattuck. To make poppy tea and learn about the power of having control over your painkillers, see Jim Hogshire’s book, Opium for the Masses, for which he was hounded into poverty by aggressive drug enforcement authorities, as described in Michael Pollan’s, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (Penguin Press, 2018).
The Movement for a New Society was a real and vibrant network that has a good archival website with links to many terrific resources. George Lakey has a number of terrific books and a new documentary about him. See some of his Activist Tools. There is a video of Bill Moyer doing his last recorded training on the “Movement Action Plan” that Rae learns from, including his book, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements (New Society Publishers, 2001).
To understand more about the concept of “blowback” in U.S. foreign policy, see the writings of Stephen Kinzer, including, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq and All the Shah’s Men.