Book Talk circle

Cultivating Cultural Understanding

by Dave Allen ’06
Growing up in Saint Lucia, in the West Indies, Baptiste Paul ’06 says he didn’t know any authors, and a visit to the library involved a 12-mile adventure on foot, scaling fences and crossing an airport runway.

“When you live on a small island, you can’t really travel or see a lot of things,” he says from his home in Wisconsin. “The way I experienced different cultures and met different people was through the pages of books.”

That desire to learn and explore informs his recent work as a children’s book author, including his latest: Peace, co-authored with his wife, Miranda. Peace gently unfolds the many meanings of the word — harmony among people, the absence of war, a state within oneself — amid colorful scenes of cultures from around the world.
Baptiste Paul
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Children’s book author Baptiste Paul ’06 draws on universal themes of play, community and friendship.
Global perspectives form the heart of his other works, including I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon, based on a real-life environmental activist in West Africa. Another book, To Carnival!: A Celebration in Saint Lucia, uses the native Creole language to highlight joyous annual celebrations in Paul’s native country.

After Bucknell, the environmental studies and political science major worked in retail management and ran a fair-trade goods business. He was drawn to writing after years of telling stories to his children, now 15 and 12. Miranda was already writing books, and after she encouraged Paul to follow suit, the two began collaboratively researching their books.

“It’s become one piece of writing that flows from her work into mine,” he says.

In past books and upcoming projects, Paul draws on universal themes of play, community and friendship. For help in addressing more complex topics, Paul credits a course at Bucknell with Professor Peter Wilshusen, environmental studies & sciences, in which he produced one-page responses to readings about global environmental disasters.

“I had to pack all that heavy, dense information into something precise, concise and attention-getting, and that’s what I do in my writing today,” he says.

Informed by other cultures and always with a personal touch, Paul seeks to make his books into vehicles for empathy: “I want kids to be constantly thinking about other people. That’s why I love what I do — I just want to make the world a better place.”

Peace, Baptiste Paul ’06 and Miranda Paul. (NorthSouth Books, 2021)
Alumni Books
Jill Marie Thomas ’78
Dissectology: Life Lessons from Jigsaw Puzzles (Self-published, 2021)
Dissectology compares the recent COVID-19 renaissance of jigsaw puzzles to that of the Spanish Influenza (1918) and the Great Depression (1929–33). Thomas examines the life lessons that parallel aspects of puzzle assembling, especially the physical and social aspects of working puzzles together.

Andy Dzurinko ’65
Inspired: Making a Mark on the World (Self-published, 2021)
Dzurinko presents vignettes of Dick and Jane Neuheisel and Harry Mitchell, volunteers for the Tempe Sister Cities Program. For nearly 50 years, these positive-thinking people have made Tempe, Ariz., and the world a better place to live.

Wendy Van Wyck Good ’88
Sisters in Art: The Biography of Margaret, Esther, and Helen Bruton (West Margin Press, 2021)
Educated at art schools in New York and Paris, the Bruton sisters ran in elite artistic circles and often found themselves in the company of luminaries including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Henri Matisse, Armin Hansen, Maynard Dixon, Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams. Good reveals the contributions of Margaret, Esther and Helen Bruton as their works continue to inspire and find new appreciation today.

other Books

Robert Gaines, retired director of development communications
The Brave Historian (Hidden Shelf Publishing House, 2021)
This novel recounts the life of 100-year-old John Hammond, with Bucknell and the Susquehanna Valley in the first half of the 20th century serving as key settings. When Shelly Kingston is hired to assemble a short birthday documentary about John’s life, the young filmmaker is intrigued by the old man’s stories and his unpublished, unfinished writings. John Hammond is intrigued by her.
Photo: Miranda Paul