Elisa Rowe (@elisacwrites) is a writer and poet living in Boston. You can find more of her work at elisarowe.com.
 

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Taking up a Theology of a Disabled God

by Elisa Rowe 03-28-2022
Amy Kenny’s 'My Body Is Not a Prayer Request' — part memoir and part disability justice hermeneutic — is a challenge the church desperately needs.

My Body Is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church, by Amy Kenny / Brazos Press

SOME CHURCHES HAVE fought to be exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act, have interpreted scripture in ways that cause violence against disabled people, and are often rife with ableist microaggressions unique to religious communities. Amy Kenny’s My Body Is Not a Prayer Request—part memoir and part disability justice hermeneutic—is a book the church desperately needs.

Kenny encounters strangers, many of them Christians, who comment on her body. They describe their ableist version of heaven, pray over her without consent (she refers to these people as “prayerful perpetrators”), ask for personal medical information, and give pitying glances. “I wish I was whole in their minds,” writes Kenny, “enough to exist without needing a prayerful remedy to cast out my ‘demons,’ a full human who has something to offer other than a miraculous narrative.”

Accuracy and Ampersands

by Elisa Rowe 07-21-2020
A review of ‘A Fortune for Your Disaster,’ by Hanif Abdurraqib.

Tin House Books

HERE WE LEARN from the ghost of Marvin Gaye, question the ethics of Nikola Tesla, examine the character of God, and drift in lament and wonder.

In these poems by Hanif Abdurraqib, violence appears in different forms. In some lines, it is a fistfight between teenagers in a schoolyard, in others the anti-Blackness of a suburb or the music industry: “[T]he mailman still hands me bills like I should feel lucky to have my name on anything in this town,” Abdurraqib writes.

Thirteen of the 51 poems are titled after a criticism he heard from a white woman at a poetry reading in 2016: “How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?”

D.L. Mayfield Questions the Myth of the American Dream

by Elisa Rowe 04-21-2020
A review of “The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power,” by D.L. Mayfield.

IVP

IN HER LATEST book, writer D.L. Mayfield welcomes readers on a journey of seeing. This essay collection weaves an exploration of the desires embedded in the American Dream with stories of Mayfield’s own social justice conversion and portraits of her Portland neighborhood.

These narratives of how colonialism, capitalism, racism, and consumerism store themselves in privileged American hearts invite self-reflection. Mayfield challenges the American Dream’s toxic individualism, dividing the book into four themes: affluence, autonomy, safety, and power. “We do not care that people will suffer and die,” she writes, “due to our own desire for safety.”

Mayfield reflects on her own awakening and exposure to xenophobic faith communities, where she began to have “serious problems reconciling the Suffering Servant with a conservative religious agenda.” The text also walks her readers through the gentrification of her neighborhood and how her community is affected by travel bans, the U.S. education system, and other aspects of local and national politics.

Faith Tides

by Elisa Rowe 08-05-2019
A poem

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

I am Peter at Gethsemane
where I wake to oak
branches suspended,
spinning like hair in water.

Flora’s night
blanched, a prophet’s
chanting, every caesura’s
quiet steeping, transfiguring
grief to alms.