Masjid Morning Wins 2017 Bookvana Award announced today that Masjid Morning is the winner in the 2017 Bookvana Awards in the category Fiction: Romance.

“LOS ANGELES  – announced the winners and finalists of THE 2017 BOOKVANA AWARDS (BVA) on August 14, 2017. Over 50 winners and finalists were announced in over 30 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“The Bookvana Awards are new specialty book awards honoring books that elevate society, celebrate the human spirit, and cultivate our inner lives.

“Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year’s contest yielded hundreds of entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.”
 Masjid Morning had previously won a Finalist Award in the Category Fiction: Romance in the 2017 International Book Awards.
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“The Real Threat: Us or Them” – Southern Fried Karma reviews Masjid Morning

I was pleased to see on Facebook last week that Southern Fried Karma Press had placed a review of Masjid Morning and another novel on their blog. It is entitled “The Real Threat: Us or Them? by Emery Duffey | Jul 12, 2017 | Southern Culture, Southern Literature | Healing Lessons on Immigrants from Two Debut Authors. We had met Steve McCondichie, the co-founder of Southern Fried Karma, at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) convention in Washington, D.C. last February.

Duffey writes, “As discussions about immigration dominate and divide the nation, the media and other aspects of society are quick to push their own opinions but slow to empathize with the experience of those caught in the middle — the immigrants themselves. Especially in the South, we tend to amplify our prejudices with the hateful rhetoric of fear that places blame on those outside our norm, the others. What often fails to register within such exchanges are the frightening realities —immigrants and American citizens have become the targets of murderous hate crimes . . . Authors Richard Morris and Sohrab Homi Fracis (Go Home) confront the arduous task of healing our cultural deafness in their debut novels. With a sense of kinship and tradition, Morris of Maryland and Fracis of Florida each offer readers a different take on humanizing immigrants . . . ”

While I’m not a debut author (Masjid Morning is my fourth novel), I agree that people tend to “amplify our prejudices with . . . fear that places blame on those outside our norm . . . ” Unfortunately, as we well know, it’s not just in the South. It’s all over. We’ve had many examples in the Middle Atlantic states, and there have been others throughout the country, fed in part by intemperate discourse in political campaigns.

A glance at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s map of hate groups is sobering. Eleven such groups reside in Maryland, my setting for Masjid Morning. Maryland is often viewed as a Northern state although below the Mason-Dixon Line, but in 1850, in Southern Maryland, the enslaved Black population nearly equalled that of the White population (see Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground). The counties are dotted with the mansions of tobacco plantations.

My earlier novel, Well Considered, also set in Maryland, tells of an African American man, whose family moves into a new subdivision built on a former tobacco farm, who investigates why his great-grandfather was lynched by a mob near his home back in 1907. Although the story is fiction, such murders occurred here as late as 1933—that one on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (see On the Courthouse Lawn by Sherrilyn Ifill). The Eastern Shore is also where Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were enslaved.

Indiana was the center of the major Ku Klux Klan revival in the 1920s, and James Loewen has documented the existence of “Sundown Towns” throughout the United States, where African Americans and/or other minorities had to be out of town by sundown. My novel Canoedling in Cleveland tells of a quest by two teenagers to learn why their town has no African Americans.

Today, immigrants, especially Muslims, are included among the oppressed. Fortunately, we have many groups, churches, and synagogues in Maryland that work to oppose intolerance and hatred, as I’m sure they do in Georgia where Southern Fried Karma is published and across the Deep South. These groups play an important role in defending my Muslim characters in Masjid Morning as their masjid (mosque) grows out of the ground “like a living being” as one reviewer describes.

This morning I read Heather Long’s Wonkblog in the Washington Post about how the Administration plans to cut legal immigration at a time when unemployment is low (4.4%), there is a shortage of workers in many industries (5.7 million job openings), our growth rate is slow due in part to the retirement of so many Baby Boomers and our low birth rate, and patent filings and new business formations are down. Eighty-nine percent of surveyed economists say cutting immigration at this time is a bad idea. I think we need our immigrants. We need our fifteen thousand Pakistani-American physicians and the thousands of other Muslim physicians from other countries. And we need more workers for entry-level lower-wage jobs. We should embrace them.Tempest-Tossed

So, to echo this reviewer, Emery Duffey, “In case y’all missed it, these two #novels by Richard Morris and Sohrab Homi Fracis just might make your list #Fridayreads. Our #bookreview examines the rapt tension created in the plot lines by #immigration and how it affects our culture. Where do we stand as #Southerners?”

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Happy Birthday, Michael

Michael A. Gollin

Author, poet, and intellectual property expert Michael Gollin celebrated his sixtieth birthday last week. Gollin, who wrote the back cover review on my book Well Considered, is author of Driving Innovation: Intellectual Property Strategies for a Dynamic World and Innovation Life Love: Reflections on Living with Mortality. The second book is a compilation of his blog posts over the past few years since he was diagnosed with ALS–about his bucket-list adventures with his family, his thoughts, and humor. These days Michael is wheelchair-bound and communicates by moving his eyes. He is one of the most delightful and courageous people I know, and I am one of the many who love him dearly.

For his birthday, I wrote him the following song:

“A Toast to Michael Gollin”
Words by Richard Morris

1957-2017 (so far) – sixty years old on 6-3-17

(To the tune of “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof)
A toast to Michael Gollin
To Michael A. Gollin, a toast
He is a Renaissance Man
Never an also-ran…
Drink l’chaim to Mike

To Mike the patent lawyer
For pharmies and biotech firms
A Georgetown Business professor yay
wrote the book on IPA…
Drink l’chaim to Mike

His pro bono work on Intel property led him to many foreign lands
And to found a public interest org to help so many others understand

To Mike, the dad and husband
His legacy lives on and on
Through Jill his beloved wife,
Natasha, Max and Julia…
Drink l’chaim to Mike

To Mike the bold explorer
Hauled his kin to foreign lands
The Galapagos Islands and
Kruger Safari Park…
Drink l’chaim to Mike

And down into the Everglades
And rafting the Canyon Grand
Down the Peruvian Amazon
And up Machu Pichu mountaintop…
Drink l’chaim to Mike

Then he changed into a blogger with poetry and stories for all of us to read
And poured them into Innovation, Life, and Love about Mortality

“Play the cards you’re dealt!” he wrote
And “I am a lucky man”
Remember,“You’re not alone.”
And “We’re not alone” and…
Drink l’chaim to Mike!

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Mixed up in NOLA

Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar – Kenner, LA

NOLA? What’s that? I was mixed up.  (I finally figured out that it’s New Orleans, Louisiana. Duh.)

We spent last week in NOLA selling my novels in an Exhibit Hall booth at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly at the New Orleans Convention Center.


Books sold well. Masjid Morning was the big mover, followed by Well Considered, Canoedling in Cleveland, and Cologne No. 10 For Men.

Dr. Leon Spencer – Dr. Bill Sinkford – Rev. Sofia Betancourt, Remembering Those Who Have Died

I slipped away occasionally to take in convention programs and especially liked the service honoring ministers–new and retiring (several of whom we knew personally), and those who have departed–and a seminar given by ministers in the town where I grew up, the town that was the setting for Canoedling in Cleveland.

Fifty Years Later at Antoine's 2

Fifty Years Later at Antoine’s

Barb and I capped things off by hopping into a cab for the French Quarter on Friday night and having dinner at Antoine’s, fifty years after we ate there while living at Ft. Polk, LA, when I was a newly-wed training officer, prior to shipping out to Vietnam during the war.

Cherries Jubilee at Antoine’s

Antoine’s was divine, with dark paneled walls covered with framed pictures of the many celebrities who have feasted there, and excellent food served by tuxedoed waiters. We shared Oysters Rockefeller and creole gumbo, and I had succulent Petit Filet de Boeuf with red wine sauce and diced fried potatoes with melted butter, and she had Filet De Gulf Poisson (gulf fish) with crawfish sauce. Yes, it was pricey, but memorable.

Harbor Seafood Blackened Catfish with Oyster Sauce

Then on Saturday night, in a hotel near the airport for a morning flight out, we followed the desk clerk’s advice and dined at Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar. Something about it seemed like a neighborhood place, with benches across the front, usually full of people waiting for tables. Inside, I had blackened catfish smothered with thick creole sauce, and Barb had grilled eggplant with crawfish sauce.
The patrons were as diverse as the food–Hispanic, White, Vietnamese, African American, and origins I couldn’t begin to guess–all drawn together by the delectable mix of Cajun foods and spices. And this food was NOT pricey. What fun.

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Back to the scene of …

Richard and Barbara – 1967

Fifty years ago when I was stationed at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, preparing to leave for Vietnam, my new wife and I spent a “honeymoon” weekend in New Orleans.

Richard and Barbara – 2017

Now we are back, celebrating fifty years and selling my “social justice novels” at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly annual meeting.

masjid-cover 6-18-14 Canoedling Cover  Cologne No. 10 For Men Cover

“Thought-Provoking!” “Powerful!” “Funny!”

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Bullish Research

In the air

Sorry, stock market fans, this is about a different kind of stock.

Saturday night June 7 we experienced Dave Martin’s Bullride Mania at Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds in Crownsville, Maryland, north of Annapolis. It was a trip.

Thousands gathered to see:

    Horseback Riders

fifty horses and riders in Western regalia gallop into the arena and line up for the national anthem;

National Anthem

a dance contest of kids under six (the audience applauded and roared to crown the champion);

Stick-Pony Race

children racing stick ponies and riding sheep, bronco-style;

Wave to mom

and at last, the bull-riding contest. Riders were lucky to stay on the animals eight seconds when they put all four feet into the air (“the most dangerous eight seconds in sports”). What a hoot. There was more to come, but we had to leave.

And all to research a possible scene–a puzzle-piece–in my next novel.

Ready for roping

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Once Again, Real Life Copies Fiction, this time in New Jersey

A rendering of the proposed mosque in Bernards Township, N.J., which has been entangled in a protracted battle over parking spaces. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

In my blog post of January 4, 2017, “Life Imitates Fiction . . . Again (Or is it the other way around?),” I reported that the town of Culpeper, Virginia tried to block the building of a mosque by denying a sewage permit.

Now, once again, life copies fiction, this time in New Jersey, where a local zoning board has tried to block construction of a mosque by requiring more parking spaces than normal, as reported by on MAY 23, 2017 in the New York Times:

At issue was an official demand that the mosque provide 107 parking spots for its 150 worshipers, instead of the ratio of one spot for every three users required of the township’s churches, synagogues, restaurants and auditoriums.

The Planning Board’s parking requirement for the mosque set off an avalanche: If the Islamic Society were to devote as much of its land to parking as the board demanded, it would not be able to comply with mandates for drainage and lighting.

“More than five years ago, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sought permits to build a mosque big enough for 150 people on a four-acre parcel, where zoning permitted houses of worship. Basking Ridge falls within Bernards Township.

“This week, there is still no mosque — but five years of hearings and litigation about the proposal are drawing to a close. The Township Committee and Planning Board voted Tuesday night to settle lawsuits brought by the Department of Justice and the Islamic Society. Details of the settlement were not announced, but it will include the building permit long denied to the organization.”

So, once again, life imitates fiction:  In Masjid Morning a group of citizens and the zoning board use many means to try to stop construction of a mosque and increase its cost (environmental assessment and wetlands considerations; doubling the parking and restroom requirements; requiring concrete curbing along the driveway and around the parking area; requiring a long turning lane along the highway and sidewalks the entire length of the property along the road even though there were none to connect to on the farms beside the property). Throughout the book, the citizens group tries to stop the construction.

Layered onto this plot is the story of Atif and Amy, who fall in love while their families feud over the construction of the mosque. I am pleased that Masjid Morning won a Finalist award in the 2017 International Book Awards in the category Fiction-Romance.

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Masjid Morning a Finalist in 2017 International Book Awards


I am happy to say that Masjid Morning has won a Finalist Award in the Fiction: Romance category of the 2017 International Book Awards. Three hundred winners and finalists were announced out of fifteen hundred entries. For a complete list of awards by category, click on


Masjid Morning by Richard Morris

Fiction: Romance


Mainstream & Independent Titles Score Top Honors in
the 8th Annual International Book Awards
HarperCollins, Palgrave Macmillan, John Wiley & Sons, Tor/Forge, Rowman & Littlefield, American Cancer Society, Zondervan and hundreds of national and international Independent Houses contribute to this year’s Outstanding Competition
LOS ANGELES  – announced the winners and finalists of THE 2017 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (IBA) on May 22, 2017. Over 300 winners and finalists were announced in over 80 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year’s contest yielded over 1,500 entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.
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Go Green, Man


Saturday and Sunday, we joined the 13th Annual Green Man Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland, “celebrating the star whose light and warmth has brought life to our planet.” But the festival also continues to be a leafy green one that encourages planting of trees and native plants. Tree-man creatures stalked the festival beating drums and chanting.

“Festival activities will reconnect us to the folklore of ancient civilizations through science, art, music and myth by featuring many local artists, musicians and performers from Maryland as well as other parts of the country.”

This is the festival where we feel especially comfortable promoting Canoedling in Cleveland, my novel about three teens canoeing all the polluted waters around Cleveland in 1960, when the Cuyahoga River was dead between Akron and Cleveland–no fish, no shore birds, and stands of black dead trees in adjacent swamps–when the river was used as a sewer for industrial and residential waste and the oil on the surface caught on fire thirteen times. Now, thanks to the Clean Water Act and the work of many people, the river is clean, with 54 species of fish, shore birds, and eagles in what is now Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The festival is also where we can promote my Vietnam War satire, Cologne No. 10 For Men and mention how destructive war is to the environment–destroying vegetation as well as people. In Vietnam our army sprayed Agent Orange over 4.5 million acres of land from 1961 to 1971 to defoliate mountain jungles that concealed enemy soldiers and supply routes (destruction of 20% of the jungles of South Vietnam and 20-36% of the mangrove forests), and rice fields, to remove sources of food for enemy soldiers and to move people out of rural enemy territory and into the cities (Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington noted the impact of a doubling or tripling of the urban population). I will not forget landing in a Huey chopper on top of a hill above Khe Sahn in January 1968 as part of the First Cavalry Division move to end the North Vietnamese Army siege of Khe Sahn. The hill was pocked with B-52 bomb craters and stripped of vegetation so that we could set up a fire base and preclude the enemy from using it to rain fire down on the Marine base at Khe Sahn. The defoliation was effective, but demonstrated the destructiveness of war to the environment. I generally stayed away from discussing the generations of health problems and birth defects caused by Agent Orange, which still afflict the American troops and their families and the Vietnamese people.

Other people purchased Well Considered for its history–the thriller about life in the Jim Crow tobacco fields surrounding plantation mansions, where forests had long before been removed to plant crops, in southern and eastern Maryland, and which now have been converted to other crops and housing and commercial developments. One scene in the book where much important action takes place is a leafy running trail that a century earlier was trolley track.

Some bought my new novel, Masjid Morning, an interfaith romance between a Muslim college student whose father is building a mosque, and a young Christian woman whose father is trying to stop the construction. Thematically, this has the least to do with environmentalism, except that I am reminded that “Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed his soldiers:

“Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees.” (Al-Muwatta)

“Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.” (Al-Muwatta)

“Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)

Tower Green, Green Man Festival 5-13-2017

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Give me sanctuary . . .

From The Sentinel Newspapers, 19 Apr 2017 | Article written by Candace Rojo Keyes |

But what does it mean? — lots of different things to lots of different people, whether you are debating the meaning of song lyrics or whether your city should become one.  About two weeks ago was “sanctuary” week for me. It started on Monday night with my city’s vote to become a “sanctuary city” and ended on Saturday night with our reunion with three daughters from the Vietnamese “boat” family that we sponsored thirty-seven years ago.

“The approved ordinance largely solidifies a policy that the city police and city staff have unofficially taken up and adhered to for the past several years. In essence, the bill states the city, its police and its resources will not be used to interfere in immigration matters.” – The Sentinel Newspapers, 19 Apr 2017.  A visiting member of our family read the ordinance and stated the opinion that it was basically a nondiscrimination measure — that no matter what their immigration status, criminals would be treated like criminals; and non-criminals would be treated like non-criminals.

Also quoted from this article by Candace Rojo Keyes, “Deni Taveras, the county councilwoman for District 2, was also present at the meeting and said she was excited for Hyattsville residents on the historic night. Taveras, along with Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and Councilman Joseph Solomon, visited Rosa Parks Elementary School last week to talk to families about immigration issues. ‘I heard the worry of the children, the worry of the teachers. There is a heightened awareness of the fear of families being ripped apart,’ Tavaras said. ‘I’m just elated that this council had the heart to keep an open mind.'” Of course, this reminds us of families being ripped apart during slavery.

When President Trump issued his Muslim and refugee bans, friends commiserated with us, saying that they remembered the Vietnamese family of 12 that we sponsored 37 years ago — our Methodist church congregation, along with the Amish congregation in the community where we lived.

Reunion of Dieus and Morrises at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, MD

Three daughters from this family visited us at the end of my “sanctuary week.” It had been twenty years since we last saw them when they visited from California. They were ages 2, 7, and 15 when they arrived in this country. For thirty-seven years this family has been profusely thanking us for sponsoring them. On this particular Saturday night, they kept asking, “How did this happen?” We tackled the answer from the operational viewpoint. I started by reminding them that I had served in Vietnam. My wife added that when I was a young homebuilder, my supplier, National Homes, put out a request for builders who were receiving house packages (walls and building materials) to send back on the truck furniture donations for the Johnstown flood victims. One of the responses to my request to the town, Oakland, Maryland, came from the Amish bishop, whose community helped fill the truck with furniture. So I called upon him again when we wanted to sponsor a Vietnamese “boat” family, and the Amish joined forces with the Methodists. The Amish even had a house to contribute.

Returning Home

One of the young women waited patiently through this explanation, but then explained that what she really wanted to know was “why” we did this — what motivated us to reach out to sponsor a refugee family. (We were at a loss other than attributing to values we absorbed from church and home). She reflected upon the mood of many in the country today who are unwilling to help refugees or undocumented people who are fleeing danger and especially the impact upon children when a parent is deported. She also brought up the practical point that when parents are taken out of the picture, it costs a lot of money for the State to raise a child and increases their susceptibility to gangs and other negative influences of growing up without a parent.

One of them said she had read my novel Cologne No. 10 for Men and liked it. We said we had wondered whether her family would be offended by it and its satire. She assured me that she wasn’t. After dinner she bought a copy of Well Considered before leaving Busboys and Poets after we told her that the novel takes place in this county where she was visiting. The young women had been very interested in hearing all about Hyattsville and its welcoming atmosphere, although Well Considered takes place in a different part of the County.

Amish Barn in Garrett County, Maryland

Continuing to thank us profusely, they departed and went on their way to Garrett County to visit other sponsors there, including the Amish family who housed them during their one year in snow country (before moving to California) while others in the community provided transportation, English tutoring, medical and dental needs, etc.

Amish Buggies in Garrett County, Maryland


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