The Common Good
May 2011

Three Books On...

by Julie Polter | May 2011

... Voices from Africa

... Voices from Africa

The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa, by Emmanuel Katongole. Eerdmans. Duke University theologian and Catholic priest Emmanuel Katongole, a native of Uganda, takes a hard look at the many challenges facing his home continent and asserts the need for "imaginatively relocating" away from "the dominant story of power and violence that has shaped African social history." He lifts up the stories of Christian leaders Bishop Paride Taban in Sudan, Angelina Atyam in northern Uganda, and Maggy Barankitse in Burundi as models of a new way forward.

Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives, edited by Peter Orner and Annie Holmes. McSweeney's. This fifth volume in the Voice of Witness oral history series includes two dozen citizens of Zimbabwe from every walk of life and different political convictions, who tell their experiences of living through a once-prosperous country’s violent economic and political decline.

Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia, by Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom. IVP Books. A century ago, the majority of Christians lived in Europe and North America. Now the majority live in Africa and Asia. This collection of biographical sketches of diverse leaders from Africa, India, Korea, and China, ranging from the 1880s to the 1980s, give entry to distinctive experiences within the global church.

... Different Ways of Doing Business

New Financial Horizons: The Emergence of an Economy of Communion, by Lorna Gold. New City Press. Founded in 1991 as a project of the predominantly Catholic Focalare Movement, the Economy of Communion network includes approximately 800 commercial businesses worldwide, rooted in values of community and social justice, that redistribute part of their profits toward aiding the poor. The author explores this "'laboratory' of alternative economic vision," one in which pragmatic practice meets religious ethics, reframing the definition of profit.

Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital, by John Restakis. New Society Publishers. Including cooperatives in the agricultural, manufacturing, retail, housing, services, and financial sectors, this grassroots movement counts more than 800 million participants in 85 countries. This engaging overview includes profiles of cooperatives around the world that are demonstrating practical, democratic alternatives to laissez-faire capitalism.

All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, by Jay Walljasper. The New Press. This is a lively and informative celebration of the commons -- air, water, public spaces, civic society, and all other "creations of both nature and society that belong to all of us equally and should be preserved and maintained for future generations." Photos, sidebars, and local success stories intersperse with writings from activists and thinkers including Bill McKibben, Maude Barlow, Winona LaDuke, and Robert Reich.

... The Power of Music

John Coltrane & Black America's Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music, edited by Leonard L. Brown. Oxford. These essays and interviews featuring leading scholars and performers explore from varied angles the innovative music of jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane and the resonance of its deep roots in the evolving black culture and spirituality of the mid-20th century.

33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day, by Dorian Lynskey. Ecco. Lynskey, a British music critic, looks at 33 songs, ranging from 1939 to 2004, of social protest or critique, weaving together artist biographies and cultural context and not shying away from the often ambiguous relationship between performance and activism.

The Gospel According to Bob Dylan: The Old, Old Story for Modern Times, by Michael J. Gilmour. Westminster John Knox Press. Writing both as a Dylan fan and a religion scholar, Gilmour manages to balance both perspectives to mutual advantage in this creative exploration of the spiritual dimensions of Dylan's music, and, more broadly, the ways pop culture can carry and shape religious meaning.

Julie Polter is an associate editor of Sojourners.

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