“Our old friend, the Mullah”

Our Old Friend, the Mullah:

A Review of

The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin

by Dr Sandra Bird

from Storytelling, Self, Society:

An interdisciplinary journal of storytelling studies, 7: 2, April 2011, pp. 161 – 166


[S]uresha, Ron J. The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero, Maple Shade: Lethe,  2011. $18.

The subtitle of Ron Suresha’s new collection of Nasruddin Khoja fables is Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero. It is always interesting to me that so many territories beyond the famed village of Aksehir, Turkey, lay claim to this popular persona. . . .

Suresha identifies the real strength of Nasruddin’s stories in context to world literature and story performance, that is, its power to build bridges between cultures. He relates a personal reference to the mullah stories, as they were [among the] the first stories he learned from his Israeli-American mother. Throughout his life he continued to collect these anecdotes, and as a young adult he found one of Idries Shah’s collections of Nasruddin stories on the shelves in an ashram library. . . .

The intended audience for Suresha’s collection is a contemporary audience of all ages. If the illustration cover by Sgott MacKenzie is any indication of a future market for this collection, we are likely to see Suresha’s book in use for secondary educational environments as well as personal libraries. Suresha refers to this text as a “contemporary retelling,” which is appropriate to the storytelling traditions of Turkey. The point of these stories is to speak to the audience in the language and metaphors that are familiar. Suresha acknowledges that he avoided the “more lurid and pejorative sexual, scatological, ethnic, racist, sexist and violent subjects,” but he [al]ludes to the possibility of including them in a forthcoming collection. I hope Suresha carries out this plan to bring the more compromising stories to an adult audience at a later date—after all, that is part and parcel of the trickster’s trade.

Sandra Bird, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Art Education in the Department of Visual Arts at Kennesaw State University (GA).

Author: Ron Suresha

Ron Jackson Suresha is an editor, anthologist, and writer. He is considered an authority on emergent queer masculinities, in particular the subcultures of gay and bi male Bears and of male bisexuality. For Ron's service to the bear community, he was named "Bear of the Year" 2008. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Suresha attended the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, 1976-8), where he studied creative writing, and Vista College (Berkeley, Cal., 1989-92), where he studied American Sign Language. For more than two decades, he has worked as a freelance proofreader for trade book publishers such as Shambhala Publications. He was married in October 2004 to Rocco Russo. He is also a licensed Justice of the Peace in Connecticut, an ordained minister, ULC, and a member of the New London Green Party. Nonfiction works include Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions; Bi Men: Coming Out (coeditor, with Pete Chvany); Bisexual Perspectives on the Life and Work of Alfred C. Kinsey (editor). His latest book is The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, jests, and donkey tales of the beloved Persian folk hero, published by Lethe Press.