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When a reporter asked Abdu’l-Baha “What is a Baha’i?” he said it “… simply means to love all the world, to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for Universal Peace, and the Universal Brotherhood.”
That brief definition of what a Baha’i is and does explains why I wrote my new novel, Little Birds in Cages.
This, in essence, is what Little Birds in Cages is about – and why I feel it is such an important book, especially right now. Our world, and particularly the young people in it, must overcome enormous challenges today, and I hope this book can help.
Little Birds in Cages delves into the lives and relationships of people with a diversity of real-life challenges and stories, and shows how love, kindness, inclusivity, acceptance, and connection are so utterly needed in the world today – and explains how we can put those spiritual qualities into practice. The book also explores and highlights the crucial importance of service in our local communities, not only for the benefit of others but for the nurturing of our own happiness, connectedness, and positive mental health.
Let me explain. Little Birds in Cages is a novel, meant particularly for youth and young adults, although it would make a great and intriguing read for many junior youth-aged children, 11 and up. I also thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has struggled or is now struggling with bullying, relationships, self-image and esteem, identity, or mental health and well-being, regardless of their age.
My name is Victoria Jane Leith and I am the author of this new book, as well as an artist, composer, and Baha’i. I am also a mother of two awesome girls – 8 and 15 at the time of writing – and wife to an incredibly wonderful husband.
Little Birds in Cages certainly has elements of my own life woven throughout, despite it being fiction. I grew up on what was considered a rough council estate, the “wrong end of town.” I had divorced parents, having been fostered as a baby, and did not live with my birth mother, who suffered with issues relating to mental health.
But this is not a story of defeat. It is a tale of triumph, hard work, and keeping the faith, which is how my own life played out.
Against all the odds, I am achieving. My mindset is strong and grounded, even though I have suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and feelings of worthlessness and abandonment throughout my life. I have a family, engage in meaningful work, and bring creative projects to fruition. While I feel I have to work hard to be seen in this world, I continue to put in the effort. I also now have a thriving relationship with the mother who I did not grow up with, an incredible development I feel should be celebrated and talked about. These kinds of spiritual life achievements take effort and commitment, and also a deeper understanding of the struggles we face and why.
All down the ages we see how blood has stained the surface of the earth; but now a ray of greater light has come, man’s intelligence is greater, spirituality is beginning to grow, and a time is surely coming when the religions of the world will be at peace. Let us leave the discordant arguments concerning outward forms, and let us join together to hasten forward the Divine Cause of unity, until all humanity knows itself to be one family, joined together in love.
Some have considered my commitment to this kind of universal love a weakness, a fault. But I know that I have seen tremendous capacity in people who others were ready to discard in life, or had indeed already been shunned and forgotten about. I am not a perfect human – no one is. All we can do is strive, love, strive some more, make mistakes, and bring ourselves to account. I’ve tried to explore all of this in Little Birds in Cages, and that’s one of the many reasons I hope it is read and shared widely.
At the start of the book, I included a quotation from the Baha’i writings, although it does not tell a story which looks directly at religion at all. However, I wanted this inspiring quote from the writings of Baha’u’llah to be present in the book, as I think it is one of the most important messages for the whole world to read: “All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth …”
I sincerely hope and pray that this new book will make its way into hundreds of thousands or even millions of hands, to be read, re-read, shared, enjoyed, and to help those who are suffering, to bring some light, some hope, and some peace.
Victoria Jane Leith is a Baha’i author who lives and works in Wellingborough, UK. You can order Little Birds in Cages from any online store (Amazon, Waterstones, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble etc). https://bit.ly/3KqmBl7 The author is available to be booked for workshops in secondary schools and communities, public speaking events and Junior Youth and Youth sessions via her website: victoriajaneleith.com