What happens after death is a mystery for the living. And the dead don’t speak.
But award-winning economist and university professor Milica Bookman brings this topic to life — with a twist — in her new self-published nonfiction book Do They Take Credit Cards in Heaven? Economics in the Afterlife.
Bookman, 58, will host a book-reading at 7 p.m. Friday at Stanfill Funeral Home in Pinecrest, where she will read excerpts, answer questions and sign copies of her books.
While a book-reading at a funeral home is unconventional, Bookman said it makes sense, considering the essence of her book.
“It occurred to me that the funeral home is the closest place on Earth that we get to the afterlife,” said Bookman, who splits her time between Coral Gables and Philadelphia, where she teaches economics at St. Joseph’s University. “It is the physical location where one journey ends and another begins. It is the life journey ending and the afterlife beginning.”
Bookman chose Stanfill because 15 years ago, when her mother passed away, she had warm memories of the service there.
Bookman’s book is based on human beliefs throughout history, public opinion polls, art, music, literature, mythology, religion and popular culture.. She uses an economic lens to peer into the afterlife, which gives the book a slightly different perspective.
“Once you start looking for economics outside of the business world, then looking at it in the afterlife doesn’t seem like such a stretch,” she said. “Once you go out of the box, you’re out of the box. You can go anywhere.”
Bill Martinez, Stanfill’s managing partner, said he initially was surprised by Bookman’s request to speak at the funeral home, but after reading the book, he thought the book was “very informative’’ and could help people.
Bookman got the idea for the book after she was diagnosed with abnormal cell growth a few years ago, which led her mind to wander.
“I started thinking about things that you know, sort of, hmm … I wonder what happens in the afterlife,” she said. “So I began to read.”
She said she also looks for new ways to teach economics and connect with her students.
“I want to make a difference,” Bookman said. “They’ll forget the downward slope, but if they wake up to the love of learning, they will have that for the rest of their lives. That is my job.”
Through her research, Bookman found that 81 percent of Americans believe in the afterlife and 9 percent are unsure. She also found that a large number of people believe in heaven, hell, ghosts and the devil. “Hey, these polls don’t lie,” she said.
“I was surprised to find that a huge proportion of Americans are believers,” Bookman said. “When I talk about the human visions of the afterlife, I am not just talking religious views. Sure, there are religious views, but most of the views are secular.”
According to Politico, former President Bill Clinton was spotted carrying Bookman’s book in Miami while campaigning for President Barack Obama.
One of Bookman’s former students read the Politico article and emailed her about it. “I never had a clue until my student told me about it,” she said. “I didn’t send Clinton the book. He picked it up or something. I don’t know.”
Although Bookman’s personal experiences drove her to write the book, her personal views about life after death are not discussed in the book.
“I don’t want to write a book about what I believe,” Bookman said. “Who cares what I believe? But if I write a book that will be useful for others to see, that is bigger than me.
“This is information. This is learning. And I am inviting people to come and learn what I have learned about how people all over the world, and through history, thought about the afterlife,” Bookman said. “We all wonder what happens after we die. Some people think about it sooner. Others think about it later. But we all ask ourselves that.”