Updated March 5, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is MCB latest book?
  2. What was MCB's most recent publication before that?
  3. What Should I Read First?
  4. How has becoming a grandmother affected MCB's work?
  5. Has MCB ever written a traditional Ethnography?
  6. Why has MCB been speaking so frequently to library groups?
  7. Why has MCB been speaking frequently at houses of worship?
  8. Does MCB ever give workshops?
  9. Where else can I find MCB and her work on the web?
  10. How can I get copies of MCB’s books?
  11. How can I arrange for MCB to give a speech or lecture?
  12. What is the origin of the logo that appears in whole or part on different pages of the website?
  13. What was it like growing up with such famous parents as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson?
  14. What was The Institute for Intercultural Studies (IIS)?
  15. Where are the papers of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson and how do I get permission to quote or reproduce them?

    Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013


    WHAT IS MCB'S LATEST BOOK?

    Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom came out in September, 2010, and is now available as a paperback, ebook (Nook and Kindle) and on audiotape. As readers will remember, she has long argued that increased longevity is not a matter of addition but of multiplication, so increases in life expectancy involve changes in the entire life cycle. One fundamental change is that we have shifted from a three generation society to a four generation society, one with lots of active grandparents who are mobile and active, while the pattern of "long memories and short walks" has shifted to the great grandparents, present in large number for the first time in history. Bateson has coined the term "active wisdom" to describe the potential of older adults. She has argued that a new era of consciousness raising is needed as older adults rid themselves of out of date stereotypes of aging and discover the kinds of engagement that will complete the composition of their lives.


    WHAT WAS MCB'S MOST RECENT PUBLICATION BEFORE THAT?

    Willing To Learn In 2004 she published a book of essays titled Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery. This includes some essays originally published in relatively specialized journals or collections of readings and therefore not well known, some essays that have been reprinted and widely available, like "Six Days of Dying," her account of the death of her father, and a number of brand new essays.

    "Putting this book together has been like writing an intellectual autobiography," she says, "going back and looking at how my interests evolved from poetry and linguistics to the study of gender roles and of change. It has been fascinating to realize that the emphasis on learning has been there from the very beginning."

    Arabic Language HandbookThose who are familiar with MCB's later work will be amused to hear about a reprint of a very early book, published when her primary interest was in Arabic linguistics, which came out in 2003. The Arabic Language Handbook was published by the Center for Applied Linguistics in 1967, part of a series designed to "provide an outline of the salient features of a particular language and a summary of the language situation and language problems of the country or area in which it is spoken." It was reissued in the Georgetown University Press series, Classics in Arabic Language and Linguistics, in April, 2003.


    WHAT SHOULD I READ FIRST?

    It depends who you are and what interests you. Many people encounter MCB's work first through Composing a Life, given to them by a friend at a time when they are facing decisions or transitions in their lives. It remains MCB's best known book and was a New York Times paperback bestseller. Because the basic themes of Composing are carried further in Composing a Further Life, MCB encourages readers to go to that directly, preferably well before turning fifty. As a writer, MCB is probably proudest of With a Daughter's Eye, her memoir of her parents which was one of the New York Times "Best Books of 1984." (Don't believe it if a web site says it is out of print, it is still available from HarperCollins.) Peripheral Visions is the book that explores MCB's ideas about learning across difference and continues to be read in circles dealing with education and cross cultural communication. Willing to Learn, published in 2004, is a collection that draws on Bateson's whole career. It's the kind of book you dip into and jump around in rather than one designed to be read in sequence from cover to cover. Our Own Metaphor is currently in print at Hampton Press and is the book that most addresses environmental issues. It is also a unique effort to make a conference dealing with complex ideas read like a novel. In fact, all of the works mentioned here are designed for the intelligent reader and avoid jargon like the plague.


    HOW HAS BECOMING A GRANDMOTHER AFFECTED MCB'S WORK?

    MCB with her grandson Cyrus James Griffin, summer 2005. Photo by Sevanne Kassarjian
    MCB and Cyrus
    MCB now has two grandsons, Cyrus James Griffin, born in 2002, and Anton Gregory Griffin, born in 2006. Having grandchildren has added depth to the well from which MCB draws for her writing and reflection. On developing a child's love of reading: "Language and tradition are rooted in oral culture and enriched by touch. Reading and writing and even watching television need to be embedded in these most ancient exchanges and relationships, social rather than solitary. With the many new board books that exist today, that hardly existed when my daughter Sevanne was an infant, children can be hooked on books before they are a year old, for years to come. We depend so much on professional entertainment that it can be a revelation for an adult to sing out loud, ham up a reading, or make up stories for the first time in years, with a delighted audience. I also believe that children should be encouraged to dictate stories and letters from an early age, for their imaginations inevitably run ahead of their writing skills."

    MCB with Cyrus and Anton, autumn 2007, admiring a newt. Photo by Sevanne Kassarjian
    MCB with Cyrus and Anton
    New Hampshire provides the setting for learning about nature as MCB learned from her father during childhood summers. "I caught a garter snake for Cyrus on his first birthday so he could have the experience of feeling the delicate strength of its entire body and the dry texture of its scaly skin - this child will never think of snakes as slimy. This year he caught one himself for the first time. We go walking through the woods and today we brought back a wooly bear caterpillar and a newt to show to Anton. Cyrus understands that any animal we find should be handled as little as possible and is to be released within a few hours."


    HAS MCB EVER WRITTEN A TRADITIONAL ETHNOGRAPHY?

    No. Her original training was in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies and then she shifted to cultural anthropology. She has done some writing about each of the countries she has lived in, but primarily in the form of articles or examples in her books. Her recent work has focused on the way social change affects the shape of lives and the task of lifelong learning.


    DOES MCB EVER GIVE WORKSHOPS?

    MCB gives occasional workshops, ranging from an afternoon to several days, either for the general public or for special interest groups. These occasions provide a way to get to know her and allow for participation in a group process. Many of these workshops have focused on learning through improvisation and adaptation to change. Whenever possible, she does these workshops in collaboration with her daughter, NY actor Sevanne Kassarjian (Sevanne Martin). In addition to her acting in New York and regional theater and teaming up with her mother for workshops, Sevanne also coaches communication skills, does voice-overs, and has recorded MCB’s Peripheral Visions for Books-On-Tape.


    HOW CAN I TAKE A COURSE WITH MCB?

    MCB is not currently teaching.

    Full Circles, which is currently out of print, describes a course on Women's Life Histories that she taught at Spelman college in 1996 and includes the reading list. MCB taught similar courses at George Mason University until she retired in 2001. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education (2001-4) she taught a course on informal learning called "Narratives of Learning and Discovery."




    WHERE ELSE CAN I FIND MCB AND HER WORK ON THE WEB?


    HOW CAN I GET COPIES OF MCB’S BOOKS?

    Those that are currently in print are listed with their ISBN numbers on the Books page on this site. Out-of-print titles might be found at bookstores, libraries, or through on-line search services. Support your local bookstore by ordering through them, or buy online via the Books page.


    HOW CAN I ARRANGE FOR MCB TO ADDRESS A MEETING?

    MCB sometimes (but not exclusively) works through a speaking agent, Ms. Fredda Kray at (201) 461-3235or by e-mail at freddamay@aol.com. You might also check her list of public appearances for current themes as well as possible conflicts or combinations, although the list is not always up to date.


    WHY HAS MCB BEEN SPEAKING RECENTLY TO LIBRARY GROUPS?

    In 2004 MCB was approached by the Libraries for the Future and asked to help in developing library services for the anticipated surge in retirements and the increasing senior population. Arguing that increases in healthy longevity have given a new shape to lives that requires a new kind of consciousness, MCB proposed the creation of discussion groups dealing with the concept of "Active Wisdom," and this proposal has been adopted as a signature program of the LFF. Since then, she has been working with the Lifelong Access Program of the Libraries for the Future in presenting the concept to regional and professional organizations of librarians and providing models for "Active Wisdom Dialogues" to be convened in public libraries.

    WHY HAS MCB BEEN SPEAKING RECENTLY AT HOUSES OF WORSHIP?

    MCB’s work has frequently been connected with issues of social justice and world peace, so over the years she has often addressed different faith communities. Most recently, she has welcomed invitations to discuss the relationship between the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in the hope of improving mutual understanding of what we have in common. Her work on the life cycle has also led to invitations to speak on the meaning of vocation and on the development of spirituality over the life cycle. MCB is a member of Divine Mercy Roman Catholic Parish in Peterborough, NH.

    WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE LOGO THAT APPEARS IN WHOLE OR PART ON DIFFERENT PAGES OF THE WEBSITE?

    You can find the full image of the logo on the Home page. MCB conceived of the logo as combining the nautilus shell (as a symbol of the environmental movement) with the traditional symbol for the female in biology, called the Mirror of Venus (as a symbol of the feminist movement). The circle represents a mirror and the cross its handle – the counterpoint is the male symbol, a circle with an arrow protruding from the top right. It was the idea of the site designer, Vinoy Laughner, to execute the concept in gold against a black background. Drawn in this way, its meaning is further enriched, suggesting a chalice with the cross as its base.

    WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP WITH SUCH FAMOUS PARENTS AS MARGARET MEAD AND GREGORY BATESON?

    MCB has described what it was like in her memoir, With a Daughter’s Eye (now back in print). She says, “If you're going to have a famous parent, have two.” Ms. Bateson was the only child of her mother, but Gregory Bateson had two other families. To learn more about MCB's parents, visit the IIS website.

    WHAT WAS THE INSTITUTE FOR INTERCULTURAL STUDIES (IIS)?

    The Institute for Intercultural Studies (IIS), founded by Margaret Mead in 1944 and dissolved in 2009, was a New York 501(c)3 nonprofit organization concerned with "advancing knowledge of the various peoples and nations of the world, with special attention to those peoples and those aspects of life which are likely to affect intercultural and international relations." The IIS had a small grants program and managed the literary estates of Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Ruth Benedict and other Mead colleagues, and sponsored the Mead Centennial in 2001 and the Gregory Bateson Centennial in 2004.

    WHERE ARE THE PAPERS OF MARGARET MEAD AND GREGORY BATESON AHD HOW DO I GET PERMISSION TO QUOTE OR REPRODUCE THEM?

    The papers of Margaret Mead and many of her colleagues and correspondents are in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

    The papers of Ruth Benedict are archived at Vassar College.

    Inquiries concerning publishing permission for the published works of Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict should be addressed in writing to the Publications Dept. of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and should specify the material to be reprinted with location and length as well as the context of the reprint, e.g. journal, tradebook, etc.

    The pre-World War II papers and ethnographic photographs and film by Gregory Bateson are in the South Pacific Archive of the Library ofCongress. His post-war papers are in the Special Collections of University of California at Santa Cruz. Inquiries regarding the works of Gregory Bateson should be addressed to the Bateson Ideas Group, POB 32102, Bellingham WA 98228.

    The records of the Institute for Intercultural Studies up to the time of Mead’s death are also in the Library of Congress, but records from the administration of M.C. Bateson are being deposited with her other papers in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University and may not yet be catalogued and available.


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