Books

In the Stacks, October 17, 2012

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com
Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written.

Here are my picks from this week’s books.

Behold, the Rachel

Rachel Held Evans, in both her guises (photos courtesy of Dan Evans)

“So how does a nice, liberated woman like you find herself covering her head and calling her husband ‘master’?”

Evangelical blogger and author Rachel Held Evans tackles this question and other queries about gender equality, justice, and church leadership in the November 2012 Sojourners magazine article “Being Like Deborah." Rachel shares about her exploits in writing her latest book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and reveals just how complicated, intriguing, and liberating it is for women to follow Jesus.

Listen to former Sojourners editorial assistant Betsy Shirley interview Rachel Held Evans (who, just for the record, sounds a lot like Julia Roberts):

 

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In the Stacks, October 9, 2012

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com
Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. 

Here are my picks of this week’s books.

Keeping it Real

EVEN IN AN age of ever-faster news cycles and shorter word counts, some journalists still find ways to dig deep into research and reporting to bring history to life and lift up voices that might otherwise be unheard. Here is an eclectic mix of nonfiction works on issues and people that matter.

Can those who commit violent crimes ever truly be rehabilitated? What happens to them once they’re out of prison? In Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption (PublicAffairs, 2012), Nancy Mullane follows her subjects from prison to welcome-home parties and beyond. While never minimizing the crimes her subjects have committed, she portrays their full, complicated humanity. Moving insights about the ongoing spiritual, emotional, and practical work of accepting responsibility for great wrongs and rebuilding a life after prison are framed by reporting on the convoluted, expensive prison and parole policies of California.

You might not expect gripping drama from a writer specializing in U.S. Supreme Court history, but that’s what Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (Harper, 2012) delivers. Long before he became a Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall was an NAACP lawyer who risked his life travelling to the Jim Crow South to defend African Americans accused of capital crimes. Devil in the Grove describes his efforts to save a black citrus picker from the electric chair in a Florida county where the Klan and law enforcement were brutally intertwined—and brings alive an era of domestic terrorism against people of color in the not-distant-enough past.

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A Tempest in Arizona

Banned book, "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years"

TECHNICALLY, the Tucson Unified School District did not ban any books after the Dec. 27, 2011, state court ruling that upheld the Arizona Education Department’s order finding the Mexican American Studies program illegal. But in January, the school district removed from classrooms seven books it said were referenced in the ruling and put them into remote storage. The district, according to Roque Planas of Fox News Latino, also “implemented a series of restrictions ranging from outright prohibition of some books from classrooms, to new approval requirements for supplemental texts, and vague instructions regarding how texts may be taught.”

Former Mexican American Studies teachers have been instructed to not use their former curricula or instruct students to apply perspectives dealing with race, ethnicity, or Mexican American history. So, for example, Shakespeare’s The Tempest can still be taught—but former Mexican American Studies instructors have been advised to avoid discussion of oppression or race (which have long been taught as themes of the play, even in predominantly white classrooms many miles removed from Tucson).

The following seven titles were cited by the Tucson school board as part of a curriculum “in violation of state law”:

1. Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
2. 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martínez
3. Message to Aztlán, by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles
4. Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by F. Arturo Rosales
5. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña
6. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
7. Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, edited by Bill Bigelow

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The Book Smugglers

Author’s Note: When Arizona House Bill 2281 was used to dismantle the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson public high schools earlier this year, books used in the courses were removed from classrooms—in at least one school as students watched. Most of the titles, but not all, were by Latino writers.

Instead of swallowing their dismay, several students documented what they witnessed through social media. That’s how members of the Houston-based writers’ collective Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say heard about what happened in Tucson. Incensed by the stifling of knowledge, they organized the Librotraficante (literally, “book traffickers”) book caravan. Their goal was to “smuggle” the “contraband” books back into Tucson, and bring attention to what critics contend is a troubling combination of anti-intellectualism and the state’s anti-immigration stance enacted earlier.

Nuestra Palabra members worked with partner organizations along the caravan route to hold press conferences and celebrate Latino arts and culture at several Librotraficante book bashes. In addition to the public events, the five-day journey stopped in six cities, seeding Librotraficante underground libraries along the way. This is a reflection on riding the Librotraficante caravan, which took place in mid-March.

SEEDS. My parents were farm laborers for part of their young adult lives. They did that body-leeching work in the hot Texas sun, picking and hauling cantaloupe, watermelon, onions, and anything else that required a human hand.

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Being Like Deborah

Since the establishment of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1987 and J.I. Packer’s 1991 article “Let’s Stop Making Women Presbyters” in Christianity Today, there’s been a resurgence of traditionalist theology among some American churches. Instead of advocating “male headship,” they now promote “complementarianism.” Instead of portraying women as intrinsically “serving, subordinate, and supportive,” they now advocate “biblical womanhood.” But it’s the same patriarchal heresy, just with new language.

Rachel Held Evans, a Tennessee-based evangelical Christian raised in conservative Christian churches, decided to turn the tables. She vowed to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master is the often-hilarious, engaging, well-researched, deadly serious result.  (You can read all about her adventures at rachelheldevans.com). Former Sojourners editorial assistant Betsy Shirley, a student at Yale Divinity School, interviewed Evans in August 2012.

Betsy Shirley: So how does a nice, liberated woman like you find herself covering her head and calling her husband “master”?

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In the Stacks

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. 

Here is my pick of this week’s books.

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

By William Souder, Reviewed by Elizabeth Royte

"On the bookshelves of many a contemporary environmental journalist looms at least one canonical text she’s hesitant to read. For this reviewer, it was Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” among the gloomiest books ever written, an unrelenting catalog of crimes committed by man against nature. But after reading William Souder’s engrossing new biography of Carson, “On a Farther Shore,” I returned to the book and discovered its central message to be — depressingly — timeless. Substitute organic pesticides and herbicides with the endocrine-­disrupting compounds found in everyday household items or the creep of chemicals used in hydrof­racking, and you may experience the same hair-prickling alarm felt by Carson’s readers 50 years ago."

In the Stacks, September 11, 2012

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com
Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. 

Here are my picks of this week’s books.

Olympian Gabby Douglas to Write Christian Book

Gabby Douglas at the DNC in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this week.
Gabby Douglas at the DNC in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this week.

They call her the "Flying Squirrel" — Gabby Douglas, the pint-sized fire-cracker who won two gold medals (and the hearts of millions) at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Gabby can flip, tumble, vault, balance, swing, totally stick the landing, throw out the first ball at a Dodgers game, charm Jay Leno and Howard Stern (try that, Michael Phelps!), and high-five the First Lady — all the while exuding confidence, good humor and the greatest of ease through her cajillion-watt smile.

So, what's next for the 16-year-old wonderkid?

A tell-all book... about her Christian faith.

Gabby is working on her first book — a memoir titled Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith — which is expected to be published at the end of the year, according to an announcement made today by the Christian publishing house, Zondervan.

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