Mature personhood does not come by pilgrimages of continuity, but by abrasion, disruption, and discontinuity which shatter our grasp of things and make us, at key points, not the initiators but the recipients of gifts and surprises that we often do not want to receive.
i’ve got a couple days of 3 mini-reviews each. and i’m kind of cracking up at the mix. seriously, i doubt these three books have ever been reviewed together in the same space before. what can i say? i like to read diversely.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
acclaimed (and married) journalists kristof and wudunn take readers on a round-the-world exploration to visit oppressed, violated and mistreated girls and women, as well as girls and women who have — sometimes on their own, sometimes with the help of others — risen out of oppression, violence and mistreatment. the authors document, with research and hard data, as well as dozens of amazing stories, the power of women to change the reality of a family or a nation. it was fairly convincing to me — so much so that i can hardly imagine a more productive way to change the world than to invest in girls and women in developing nations. if you care about the world at all, if you ever look past your windowsill or border, please read this book. while not a “christian book” (thought certainly fair in profiling christians — and others of faith — who are making a difference for the girls and women of the world), it’s critical reading for any christian who hopes to have an even remotely informed worldview.
Survivor: A Novel, by Chuck Palahniuk
palahniuk, if his name is familiar to you but you can’t remember why, is the novelist who wrote fight club. his books, as i’m finding (now that i’ve read a couple of them, as well as watched fight club a few times), are dark — to be sure — but always have a very strong undercurrent of social commentary. survivor is the story of a “death cult” survivor, the last of his kind. he was raised on a compound, somewhere in nebraska, by a group that seems somewhere in the space between mormonism, amish, and waco. he was trained, as all but the first son and elder-chosen daughters are in this group, to be a ‘labor missionary’. and, in his young adult life, he’s earning slave wages that are sent back to the tribe. but, after the self-inflicted death of all the group’s followers, he life takes an odd shift. he becomes an agent-shaped media darling, a self-styled swami of religious kitcsh, and a stadium-filling, product-selling machine. then it all crumbles; and he finds himself alone on a jumbo jet he’s hijacked, heading toward his own death. yeah. it’s a wild story. and it’s not all perfectly told, though the majority is very well written. but more than the story, it’s a brutal upper-cut to american popularity culture. and, for those willing to read between the lines, there are all kinds of implications for the brand of hero worship we practice in american christianity.
Hope within History, by Walter Brueggemann
how do i rate a book like this? i mean, it’s certainly not a “reader”. no one’s gonna curl up by a fire with a cup of hot chocolate and read this puppy, finding it to be a page-turner. it’s an intro, followed by a collection of 5 theological talks, presented by brueggemann at one theological symposium or another. and, unless you live in that world, much of the language is so dry and pithy, i literally laughed out loud when i noticed that the back cover said that the author was known for how readable he is. yet, that said, there were some theological gems in this baby that just blew me away. like, there were ideas in this little book that will shape things i think and say and write for — well — the rest of my life. it’s that kind of framing book. i’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about christian hope, and scot mcknight had recommended this (and a couple other brueggemann books) as part of my background reading. brueggemann has, in 100 pages, given me a new biblical framing for understanding how hope plays out in our lives.