Tag: memoirs


Feminist Friday: Yes Please

Posted 27 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited on October 1st 2014
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In a perfect world... We'd get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we'd all be friends with Amy -- someone who seems so fun, is full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn't ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, work as a producer and director, place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, frequent turns as acting double for Meryl Streep, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she's not available for movie night. Luckily, we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy's hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haiku from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her "too safe" childhood outside of Boston to her early days in new York City, her ideas about Hollywood and "the biz," the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a "face for wigs." Yes Please is a chock-full of words and wisdom to live by.

This was going to be one of three mini-reviews, until I wrote a whole lot on it.

I loved this book to pieces, guys. Everything from the writing itself, to the narration, to the message that the book was seeking to get out there appealed to me. Poehler’s narration is delightful and I love that she brings in guest stars to do bits and pieces for her.

The title itself is a call to positivity. “YES PLEASE!” more positivity in my life. “YES PLEASE!” more positivity in the book blogging community “YES PLEASE!” more positivity among and between women, lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. The part of the book that really impacted me the most was the discussion that Poehler had on child-rearing and really all decision making among womenfolk. The general sentiment is that we should strive towards the attitude “That’s great for her, but not for me.” Whether a woman chooses to breastfeed, bottle feed, stay at home, go back to work – whatever it is – if it’s not for you great! But recognize that it could be what’s best for other people. She really just verbalized the way we could make the mommy wars stop – if everyone would just read this book.

Other than that, Poehler is warm and funny, while still being vulgar and surprisingly revealing some of her bad girl history. It’s a great great listen. Even if celebrity memoirs aren’t your thing, I highly recommend the audio.

So Reader, what do you think? ARE celebrity memoirs your thing? Have you read this? Tell me your thoughts and dreams.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Mid-Week Mini Reviews: Where I am Underwhelmed

Posted 18 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

the girl on the train by paula hawkins  The Girl on the Train by: Paula Hawkins

Brief summary: Sad girl rides a train every day to work. Drinks something magical called gin and tonic in a can. Has blackouts. How much is she involved in the lives of her fellow lead characters? How much is she responsible for their misery?

Review: I’m in the minority in that I really didn’t particularly care for this book. I felt bad for Rachel, but I didn’t pity her. The rest of the characters were… meh. I also guessed the twist about 1/3 of the way through the book. If you’re going to write a book like this, you better be good about hiding your twists. (2.5/5 stars)

 

burial rites by hannah kent

Burial Rites by: Hannah Kent

Brief Summary: A family in 1820’s Iceland is forced to house a convicted murderess while she is awaiting her execution.

Review: This was another one of those books that was apparently written by a talented author that failed to live up to its hype or really connect with me. The problem is admittedly, probably me, as I am not a fan of historical fiction for the most part. I felt empathy for Agnes and did enjoy watching the evolution of the attitudes that the family had about her. Hoever, in the end I found the overall story just okay. (3/5 stars)

 

 

Is everyone hanging out without me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by: Mindy Kaling

Synopsis: Mindy Kaling wrote a memoir.

Review: I like Kaling okay as an actress, though admittedly that’s limited to her performance in the American version of The Office. Though I would like to pick up The Mindy Project sometime soon. But the book – I’ve seen a lot of people compare this memoir to Fey’s Bossypants or Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, but I have to disagree. Kaling lacks both their talent for writing and their talent as comedians. I found most of the memoir to be pretty lackluster and not all that funny. Sorry Mindy. (2/5 stars)

 

What about you, Reader? What are some books lately that just haven’t lived up to the hype for you? What do you think about my assessment of these popular titles?

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Frightful Friday: Finding Me

Posted 22 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Frightful Friday: Finding MeFinding Me by Michelle Knight
Published by Bestsellers on June 7th 2014
Pages: 238
one-half-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.

A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world. Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.

Ms. Knight is an exceptional and brave woman. The trauma that she has experienced both in Castro’s ‘house of horrors’ and before her abduction are things that no one should ever have to go through. Her dedication and love for her son are commendable.


The writing in this book does leave something to be desired. I understand that Ms. Knight was not afforded the education that many of us are fortunate enough to receive and that she has faced struggles I can’t even begin to comprehend. Here is where I’d like to give a pointed stare at the publishers and possibly Ms. Burford. I think that there probably was a way to write this book – for Knight to write this book – but still allow for editing, revisions, and textual changes to make this book more readable and still retain Ms. Knight’s voice. Unfortunately, the weakness of the writing takes a bit away from the power of the story. As it is, the book left me wondering if the publishers (and I’m not saying that they were) might have been capitalizing off of Knight’s horrific experiences to make a quick buck. 

Still, despite the inexpert writing, Knight communicates the horror of her experiences, the resiliency that she’s shown throughout her life, and an amazing capacity for hope, love, and forgiveness. Her willingness to heal publicly, to share her story over many mediums, giving voice to those children and young adults still missing is something that is truly admirable. My thoughts and hopes for Ms. Knight is that she may finally find peace and experience something of a normal life that too many of us take for granted. 

Readers, how do you feel about topics like these? It makes for difficult reading for many people. It’s not an easy topic to read about, albeit an important one. 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Six Degrees of Separation: Gone Girl

Posted 15 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes

It’s a new month, which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation hosted by Annabel and Emma! I’m a little behind the power-curve this month, but I made it! 


Gone Girl is dark and twisty and delightful. Whenever I hear ‘twisty and delightful’ I think of Chuck Palahniuk. Which of his books to put in the chain?

Let’s go with Haunted which is a collection of short stories. One story involves a boy who has his intestines sucked out by a pool drain pump. It’s dark and funny and as always, totally screwed up.

When I think of people having their intestines sucked out by pool drains I think of John Edwards, but I’d rather talk about his late (sort of) ex-wife Elizabeth. I haven’t read her memoirs Saving Graces – which were written before her husband’s infidelity became public, but she was a figure for both gay rights and I really admired her for filing for legal separation instead of standing by John and just taking the humiliation, like most political wives do.

Since we were talking about politics (and books I haven’t read) – I think of the law (I know, I’m adorable.) Justice Stevens has written a book that I own and am desperate to read: Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. The fact that it had trolls on Goodreads and Amazon before it was even released, made me want to read it even more!

Speaking of trolls and haters, Caitlin Moran’s new book is going to have them coming out in droves, especially if you try to put it in a high school library. How to Build a Girl (you might have seen a post, or seven, about it…) is a delightful coming of age novel that is going to seriously piss some people off. Too bad. It’s fantastic.

Banned books. I’ve already used The Handmaid’s Tale in this meme so lets use something else. How about And Tango Makes Three. Another children’s book that inexplicably (okay, not really inexplicably) pissed people off. How can you hate a book about penguins? I know, I know. They’re gay penguins – so there’s lots of room to hate. <eyeroll>

Let’s end on a positive note. The only public figure I can think of that is more consistently positive than RuPaul is the Dalai Lama. But I’d rather end with RuPaul. RuPaul’s life partner is a man – but he doesn’t identify as gay, still from gay penguins to the drag superstar OF THE WORLD is going to have to work as a link.  Lettin’ It All Hang Out, his 1995 biography, is out of print – but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it. It’s very up-lifting.

So, from Gone Girl to RuPaul’s autobiography Lettin’ it All Hang Out in six easy steps! Do you want to play? I know you do. Here’s how:

Where do YOU go from Gone Girl, Reader? Sorry if I got a bit political and/or America-centric for my international readers – it’s just where the chain took me this month. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Weekend Cooking: Sous Chef

Posted 11 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Weekend Cooking: Sous ChefSous Chef by Michael Gibney
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 25th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Cooking, Essays & Narratives, General, Personal Memoirs, Professional
Pages: 240
Goodreads
three-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.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.   In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare.

An interesting little memoir that’s told in a weird second person format. Overall, it’s pretty enjoyable. It’s especially enjoyable if you like to eat at expensive high end restaurants. Sous Chef gives an enlightening feel of what goes on behind the scenes at such places. This is the part of the book that I enjoyed the most. 

I reveled in the idea that celebrities aren’t getting any special attention from the kitchen, but even someone as ‘lowly’ as a staff writer for the New York Times receives VIP status. Who says journalism is dead? 

The second person style didn’t really work for me. It was arresting at first, but after a bit I found it to be a little irritating. The narrative is strongest during the sections before and during the actual service. The last portion of the book waxes a little philosophical for my taste – the meaning and importance of preparing good food for people and the such. I appreciate the sentiment but it did seem to meander on a bit too long.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to foodies. Especially foodies with expensive tastes in restaurants. I loved finding out exactly how things work behind the scenes.

Everyone else? Well, it’s probably a take it or leave it book for you. Especially if you can’t comprehend why anyone would pay $500 a plate for a single meal. 

I also enjoyed the review on Beth Fish Reads for this book.  

So, Reader does Sous Chef sound like it might be for you? What’s the most expensive meal you’ve had? Did you love it? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Six Degrees of Separation: The Goldfinch

Posted 7 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes


It’s a new month so it means a new Six Degrees of Separation hosted by  Annabel and Emma!

This month we get to start with Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch. Now, again, I haven’t read The Goldfinch, but I do want to. Right after the bar exam. Now critics have all been Grumpy McGrumps about this book and how well it’s doing so let’s start out with another, perhaps surprising, Pulitzer Prize winner.

Maus by Art Spiegelman, is a surprising Pulitzer winner, it is a graphic novel, that against all odds, conveys powerfully both Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his father and the horrors his father faced both in Hitler’s Europe and then at Auschwitz. A graphic novel doesn’t feel like it should be an appropriate medium for such dark and difficult subject matter, but it’s wonderfully executed.

Since we’re talking about the Holocaust and WWII the natural progression is to the most comprehensive and important work about the topic to date. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. This book is a huge beast of a work, covering everything from Hitler’s personal history, to culture in Germany before and during WWII, the death camps, and war maneuvers. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage it. I’m convinced that a finer account has not been written.

Two Nazi books are enough for this list, where do we go from here? Well. How about Argentina? Lots of Nazis fled to Argentina following WWII (and Juan Peron greatly admired Mussolini) so I think that we can safely move on to the novel Santa Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez. It’s hard to tell if this book is fiction or not, but the Library of Congress has it listed as fiction. This is the story of what happened to Eva Peron’s corpse, not the story of Eva Peron herself. Recommended for fans of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita.

Talking about musicals, just like last month there are a few ways I could go here… let’s go obvious. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The story of the ‘haunted’ Paris opera house, which let’s face it – is only remembered because of the musical adaptation. Sorry, Gaston!

Now I know I said we had enough Nazis, but we’re in Paris and there is a recent WWII novel that is just lovely, you may have heard of it? All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s a beautifully written novel that has a beautiful cover to match.

We might as well finish this this list off in Paris. Because I love Paris. Vicki Lesage wrote a highly amusing, absolutely charming memoir entitled Confessions of a Paris Party Girl about the life and times of an ex-pat living in Paris. Definitely check that one out!

From The Goldfinch to Confessions of a Paris Party Girl in six easy steps! Do you want to play? I know you do! Here’s how:

Thanks again to Annabel and Emma for hosting! 

Where do you go from The Goldfinch Reader? Don’t you absolutely love this monthly meme? 
Related articles

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Monday Memoir: The Confessions of a Paris Party Girl

Posted 23 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Memoir: The Confessions of a Paris Party GirlConfessions of a Paris Party Girl by Vicki Lesage
Published by Createspace Independent Pub on January 12th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 238
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Wine, romance, and French bureaucracy--the ups and downs of an American's life in Paris. This laugh-out-loud memoir is almost too funny to be true!Drinking too much bubbly. Meeting sappy Frenchmen who have girlfriends or are creeps or both. Encountering problème after problème with French bureaucracy. When newly-single party girl Vicki moved to Paris, she was hoping to indulge in wine, stuff her face with croissants, and maybe fall in love.In her first book, this cheeky storyteller and semi-professional drinker recounts the highs and lows of her life in Paris. Full of sass, shamefully honest admissions, and situations that seem too absurd to be true, you'll feel as if you're stumbling along the cobblestones with her.Will she find love? Will she learn to consume reasonable amounts of alcohol? Will the French administration ever cut her a break?

So, it’s well known that I don’t usually think too much of blogs turned books, but I was never acquainted with Vicki Lesage’s blog (which may be awesome, I haven’t explored the archives of the blog) before she started linking up with the Spread the Love 2.0 Linky Party.

Further communications with Vicki revealed that she had a kickass editor who told her how it was necessary to clean up the narrative, but she says that her blog was useful in recalling her memories for her memoir, which makes total sense.

ANYWAY.

But based on Vicki’s unrelated blog posts and her general sparkling personality (AND based on my enjoyment of lady memoirs) I decided to purchase her book and give it a spin. This memoir really is tons of fun and anyone who has never experienced European bureaucracy will find it a little unbelievable, but I can promise you from personal experience that Vicki is right on with how different overseas/European bureaucracy can be for Americans. The writing is solid and the narrative flows well, you definitely get the feel of the frustrations and wonders of what it means to be an ex-pat in Europe. 

This book is sweet, amusing, and funny. It’s the perfect book for that trans-Atlantic flight to Paris that you’re about to board. I must say that in the next edition of this book she should definitely include the story about the David Sedaris incident.

Related: I think that her sequel Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer is fresh off the (virtual) presses! 

Have you ever experienced bureaucratic and/or business culture shock, Readers?

 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Six Degrees of Separation: The Luminaries

Posted 9 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes

It’s a new month so it means a new Six Degrees of Separation hosted by  Annabel and Emma!

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is the starting point. Now I haven’t read The Luminaries, nor do I have any particular desire to. I know that it’s been widely hailed as wonderful and won tons of awards, but the subject matter just doesn’t really interest me and it’s a total chunkster.

So let’s go to chunksters that I actually have read and that I wanted to love so much but just didn’t. The obvious choice in this category is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Reading this book was a bucket list life goal. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack to the musical since at least 1985. It was one of the first CDs I ever owned. I love the movies. I loathed this book. It was a little devastating. 

So, speaking of my childhood – we all have those books that we read and re-read relentlessly while we were kids. One of mine was definitely A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I can also tie this back to devastation because the other books in this series are just not nearly as good as the first one. 

A Wrinkle in Time is middle grade sci-fi at its best, so another piece of science fiction that had a profound impact on me was Contact by Carl Sagan. It’s influenced my thinking as a skeptic, a humanist, and a generally science-minded person. The movie was pretty boring, try the book – I promise it will leave you thinking. 

Since we’re talking about books that make you think, you know I have to bring up Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. It’s a gorgeous memoir by an unlikely spiritual leader in the Lutheran church. It’s filled with so much love that it warmed even this atheist’s cold cold heart. It’s truly one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

While we’re chatting about surprisingly beautiful books I think that Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half deserves some credit. Hyperbole and a Half speaks about depression and social anxiety with such humor, but still remains powerful an true to the very serious and important subject matter. It’s so much more than just a blog turned book.

Let’s end with another piece on mental health. I think it should be a must read for everyone. It’s Darkness Visible: A Memior of Madness by William Styron. It’s very very short, but gives an extremely accurate and powerful portrayal of what it’s like to live with clinical depression.



So! From The Luminaries to Darkness Visible in six easy steps! Do you want to play? I know you do! Here’s how:

Thanks again to Annabel and Emma for hosting! 

Where would you go from The Luminaries, Reader? Maybe you’ve actually read it?

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Foodish Friday: A Year of No Sugar

Posted 23 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Foodish Friday: A Year of No SugarYear of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on April 8th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 320
Goodreads
two-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.

It's dinnertime. Do you know where your sugar is coming from? Most likely everywhere. Sure, it's in ice cream and cookies, but what scared Eve O. Schaub was the secret world of sugar—hidden in bacon, crackers, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, and baby food. With her eyes opened by the work of obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig and others, Eve challenged her husband and two school-age daughters to join her on a quest to quit sugar for an entire year. Along the way, Eve uncovered the real costs of our sugar-heavy American diet—including diabetes, obesity, and increased incidences of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The stories, tips, and recipes she shares throw fresh light on questionable nutritional advice we've been following for years and show that it is possible to eat at restaurants and go grocery shopping—with less and even no added sugar. Year of No Sugar is what the conversation about "kicking the sugar addiction" looks like for a real American family—a roller coaster of unexpected discoveries and challenges.

I don’t make a secret of the fact that I’m totally not into fad diets and aside from my simple rule of trying to eat the most real food as often as is convenient for me which, admittedly, is not much of a mission statement. As much as I enjoy fine foods, I’ve been known to kick back and drink a Coke and enjoy a Big Mac. I digress, already.

This is a blog turned book and it feels like it. (I’ve not read the blog.) I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again – the lazy writing techniques that one uses in a blog post do not translate into a book. Bloggers thinking about turning authors: edit, formalize your prose, and then edit again.

One of my big problems with this book is that it attempts to be science-y, while only citing two sources… in the whole book. I’m not sure if the science is sound or not, but Schaub’s whole ‘experiment’ is based off of one single YouTube video. (Sugar: The Bitter Truth) Past that she only references one other book. I know this isn’t a nutritional textbook, but I would have liked to see more cited evidence for the evils of sugar.

Yes, sugar is for sure weirdly pervasive in American society. Sugar in bread! Mayo! Chicken broth! I agree – it’s weird and often unnecessary. Anything in excess is bad (which to be fair, Schaub kind of comes around to in the end).

Other reviewers have been critical of the title as not being accurate. Schaub works a number of ‘exceptions’ to the no sugar rule. One family dessert made from added sugar each month, which I found to be an interesting checkpoint in how her tastebuds were evolving. It’s a memoir so I don’t take issue with a title that is designed to sell more books – you can read the flap and find out that it’s not exactly ‘no sugar’, who cares?

There’s also the issue of her baking with dextrose as a substitute for sugar (because it doesn’t contain fructose, which according to the ‘science’ is the root of all evil), I found this use of a manufactured chemical to be a bit weird – especially considering she also eschews artificial sweeteners. I fail to understand how dextrose is not an artificial sweetener. Especially considering the history of manufactured dextrose is short and who the hell knows what the long term effects are?

Basically, this is a typical but not very well executed ‘stunt’ memoir. Schaub tends to meander in and out of the evils of sugar to the goodness of meat and the very very very important issue of baking all your own bread. (Spoiler alert in my life: Not going to happen.)

This is not to say that it’s completely unreadable, it’s easy reading, and might be recommended to someone with an intense interest in this topic. (Though please do not use this as a guide to nutrition.)

Can I say something nice and constructive? 
Of course I can! This book has made me more interested in looking at ingredients labels. (Did you know there’s sugar in Sriacha, but not Kikomann Soy Sauce?) I probably won’t remain religious in doing so – but as sugar is so pervasive in our society – I will probably check more often than I used to and try to avoid products where sugar doesn’t seem to belong (but is used anyway)… where possible. (Read: convenient.)

What about you, Reader? Is sugar the root of all evil? Have you read any good ‘stunt’ memoirs lately? They ARE out there, I promise. I liked The Happiness Project.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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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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