Shann Ray is a writer, researcher, and professor whose first collection of stories, American Masculine (Graywolf Press; 192 pages), won the 2010 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize.
Almost all of the collection’s stories take the dramatic Montana landscape as their backdrop, and almost all of the stories deal with men struggling to make sense of such perennial themes as death, infidelity, addiction, and abusive fathers. Ray, who lives in Spokane, Washington, with his wife and three daughters, writes with an unflinching honesty, and his work remains empathetic and lyrical regardless of the subject, be it the expansive Montana sky or the brutal anguish of a broken man.
The following interview with Ray was conducted via email.
ZYZZYVA: You teach “leadership and forgiveness studies” at Gonzaga University. Can you explain what that is?
Ray: I teach in a doctoral program in leadership where scholars from the U.S. and around the world gather to encounter what the Jesuits call the Magis, the idea that among many good things the ultimate good must be discerned and acted upon, and that cura personalis, or education of the whole person (heart, mind, and spirit), informs the interior life of all humanity. Leadership is the study of personal, organizational, and global influence.
My own research is in leadership and forgiveness studies, a nexus where the personal and the global meet (see Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity, my forthcoming book from Rowman & Littlefield). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa comes to mind, as well as People Power I and II in the Philippines, the reconciliation ceremonies at the site of the Big Hole Massacre in northwest Montana, and the work of people like bell hooks, Paulo Freire, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Common research findings in forgiveness studies today show people with higher forgiveness capacity experience less depression, less anxiety, less heart disease, greater emotional well-being, and the potential for a stronger immune system. The great poet Kahlil Gibran echoed this sentiment by saying “the strong of soul forgive.” A very courageous statement by him, especially when you consider the gravity of the losses we encounter in his book The Broken Wings.