Arts and Entertainment

Literary series hosts poet, playwright, memoirist in Langley

Honor Moore is the guest writer tonight at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley. She reads from her work as part of the Hedgebrook/WICA Literary Series. - Emma Dodge Hanson photo
Honor Moore is the guest writer tonight at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley. She reads from her work as part of the Hedgebrook/WICA Literary Series.
— image credit: Emma Dodge Hanson photo

In her book “The Bishop’s Daughter: A Memoir,” author Honor Moore took a risk.

After her father died, the writer dared to reveal a secret her father held throughout his life. What emerged is a passionate daughter’s attempt to bring to light the courageousness of her father, and to honor his life.

Paul Moore’s vocation as an Episcopal priest took him — with his wife Jenny and a family that grew to nine children — from robber baron wealth to work among the urban poor of postwar America, prominence as an activist bishop in Washington, D.C. during the Johnson years, leadership in the civil rights and peace movements, and two decades as the Bishop of New York.

“The Bishop’s Daughter” is a story of a complex, visionary man; a chronicle of a daughter’s turbulent relationship with her father, who privately struggled with his sexuality, while she openly explored hers, and a searching account of the consequences of sexual secrets.

Hedgebrook and Whidbey Island Center for the Arts continue their Literary Series with “An Evening with Honor Moore” at WICA at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

The evening will include staged readings of selected scenes with local talent from one of Moore’s plays and readings by the author herself. Hedgebrook’s executive director, Amy Wheeler, will interview Moore and open a discussion with the audience about her work.

In addition to being a nonfiction writer, Moore is also a poet and playwright.

“The Bishop’s Daughter” was named an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times, a Favorite Book of 2008 by the Los Angeles Times, and was chosen by the National Book Critics Circle as part of its “Good Reads” recommended reading list, as well as a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.

Such glowing reviews for the book demonstrate not only Moore’s ability to get to the heart of a story, but also her ability to delve into her personal experience in relationship to her father and the wider world.

“I am part of the generation that gained sexual freedom for women, the generation of Stonewall and gay liberation,” Moore wrote.

Moore felt that one of her father’s most courageous acts was ordaining Ellen Marie Barrett, the first person of openly gay orientation to become an Episcopal priest.

He wrote a book, “Take a Bishop Like Me,” that responded to those in the Episcopal Church who criticized him for ordaining Barrett.

Moore recalled her father’s excitement during that period.

“How much richer that story becomes when we understand more about the man who performed that ordination,” she wrote. “It never occurred to me when my father and I talked about Ellen Barrett’s priesthood that he identified with her, that in ordaining her, he was retrieving part of himself.”

This is the impetus for “The Bishop’s Daughter.” A daughter’s investigation into what her father must have been feeling, and the pain of not being able to openly express it.

Moore is also the author of three collections of poems: “Red Shoes,” “Darling” and “Memoir”; another nonfiction book, “The White Blackbird”; and the play “Mourning Pictures,” which was produced on Broadway. She was also an off-Broadway theater critic for the New York Times for two years.

Moore has received awards in poetry and playwriting from the National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission for the Arts, and in 2004 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

She teaches in the graduate writing programs at the New School and Columbia University School of the Arts.

Signed books will be available in the lobby for purchase from Moonraker Bookstore.

Tickets are $8 and available at www.WICAonline.com, or by calling 221-8268.

 

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