June 19, 2009

Downing Named Georgia Author of the Year

The Georgia Writers Association named Dr. Frederick Downing Author of the Year in Creative Non-Fiction, Biography for his work chronicling the faith pilgrimage of famed Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. The head of the VSU Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies said he felt led to write "Elie Wiesel: A Religious Biography" so the Nobel Laureate some call “the messenger of mankind” could impart his story through new perspective.

"When I first began to teach, I read Wiesel’s 'Night,' which is one of the best known pieces of Holocaust literature. It was one of the most poignant and powerful books that I had ever read. I still remember my first reading of the book and the profound impact that it had," said Downing, who published the book in March 2008. "Over the years, I began to read more of his work. Wiesel became the subject of my dissertation, so it was a gradual process where I found working with Wiesel to be an important combination of several aspects of my own scholarly journey."

Emory University scholar, Dr. James W. Fowler, wrote the forward to Downing’s latest book. Fowler, a professor of theology and human development, said the richly researched narrative is a graphic and gripping retelling of Wiesel’s painful journey and emergence as a compelling symbol for human dignity and redemption.

"Frederick Downing’s writing does not spare his readers the full devastation and horrendous grief of the Holocaust," said Fowler, who before retiring in 2005 was the director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics. "Nor does he short-cut the process through which Wiesel gradually writes his way from the documentation of the Holocaust’s horror to his emergence as one of our most forthright witnesses for a global ethical responsibility and justice."

Judges from across the country sifted through the more than 90 nominations for Author of the Year awards in 12 categories, including First novel, Fiction, Poetry, Young Adult and Lifetime Achievement. Downing said the honor was a gratifying affirmation of the nature and quality of his work. Awards were presented during the 45th annual Georgia Author of the Year Awards on June 13 at Kennesaw State University.

Downing has authored a number of articles, and in 1986 wrote his first book, "To See The Promised Land: The Faith Pilgrimage of Martin Luther King, Jr." The father of two is currently working on a volume titled “In Scorn of the Consequences: The Radical Pilgrimage of Clarence L. Jordan.” A farmer and New Testament Greek scholar, Jordan founded Koinonia Farm - a small but influential religious community in southwest Georgia. He also authored the Cotton Patch translations of the New Testament and was influential in the foundation of Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to his passion for writing, Downing has traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East, participating in 15 archaeological excavations during his visits. From 2000 to 2007, Dr. Downing was on the supervisory team of the Expedition to Tel Beth Shemesh, Israel, where some of his students found the oldest iron smith workshop yet discovered in Israel.

Read more about Downing and his works on his VSU Web page, www.valdosta.edu/philosophy/frederick_downing.shtml .

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