Writer Anne Lamott (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Writer Anne Lamott (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Writer Anne Lamott to offer thoughts on courage at Days of Awe event

East Bay synagogue Chochmat HaLev will conclude a six-night program of virtual events for the Days of Awe with an atypical guest: Bay Area writer Anne Lamott.

On Sept. 26, about 24 hours before the start of the Yom Kippur fast, the celebrated Marin author, who is Christian, will speak and read from her forthcoming book of essays, “Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage.” The online event will conclude with Lamott in conversation with Maggid Jhos Singer, one of the Berkeley-based community’s spiritual leaders.

“Chochmat Halev is known for hosting spiritual teachers from all different backgrounds,” Singer told J. “And Anne is a local treasure. She is really a rebbe, in my opinion.”

Due out in March 2021, Lamott’s new book focuses on the challenges we are facing in terms of climate change, social conflict and threats to civic freedoms. In her exploration of these themes, she has included a chapter offering her interpretation of the Hebrew Bible story of Isaac and Abraham.

Singer said he expects their conversation will address questions of how we can revive ourselves spiritually when the harsh realities of current events — the pandemic, the environment, the economy and the upcoming election — are wearing people down and causing anxiety.

“She is someone we’ve been wanting to have as a High Holidays guest for a long time, but we were never able to schedule it because our services were so long,” he said. “This year, because of Covid and moving online, we’ve shortened our services and instead we’re having different online experiences for [six] nights between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

The program kicks off Sept. 20, just after Rosh Hashanah ends, with an artist-led session of improv sketching to help participants work through issues of self-forgiveness. Other sessions will address how we communicate our needs and desires at this time of year, and how to let others know they have hurt us while also creating a space for them to make repairs.

The full schedule can be seen at chochmat.org/days-of-awe. Ticket prices are $9 for Chochmat HaLev members (and members of several co-sponsoring organizations) and $18 for the general public.

Lamott, 66, is the author of seven novels and multiple works of nonfiction about such topics as love and loss, depression, alcoholism, motherhood, writing (the bestselling “Bird by Bird: Some Thoughts on Writing and Life”), and a subject she returns to again and again, the question of faith: “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith” and “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. She is embraced by many readers for the vulnerability and edgy humor she brings to these weighty topics, and for a transparency about her personal struggles that makes her relatable.

Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, she has taught writing at UC Davis and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s Culture Editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.