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In accordance with our meta agreement to have topic challenges, and since the list of suggestions has a single highest-voted entry at the start of this month (+10, -5), it is time to announce the next topic challenge! Throughout March 2019, our topic challenge, proposed by BESW, will be

Release the Sun by William Sears (Bahá'í).


What's a topic challenge?

See the meta posts linked above, and also this main meta post. In short, during March we should all try to read Release the Sun and post thoughtful and interesting questions about it.

Participation is not obligatory in any sense, but those who participate will be forever remembered in the annals of our history. And of course it goes without saying that questions on other works are more than welcome during March too; they just won't count as part of this topic challenge.

How can I take part?

By getting hold of the book Release the Sun and asking good questions about them. These questions should be tagged with and , and other tags if applicable. We'll keep a list of all such questions in an answer to this meta post.

Below is BESW's presentation of the work:

Release the Sun, by William Sears, is a narrative account of historical events surrounding the life and death of The Báb, a religious figure in 19th-century Persia and one of the three central figures of the Bahá'í Faith.

Sears wrote Release the Sun in the mid 20th century, a time the Bahá'í Faith was rapidly expanding worldwide. Because the most authoritative text describing The Báb and his followers, The Dawn-Breakers, was considered nigh impenetrable without a thorough understanding of Persian history and culture, Sears (an American television and radio professional) wanted to provide a more accessible way for new Bahá'ís to learn about the early days of their religion.

Sears makes no pretense toward neutrality in his depiction of events; he's quite upfront about why the book exists and what effect he wants to have on its target audience--but simultaneously Release the Sun (and its source material in The Dawn-Breakers and God Passes By) claims to be faithful to historical records and first-hand accounts.

It's an amazing period in history, and there's lots of good potential for close reading AND research-based questions here. Culture, original sources, issues of translation, and then the whole subject of analysing how and why Sears made the choices he did to convey a complex culture for people unfamiliar with it--what he explains, what he leaves out, and so forth. Not to mention getting into the narration of historical events with a particular agenda from the author and how/whether it succeeds, and the role of the book in the Bahá'í community over the last fifty-plus years.

What's next?

  • Vote here for the next topic challenge, or propose your own!
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Unfortunately, no questions related to William Sears' Release the Sun were posted during the topic challenge. I hope we'll do better with the next one.

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