Visiting speaker / book reading Liverpool zendo – 20th March

On Wednesday 20th March there will be a change to the regular schedule. After one period of meditation, Alan Lessik, an author and Zen student in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi Soto Zen linage, will be reading from his new Zen novel, Make the Dark Night Shine. Inspired by his Aunt Nina Uchida´s family story, Make the Dark Night Shine is a love letter from a father to the daughter he never met. The narrator is Kenzo Uchida, a gay diplomat turned Zen priest. Alan says he has been fascinated by the words and images of Dōgen´s Genjō Kōan and that this novel is his interpretation of the koan in the troubling times between the two world wars. 

Please arrive at the usual time of 6:45.

You can read some reviews of the novel below:

Part travelogue, part history, part romance and part Zen meditation, Alan Lessik’s Make the Dark Night Shine sweeps over the reader with overlapping waves of emotion. His explorations of family—lost, chosen, and estranged—suggests a variation of the ancient Buddhist koan: what is the sound of one heart breaking? –Viet Dinh, author of After Disasters

A meticulously researched historical novel with a Zen heart, Make The Dark Night Shine tells the story of a diplomat-turned-monk torn between many countries and many identities as his world falls to war. There is much music in Lessik’s storytelling, but the hidden gem of this novel is its detailed (albeit brief) glimpse of life in a Buddhist monastery in pre-war Japan. Though peppered with many love stories — between men, friends, and family — it is, more than anything, an examination of queerness not seen often in Western literature and a love story with the shifting, wandering self. It is one man’s attempt to make peace with his choices and their far-reaching consequences. Cinematic and sad, it raises valuable questions about how a person might do good in a broken world, a lesson
we all should consider. –Alexander Cheves, author of My Love Is a Beast: Confessions

This is a truly beautiful book, epic and grand in scale.  Alan Lessik writes in melodic and lyrical style, telling a sweeping tale of love between the world wars, how ordinary people’s lives were so disrupted by the collapse of relations between nations, and indeed how a peace-loving man finds himself tested at every turn, by global events and tragic ones in his own life. This is much more than simple LGBT romance, and it would be tremendously unfair to categorize it exclusively as such. Lessik is a truly gifted wordsmith, who has rather composed a historical literary masterpiece. More fascinating is the revelation in the author’s afterword that much of the book is semi-biographical, based loosely on the life of his own Japanese relative. It is well-researched and indeed a labour of genuine love. As his protagonist, Kenzo, travels the world in his diplomatic work in the aftermath of World War One, he still lives by the codes and ways of his own ancestry, the Samurai, taking on a faux-bride to conceal his homosexuality in an increasingly intolerant Western society. We learn a great deal, from Lessik’s effort, about the Samurai and Japanese culture generally, as well as geo-politics and the stuffiness of the civilized world in this period of greathope, yet even greater instability; it appears that none could have foreseen the destruction and disruption to their own lives waiting just around the corner. You feel that perhaps, as the Zen monk he becomes following tragedy in his life, Kenzo is perhaps naïve at times about the further heartache coming his way. Lessik has kept his future intentionally ambiguous, and that of his distant daughter, the intended recipient of this journal. Lessik has created a quite superb book, its vision like broad brush-strokes across the page, yet its detail fine to the point of academia; he knows his subject matter tremendously well, and we the readers are all the better informed for it.
–Matt McAvoy Book Review

Make the Dark Night Shine beams with honesty while it explores the creation of chosen families. At its core, this story is a sweeping journey highlighting our humanity and our deep need for home, love and acceptance
–Corie Adjmi, of The Marriage Box

Make the Night Shine is a sweeping romantic adventure of fascinating characters caught up in the 20th century’s cataclysms. But Alan Lessik has done more: he’s provided us with a thinking, feeling hero whose journey makes for an original and stirring read.
–Felice Picano, author

Alan Lessik is a Berlin-based writer, Zen practitioner, amateur figure skater and LGBT activist. His debut novel The Troubleseeker was short-listed for the Publishing Triangle’s 2017 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction. With an interest in how novels preserve queer culture, he has been published on this and other topics by Lambda Literary, the Bay Area Reporter, and Advocate.
He is a member of the Berlin Queer Writers Circle.