Tag: feminism


Monday Memoir: Pastrix

Posted 5 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Memoir: PastrixPastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Published by FaithWords on September 10th 2013
Genres: Alcoholism, Biography & Autobiography, Christian Life, Personal Growth, Personal Memoirs, Religion, Religious, Spiritual Growth, Substance Abuse & Addictions
Pages: 224
Goodreads
five-stars

Nadia Bolz-Weber takes no prisoners as she reclaims the term "pastrix"(pronounced "pas-triks," a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) in her messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith. Heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed, Nadia, a former stand-up comic, sure as hell didn't consider herself to be religious leader material-until the day she ended up leading a friend's funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor. Using life stories-from living in a hopeful-but-haggard commune of slackers to surviving the wobbly chairs and war stories of a group for recovering alcoholics, from her unusual but undeniable spiritual calling to pastoring a notorious con artist-Nadia uses stunning narrative and poignant honesty to portray a woman who is both deeply faithful and deeply flawed, giving hope to the rest of us along the way. Wildly entertaining and deeply resonant, this is the book for people who hunger for a bit of hope that doesn't come from vapid consumerism or navel-gazing; for women who talk too loud, and guys who love chick flicks; for the gay man who loves Jesus, and won't allow himself to be shunned by the church. In short, this book is for every thinking misfit suspicious of institutionalized religion, but who is still seeking transcendence and mystery.

You’ve all been hanging around long enough to know that I’m an open atheist. (If this is your first time here, welcome! I’m an open atheist!) But this book. This book… allow me to borrow from The Church of Latter Day Saints – this book will change your life. (Or did Trey Parker and Matt Stone actually coin that phrase?) First, I have to thank Monika from A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall for turning me to this book. (Her review.)

For a long time I’ve struggled with the question of what makes perfectly reasonable and in some cases incredibly smart people believe in god – I’m not sure exactly how, but Bolz-Weber has managed to further my understanding on this point. 

She tackles the difficult subjects that are too often glossed over by American conservative Christian denominations. She claims no easy answers or simple paths to prosperity. Her faith has clearly been ragged and tested – but she claims no superiority, and speaks with incredible candor and honesty about her own misgivings about leading her flock. 

The candor is what makes this book a breath of fresh air. She is solid and firm in her faith but is not afraid to show her own humanity. She speaks candidly about her own bias, her church was founded ‘for’ people who didn’t feel like they could fit in a mainstream church. Gays, transgendered, tattooed, ex-convicts, ex-addicts, sex workers, you know… not soccer moms. But once her church began attracting, “the wrong kind of different” Bolz-Weber had to confront her own bias and reassess. She openly states that she was uncomfortable with the influx of suburbia into her congregation, this admission and subsequent acceptance are what makes this book so remarkable. 

What else?
So, there’s the swearing. You know that shit doesn’t bother me, I think that it added to the authenticity and honesty of the memoir, but there are those who felt it was ‘inappropriate’ for a pastor to be swearing. The criticism is this: that ‘those words’ don’t add anything to the narrative and the only reason Bolz-Weber kept them in the book was because it somehow made it ‘edgier’. I must, of course, disagree. 

I think it’s an accurate reflection of who she is. It’s fantastic that she didn’t edit out who she is just because she’s a pastor. Her messages are still clear and on point, very reflective of what mainstream Christianity proclaims to believe. (The death and resurrection of Christ, salvation through grace…)

I also want to point out, that of the 439 reviews this has received on Amazon – 378 of them are five star reviews (that’s 86%!). That in itself is amazing. Not to mention that this is a book that could have been received quite badly by many conservative Christians.

 

A slight detour
Speaking of language, can we talk about why some religious people are bothered by swearing? Culturally, I totally get it – I don’t want The Girl spouting off vulgarities because it’s rude. 

But biblically? It’s something I’m presenting to you as an honest question because I really don’t get it. I know there’s a whole host of bible verses about swearing and that I get. But if God knows your heart and in your heart you mean ‘fuck’ but say ‘fudge’ … what’s the difference? 

Anyway.
This book is wonderful. It’s touching and there are points that I was nearly moved to tears. She speaks about the difficulty of writing a sermon days after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. She speaks to the idea of forgiveness and the difficulty with which all people struggle around the concept. Beautifully written and executed. 
While her God is not for me, the truths she has found in pursuit of her God are universal. I would probably attend this church for the community alone, if I lived in the Denver area. Read it. All of you.

I’ve already asked a million questions, Reader. What do you think?

 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Small Fry Saturday: ‘Dangerously Ever After’

Posted 18 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews


Reviews of books for children, tolerated by adults.
Dangerously Ever After by: Dashka Slater, Illustrated by: Valeria Docampo

Synopsis: (Goodreads)
Princess Amanita laughs in the face of danger. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants–that’s her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do?

For readers seeking a princess with pluck comes an independent heroine who tackles obstacles with a bouquet of sniffling noses. At once lovely and delightfully absurd, here’s a story to show how elastic ideas of beauty and princesses can be.


The illustrations in this book are gorgeous. 

I’m always looking for books with non-conventional princesses because The Girl is obsessed with the quite conventional princess (I refer to them, to my husband, as ‘those Disney bitches’ … but that could consume an entire post.), so I’m forever on the quest to find a princess that will suit both of us. It hasn’t happened yet.

I like this book well enough, for a picture book, the Noses that grow instead of roses are absurd, but if I think they’re absurd and they don’t get a laugh out of The Girl, I have no use for absurdity. I’ve read other reviews that found Princess Amanita to be snotty and rude, so allow me to be snotty and rude for a moment, I found her behavior to be assertive – she knew what she wanted and she was very direct about it. That’s something I like in a princess. 

Other reviews critical of this book point out Amanita’s love of dangerous things, the brakeless bicycle, shards of glass, thorns… these reviewers fret over giving their little girls ‘ideas’. I’m going out on my feminist limb again and I’m going to say that if Prince Amanita had an affinity for scorpions, there wouldn’t be so many hands wrung over it. No parent should read a book to their children that they feel uncomfortable with and it’s not for me to judge what other people find acceptable for their children. But to me, it seems clear that these are devices on par with the ‘noses’ in creating a story and a character. Once The Girl cuts the brakes to her bicycle and starts riding without a helmet, well maybe I’ll stop and take stock of what a terrible influence that Princess Amanita has been. 

The problem that I have with this book is purely that my child doesn’t connect with it. We read it every now and then, she got it for Christmas and maybe the sheer unexpected awesomeness of Rosie Revere, Engineer combined with my super-high hopes for this book are what makes it fall flat. We’ll keep pulling it out every now and then though, probably at my suggestion and not hers, in hopes that anything will get her away (even a little bit) from those Disney bitches. 

Edit: After writing this post (perhaps The Girl is psychic) she requested this book by name! Maybe she connects with it more than I think. Still no giggles at the noses though…

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Transgender Tuesday: ‘A Queer and Pleasant Danger’

Posted 14 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Transgender Tuesday: ‘A Queer and Pleasant Danger’A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein
Published by Beacon Press on May 1st 2012
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Gender Studies, Personal Memoirs, Religion, Scientology, Social Science
Pages: 258
Goodreads
four-stars

A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw. Kate Bornstein—gender theorist, performance artist, author—is set to change lives with her compelling memoir. Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein's most intimate book yet, encompassing her early childhood and adolescence, college at Brown, a life in the theater, three marriages and fatherhood, the Scientology hierarchy, transsexual life, LGBTQ politics, and life on the road as a sought-after speaker.

Other than having the longest title ever, this is actually a fascinating and heart-warming book. For the most part this book was incredibly enjoyable and covered an extraordinary scope of topics without sacrificing the writing element.

Overall, this book is excellent, but let me start out with what bothered me, which was the apparent levity in which the author treats her eating disorders and the desire to cut. 

I’m not talking about S&M here (which is also explored in the memoir), that’s a different issue – I’m not here to judge. But anorexia and cutting are serious issues that should be treated (or at least acknowledged) as such.

That being said, the apparent honesty and freshness in the way that she writes is amazing. Mark Twain believed that no man could ever write a completely true biography in his lifetime — or ever. Kate Bornstein has come as close as anyone ever will to doing that. 

I already knew that there are assholes everywhere, but the passages relating to Bornstein being discriminated against at lesbian and/or feminism functions and the community just sadden me. 


The passages concerning Scientology are fascinating, as there will always be when people speak out about notoriously closed societies.

Great for people with an interest in gender studies and LGBT rights/issues.


What about you, Reader? What are you looking for in a memoir?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Surprising Sunday: Tess of d’Urbervilles

Posted 22 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Surprising Sunday: Tess of d’UrbervillesTess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Published by Harper & Brothers Publishers on 1920
Pages: 508
four-half-stars

Tess Durbeyfield, a peasant girl and cast-off descendant of English aristocracy, has become one of the most famous female protagonists in 19th-century British literature. Betrayed by the two men in her life - Alec D’Urberville, her seducer/rapist and father of her fated child; and Angel, her intellectual and pious husband - Tess takes justice, and her own destiny, into her delicate hands. In telling her desperate and passionate story, Hardy brings Tess to life with an extraordinary vividness that makes her live in the heart of the reader long after the novel is concluded.

I decided to pick up this audio-book for my drive from Chicago to Atlanta. I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was. I had been dreading this book for a long time, but knew I was going to have to read it eventually if I ever wanted to complete the 1001 Books to Read Challenge.

This book was surprisingly modern. Tess is a strong female character. From the beginning she’s not afraid to do what is necessary for her family, even when her mother and father seem childish and much more naive than Tess. She takes responsibility for things that she feels are her fault and works extraordinarily hard throughout the entire novel. 

She can’t quite be classified as a feminist, as she accepts her lot and often feels as if it’s her fault. But she is stoic and strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas Hardy was a feminist of sorts. That of course, is solely based on this novel. 

Alec d’Urberville is immediately unlikable. This is (naturally) reinforced after he rapes Tess. The language that Hardy uses surrounding the rape is full of euphemisms. It probably took me about half of the book to solidly determine that she had been raped and not just seduced. 


Angel Clare starts out likable enough, wooing and insisting on Tess to take his hand in marriage, that is until he turns into a total hypocritical ass. He’s also nearly an atheist in a family of pious people. His choice to reject the faith of his father results in his loss of the opportunity for a university education – instead he decides to take up the lifestyle of a gentleman farmer, which puts Tess directly in his path. 

I was rather shocked by the ending. 

Narration was good, unremarkable.

#814 – 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Small Fry Saturday: ‘My Name Is Not Isabella’

Posted 14 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Inspired by The Well-Read Redhead. Reviews of books for children, tolerated by adults.

In this age of mass-produced nonsense for adults (I’m looking at you Fifty Shades of Grey) is it surprising that we have so many picture books hastily put together with characters that have been branded and marketed? Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf wrote a brilliant piece on twaddle in children’s literature. Well meaning friends and family members will often drop off books for The Girl starring Dora, Minnie Mouse, and Disney Princesses (the worst). More often than not I skim through the books and find that they’re worse than useless, they’re a waste of time and brain cells. (I’m still looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey) So I dispatch these well-meant gifts directly to the GoodWill bag that resides in my front closet, post-haste.

My point is this. I’m always searching for age-appropriate material for The Girl. Preferably age-appropriate material that doesn’t want to make me participate in ritual suicide, which makes it a much taller order. As a general rule I do not like picture books, alas! The Girl is three, so she does and I love her and want her to love reading as much as I do. 
So! My first recommendation: 
My Name is Not Isabella by: Jennifer Fosberry, Illustrated by: Mike Litwin

I enjoy this book. Isabella is a little girl who refuses to be called by her own name and instead imagines being a host of respected and influential women throughout history. It gets repetitive at times, but not so much that it hinders the flow of the narrative. This also makes it super easy to memorize so you can read it in the dark in a vain attempt to get your own wee one to fall asleep before you have to read Goodnight, Moon (I hate Goodnight, Moon) for the six-zillionth time. 
Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Mommy are all included in this little girl’s daydream. In the back there are actual photos and brief biographies of the women portrayed. This is an excellent resource in an attempt to raise a strong girl OR boy. The Girl went to stay with my cousin who has a four year old boy and I sent this title with her, when I went to pick The Girl up, I found that my cousin’s boy had fallen in love with this book too. I bought him My Name Is Not Alexander, which I assume is written from a boy’s perspective. 
The illustrations are bright and cheerful and there are details that tiny eyes notice more than I do. I’d say that this book will get plenty of mileage from kids 2 – 6 years old. I only extend it to six because of the biographies in the back, I think it’s likely that this book will later become a jumping off point in discussions about these women. 
Excellent. Put down Dora’s Christmas Adventure and go get this instead. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Friday Feminism: Jesus Feminist

Posted 13 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Friday Feminism: Jesus FeministJesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Published by Simon and Schuster on November 5th 2013
Genres: Christian Life, General, Inspirational, Leadership, Religion
Pages: 256
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Gender roles have been debated for centuries, and now Sarah Bessey offers a clarion freedom call for all who want to realize their giftedness and potential in the kingdom of God. Through a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices, Bessey shares how following Jesus made a feminist out of her.

This book has taught in what order my own philosophies lie, I am a feminist over an atheist. I like to think of myself as a humanist first, so this really shouldn’t surprise me.


I think that this is a fantastic book for Christian women. It’s written, oddly, by an evangelical Christian, who I believe is also a literalist. I didn’t find the book to be that outrageous or ‘outside the box’, but evidently it is. Bessey asserts that she is a feminist and defines a feminist exactly as I would, someone who believes that men and women should share the same legal, political, social, and economic rights. 

Gloria Steinem, (who the author takes a line to dismiss) says it much more eloquently, ‘A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.’

Anyway, Bessey asserts that it’s as simple as that. And it is! She then takes the framework of her faith and her Bible and put it together with anecdotical evidence on how Jesus made her a feminist. I’ll take it! She asks Christian women to leave behind arguing apologetics and feeling angry and upset that there’s no ‘place at The Table’ for them and instead instructs them to love, teach, care, and yes, preach. She is pro-life, I grow tired of seeing feminist on feminist arguments, so I’m not going to engage in it here – abortion is a separate issue from feminism, for me at least. 

I’m not entirely sure of her historical Biblical assertions, but this does not surprise me as it is not my Bible, in the context of reviewing this book it doesn’t matter to me if she’s being historically inaccurate. She interprets Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 14:34 – 35 (Women be silent…) as a letter to specific women at a specific church in a specific time in history. She then goes to solidify her argument with examples of other women in scripture doing great things. She attacks the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” (and Biblical Manhood, for that matter). She welcomes working mothers, single mothers, and single women into the church and seems to possess an understanding that the idealized version of a Biblical woman that many (not all) Christian evangelicals may possess is not only inaccurate, but unattainable. She calls out the church for doing exactly what secular society is doing to women, that is, setting standards that are unattainable and then beating up women when they fall short. (Writing this, maybe I do see how this book could be considered ‘radical’.) 

Like I said, if this book will help lead more Christian women towards empowerment in their own way, if it will lead to greater understanding and love between women, if it leads us to understand that OUR WAY of being a woman, wife, and mother is not the ONLY way to do it, I will take it. 

The book is written informally and seems to have deeply personal moments in it. This book is not an academic analysis of the Bible or Church doctrine. Though it wasn’t for me, (I knew it wasn’t when I picked it up) I do think (hope!) that it has the possibility to open up a lot of minds about what it is to be a feminist. 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Feminist Friday: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Posted 15 November, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Cinderella Ate My DaughterCinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Published by Harper Collins on January 25th 2011
Genres: Family & Relationships, General, Parenting
Pages: 272
Goodreads
three-stars

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.


This is an important book. It makes feminism (a term which the author, cleverly, uses as little as possible) accessible to mainstream moms and attempts to instill the importance that feminism still has, even to our children today. 

I didn’t agree with  all of her assertions, at time she gets pretty preachy. 

But I think that regardless, this is a good read for parents, especially those with female children. Ultimately the moral of the story is the great evil is not pink, princesses, or high-heel shoes; the underlying evil is rampant, voracious mainstream consumerism turning our daughter’s innocence and sexuality into a commodity. 

Worth the read. 

Note: Last 30% of the book is bibliography, so it’s an even quicker read than it looks.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Women’s Wednesday: The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things

Posted 23 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things edited by: Anna Holmes

This review is based on an advanced electronic copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Fellow feminists, put this in your must have coffee table book of the year.

Let’s start with my disclaimer above. I haven’t seen a hard copy of this book, what I’m hoping for is better illustrations. Glossy coffee table book magic illustrations. The illustrations and pictures in the e-book left me a little flat. I’m hoping for something more beautiful, I need to get down to a bookstore and see.

Moving on to actual content this book is funny, sassy, and totally unapologetic. You’re getting far-left feminist entries, if you don’t hail from that camp or you lack a sense of humor about your politics, religion, etc. this book is definitely not for you. The entries are absolutist with a healthy bias towards women, people of color, the poor, and the LGBT community. Punches are not pulled. Since it’s written and edited by the fine people that run Jezebel.com taking a peek at their website is a pretty good litmus test on whether or not this book is for you.

My other small complaint is that while the book is comprehensive in the range of things that it covers, (entries range from abortion to Little House on the Prairie to Michelle Bachmann) at times it lacks depth in the entries.  Not a single entry covered more than two pages and most are just a few sentences. I think that it would be useful to have more said about prominent feminists, civil rights leaders, and movements.

That being said, while this book is educational in a way, I think the intent is to be more entertaining and it achieves that very very well.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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