Tag: religion

If This, Then That: History of Wolves

Posted 2 January, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

If This, Then That: History of WolvesHistory of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Published by Grove Atlantic on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 288

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.

Linda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her 'Freak', or 'Commie'. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit, she realises they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn't, their son may die.Superbly-paced and beautifully written, HISTORY OF WOLVES is an extraordinary debut novel about guilt, innocence, negligence, well-meaning belief and the death of a child.

I want to start with a brief review of Fridlund’s History of Wolves. While I usually love debut literary fiction novels, History of Wolves was a bit of a failure to launch for me. I felt like Fridlund was a little too ambitious with this story. It’s true that the writing is lyrical. She attempts to create an atmosphere that is charged with the feeling something isn’t quite right, but this ultimately fails. The burn is a bit too slow. The juxtaposition between the scandal of child pornography and the family that seems a little too good to be true doesn’t quite come off.

Ultimately, I felt like the narrative push and pull that Fridlund seemed to be aiming for in History of Wolves failed because she was trying to do too much. The atmosphere in the woods, Linda’s school life, home life, and time she spends with the Gardners never really becomes a cohesive narrative. The reader thinks that there’s something slightly off about the Gardner’s, but honestly up until the reveal (which because of heavy handed foreshadowing was completely expected) it’s truly hard to really care.

I think that Fridlund would have been better served to focus completely on the story of Linda and the Gardner’s, cutting out the whole bit about the teacher and her odd upbringing in the commune.

That being said, if you read this book and enjoy it, or even mostly enjoy it I have to point you towards The Children Act, it explores similar themes of the rights of people to their religion weighed against the rights that their children have. It’s a fascinating first amendment discussion for anyone who wants to have it.

So Reader, what do you think? Have you read History of Wolves yet? Does it sound like your kind of thing?

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Wanted More Wednesday: The Jesus Cow

Posted 20 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wanted More Wednesday: The Jesus CowThe Jesus Cow by Michael Perry
Published by HarperCollins on May 19th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Humorous, Literary, Satire
Pages: 304

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.

Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor's heart; a Hummer- driving developer hooked on self-improvement audiobooks is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm; and inside his barn lies a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. Harley's best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to sidestep the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called "a scene."Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door—and Harley's "miracle" goes viral. Within hours, pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a per- centage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy, calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and in the process raise enough money to keep his land and, just maybe, win the woman in the big red pickup?Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and souvenir snow globes. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.

Maybe my lesson is to stay away from satire on Christianity here. I DNFed Christopher Moore’s Lamb, and I almost DNFed The Jesus Cow. This book has its moments here and there, mostly some clever plays on words, that made me smile to myself but for the most part this book is just… not good.

Okay, why? While this is an excellent premise that could have been hysterical, or at least populated with memorable, lovable characters, Perry does neither for his readers. The characters – all of them – are flat and completely two dimensional, acting exactly as expected with little to no growth. Rather than characters, they are caricatures. I couldn’t come to care for any of them, especially not Harley with his dithering and worrying. Get ahold of yourself man.

The ending. Oh Jesus Cow, the ending. It was one of those unfortunate times where it seemed as if the author just ran out of steam and wanted to tie a nice little bow on things. Where the six main characters ended up made little to no sense based on the rest of the novel, but I suppose if you’re looking for a feel good ending then it might be acceptable.

Also, the marketing of this book? The catalyst for action happens on Christmas Eve, so why is it being released in May?

Okay, Reader. I hated this book. Give me something good to read? Would this premise have pulled you in? Does it pull you in still? I won’t judge.


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Let’s Talk About It Tuesday: The Children Act

Posted 16 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Let’s Talk About It Tuesday: The Children ActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 9th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 240

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

McEwan’s The Children Act is a fascinating novel with themes that sit at the intersection of law and freedom. Being an attorney I was most interested in what Fiona’s ruling would be on the case set forth in the book.

While McEwan’s novel is set in British courts, the set of facts that is brought forth in the novel is one that American courts have to grapple with all too often as well. Adam, a seventeen year old Jehovah’s Witness (born and bred) is diagnosed with a common form of leukemia. A simple blood transfusion is virtually all that is needed to save the boy’s life. Without it, he will surely die. Yet Adam, weeks from his eighteenth birthday, wants to refuse the transfusion. The issue? Can the law compel a minor (so close to the age of majority) to accept life saving medical treatment against his wishes and the wishes of his parents? 

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists have always fascinated me in a morbid way because of their refusal to accept modern medical treatment, even in dire situations where lives are at stake. In the U.S., courts have consistently held that a competent adult has the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment and the Supreme Court has upheld it several times as a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause.

However, as you may suspect, juvenile and family courts don’t deal with competent adults, they deal with minors. When dealing with decisions about a child’s well-being and the law in the U.S., courts nearly always use the ‘best interest of the child’ standard. So even though it’s well established that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit, (Wisconsin v. Yoder, if you’re interested) it’s not a right that is absolute. In the seminal case Prince v. Massachusetts, Justice Rutledge wrote for the majority:

“Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

But with the ‘best interest of the child’ standard there are many factors that courts will consider and they vary greatly state to state. Currently (and historically) there are hundreds if not thousands of cases where the courts have overruled the parent’s aversion to treatment for young minor children. However, the older the child is, the more likely the court will give his or her opinion weight. What makes the case in The Children Act so very close is Adam’s age and at the crux of the situation is truly his maturity level.

There were two cases that I could find that dealt with similar situations. In both cases the court held that despite the fact that the minors were very close to the age of majority, it was also deemed necessary that the court evaluate the maturity of the children in considering their wishes. In the end the courts ruled that it was acceptable to provide life-saving blood transfusions over the objections of the 17 year old patients and their parents.

At the same time I ran across a case of a 12 year old who was considered a ‘mature minor’ by the hospital, the hospital’s ethics committee opted not to pursue a court order to force life-saving treatment on the child and she subsequently died.

Clearly, I find this to be a fascinating point of law. I’ve run on too long with my legal history and background here but I still want to talk about the actual book a bit. The half concerning Fiona’s rationale in reaching her ruling is extraordinary. McEwan’s prose brings through simple truths about the law with his usual eloquence.

“This court is a court of law, not of morals, and our task has been to find, and our duty is then to apply, the relevant principles of law to the situation before us – a situation which is unique.”

It is a truth known to those in the legal profession that too often the law is not about morality or justice, the law is about… the law.

The second half of the novel was disappointing. I didn’t particularly care about Fiona’s marital problems or strife and I found some of her actions at the end to be incongruous with the character that she displayed at the beginning.

Overall this is a fascinating novel, though I would have liked to see more on Adam’s case and less on Fiona’s personal life. Highly recommended to people interested in the place where law and religion intersect and general fans of McEwan. It’s not Atonement, but it’s still an excellent read.

Edit: I should add that Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books has a most excellent review that doesn’t focus so heavily on the legal aspect here.

Any interest in this one Reader? What do you think if you’ve read it? How do you feel about the state of U.S. jurisprudence regarding forced treatment of children over the religious objections of the parents? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



The Devil: A New Biography

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

The Devil: A New BiographyThe Devil by Philip C. Almond
Published by Cornell University Press on August 5th 2014
Genres: Angelology & Demonology, Christian Church, Christian Theology, Civilization, History, Judaism, Religion, Theology
Pages: 288

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.

"Although the Devil still 'lives' in modern popular culture, for the past 250 years he has become marginal to the dominant concerns of Western intellectual thought. That life could not be thought or imagined without him, that he was a part of the everyday, continually present in nature and history, and active at the depths of our selves, has been all but forgotten. It is the aim of this work to bring modern readers to a deeper appreciation of how, from the early centuries of the Christian period through to the recent beginnings of the modern world, the human story could not be told and human life could not be lived apart from the ‘life’ of the Devil. With that comes the deeper recognition that, for the better part of the last two thousand years, the battle between good and evil in the hearts and minds of men and women was but the reflection of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, the divine and the diabolic, that was at the heart of history itself."—from The Devil Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub; Ha-Satan or the Adversary; Iblis or Shaitan: no matter what name he travels under, the Devil has throughout the ages and across civilizations been a compelling and charismatic presence. In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the supposed reign of God has long been challenged by the fiery malice of his opponent, as contending forces of good and evil have between them weighed human souls in the balance. In The Devil, Philip C. Almond explores the figure of evil incarnate from the first centuries of the Christian era. Along the way, he describes the rise of demonology as an intellectual and theological pursuit, the persecution as witches of women believed to consort with the Devil and his minions, and the decline in the belief in Hell and in angels and demons as corporeal beings as a result of the Enlightenment. Almond shows that the Prince of Darkness remains an irresistible subject in history, religion, art, literature, and culture. Almond brilliantly locates the “life” of the Devil within the broader Christian story of which it is inextricably a part; the “demonic paradox” of the Devil as both God’s enforcer and his enemy is at the heart of Christianity. Woven throughout the account of the Christian history of the Devil is another complex and complicated history: that of the idea of the Devil in Western thought. Sorcery, witchcraft, possession, even melancholy, have all been laid at the Devil’s doorstep. Until the Enlightenment enforced a “disenchantment” with the old archetypes, even rational figures such as Thomas Aquinas were obsessed with the nature of the Devil and the specific characteristics of the orders of demons and angels. It was a significant moment both in the history of demonology and in theology when Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677) denied the Devil’s existence; almost four hundred years later, popular fascination with the idea of the Devil has not yet dimmed.

Fascinating subject matter and quite festive for the season. Don’t you think? 

Anyway, a more apt name for the book might have been The Devil: A New History, but from a marketing perspective I definitely see why ‘biography’ would be more compelling. Regardless, although the book is only 270 pages it packs a lot of punch into a small space. It is an academic book published by an academic press, but I wouldn’t call it inaccessible, though it might make a good textbook for some esoteric liberal arts subject.

Indeed, while not quite inaccessible and not quite compelling, Almond’s book is definitely interesting and is well researched. I found particularly fascinating the differing Christian views on various aspects of demons and demonology, especially up through the middle ages. To me it reflected a deeper (and honestly, today more important) issue of how Biblical canon was developed. What the church ended up accepting about demonology, the devil, and witches by the end of the Salem Witch trials (which is sadly, where the history in this book ends) was a result of differing schools of thought within the church, the accepted views eventually to be remembered (and then forgotten) while the other views fade back into the miasma of superstition and scholarly works. (For my point on Biblical canon see: apocryphal gospels.)

Recommended for people interested in a non-fiction look at the development of the devil, demonology, and witches from late Judaism through Christianity during the Salem Witch Trials. 

What do you think, Reader? Do you have a penchant for weird (and sometimes weirdly grotesque) histories? What odd subject would you like to read on? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Six Degrees of Separation: 1984

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

Six Degrees of Separation time, y’all! Hosted by the indomitable Annabel and Emma

1984 has been one of my favorite books since I read it… in high school? Middle school? Anyway, it’s been forever since I first read it – and I’ve read it a million (okay maybe five or six) times since. If you’re a dystopian writer and haven’t read both 1984 and

Brave New World by: A. Huxley (I can never spell his first name right and I’m too lazy to check my spelling right now…) then you’re doing it wrong. I love Brave New World (also a dystopia for the woefully unknowing) almost as much as I love 1984. I first read Brave New World my senior year of high school, it was challenging because some chapters were told in an unconventional format. Which leads me to…

Solomon the Peacemaker by: Hunter Welles – also a dystopian novel, but with such a fascinating premise I ABSOLUTELY MUST INSIST THAT YOU READ IT RIGHT NOW. It’s also told with an unconventional narrative structure. A ‘terrorist’ is in police custody and being interrogated, but all the interrogation questions are redacted. The reader must pay careful attention to the answers, in order to glean the questions. It’s successful in slowing down speed readers like myself and also leads to more questions. It’s a brilliant book, but unfortunately (like many brilliant books) largely ignored. SO! Brilliant books (somewhat) ignored in unconventional formats leads me to…

Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher – an epistolary novel written in the form of correspondence and letters of recommendation from (and a few to) a delightfully curmudgeonly tenured English professor in a completely dysfunctional university. I want to be Jay. Speaking of epistolary novels…

The Divorce Papers by: Susan Rieger – another unique epistolary novel – except that instead of just correspondance from/to the main character we also get statutes and legal memoranda from the same state. As an unemployed attorney I really enjoyed it. There were also legal issues between the divorcing couple in the novel about their kids which brings us to…

The Children Act by: Ian McEwan – (god, how behind on reviews am I?) a family law judge in England is confronted with a suit on whether or not a 17 year old Jehovah’s Witness has the right to refuse lifesaving treatment. It’s an excellent character driven novel on law, relationships, and hammers home the fact that lawyers and judges are real people too. With feelings. I connect this with…

Steal the North by: Heather Brittain Bergstrom – a coming of age novel set in the background of religious extremism and the need to understand and appreciate other cultures and religions. In this novel it’s extreme fundamentalist Christianity needing to understand the Native American ‘religion’. This is a beautiful and emotionally difficult book, it’s satisfying to see the protagonist shed multiple layers of herself. The beauty of acceptance and diversity in this novel really shine through.

So! From 1984 (also set in ‘England’ [my favorite country – the real England, not the dystopian one…]) to Steal the North in six easy steps. Do you want to play? I know you do. Here’s how:

So, Reader, where do you go from 1984 ? Don’t dare tell me you haven’t read it! But, it’s okay if you haven’t… as long as you’re not writing dystopian fiction. Check out the other chains. So wildly different and creative! 

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Weak-Sauce Wednesday: The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw

Posted 20 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Weak-Sauce Wednesday: The Atheist’s Fatal FlawThe Atheist's Fatal Flaw by Daniel J. McCoy, Norman L. Geisler
Published by Baker Publishing Group on June 17th 2014
Genres: Apologetics, Christian Ministry, Christian Theology, Evangelism, Religion
Pages: 192

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.

Most critiques of atheism focus on refuting head-on the claims of atheists. Instead, this unique book faithfully represents what atheists say they believe and stands back to watch as the natural inconsistencies in that worldview inevitably rise to the surface.Norman L. Geisler, the apologetic giant of our time, is joined by Daniel J. McCoy, highlighting two inconsistencies in particular. First they examine the atheist's assertion that God cannot exist because there is evil in the world and that if God truly existed, he would intervene. These same people then turn around and say any intervention on God's part would impose upon human autonomy, and thus would be unjust. Second, these very interventions that would be considered immoral if imposed upon the earth by God are lauded when they stem instead from some human institution or authority.Geisler and McCoy highlight this kind of "doublethink" step by step, showing readers how to identify such inconsistencies in atheistic arguments and refute them--or rather show atheists how they refute themselves.

I need to take a deep breath before I start this. Okay. I think I’m ready. Dear Readers, I hope you know,  that I read things outside my comfort zone. I read them with an open mind and I try to read them from the perspective of the people they were written for. (See: Pastrix, Never Pray Again, Jesus Hates Religion, The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion – my entire religion tag. Even The Myth of the Spoiled Child – which actually changed my opinion after reading it.)

In case you’re new, I feel the need to tell you that while I am an atheist (a humanist) I am not an anti-theist.  I believe in live and let live — but that’s all been covered. Check out my other posts for that.

So. This. Book. Let’s start with the easiest critique. This book quotes so extensively from atheists, scripture, and apologetics, I have to wonder how many pages the author’s own thoughts and writing would actually fill. (Ballpark guess, I’d say no more than 50, if that.) The reason given is to “faithfully represent what atheists say they believe…” Okay. Fair enough. But honestly, it’s just way too much. Even if I had agreed with the premise of this book it would have been too much – frankly, it’s lazy writing. 

Structure. Ten chapters all aimed at highlighting atheist’s ‘inconsistent beliefs’ – both of which make the assumption that there actually is a Christian God. Further, very cleverly, the authors create a strict framework in which they will present their arguments – God in the Dock – (GITD)  incidentally also coined by another apologist, C.S. Lewis, who I actually like. Well, his apologetics, anyway.


“This book will not venture outside of the GITD arguments against the coherence of Christianity, with the agreement that the atheist will not hop the fence mid-argument to snatch, bring back, and sneak in caricatures.” 

Sigh. We’ll get to tone in a moment, but first, what a very clever device Mr. Geisler and Mr. McCoy. Make the ‘enemy’ (read: atheist) suspicious to your intended audience and frame the argument exactly and only as is best for you. 

Tone. The authors claim several times throughout the book that they are attempting to have respectful dissent with atheists – after such a claim, the next sentence is usually one that either takes a tone of superiority and general self-righteousness. In my experience that is not how you win hearts and minds, that’s not how your show respect – though it’s useful I suppose, if you’re speaking to people inside of your own echo chamber. I think that the tone itself is evident by reading the synopsis alone. It only becomes more smug, the more you read. 

Context. So, we’ve already talked about the extensive quotations in the book. As is to be expected with people not seeking to learn or to write honestly – the quotations are cherry-picked (both from the atheists and from scripture) to serve the purpose of the authors. How convenient. For the first few chapters I looked up the context of the quotations (most of which were wildly misrepresented) then I became weary. Predictably, the (in)famous Sam Harris quote is also taken out of context: 

 “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them…”

You know what’s coming… the rest of the story. A Load of Bright wrote a post called Misquoting Harris. While this was the most easily identifiable quote taken out of context – I promise you that most of the other quotes that I looked up were taken equally out of context. As I said, there were so. many. it was impossible for me to look them all up.

So when your argument is based on quotes taken out of context — what argument do you have left? More troublesome, how honest is it? I have issues with dishonesty – especially – in books like this.

I actually laughed at the quote from ‘former atheist’ Paul Vintz who describes “what it was like to finally be counted among the initiates” He actually speaks about being drawn into society after becoming an atheist, whereas while he was a Christian, he had been shunned. I’m sorry. But no. Just. No. Not in America. (If you’d like a anthology of stories from atheists living in America, I’d highly encourage you to check out Atheists in America.) 

Last thoughts. So, this book makes all the usual assumptions about atheists (we actually believe in God but just want to rebel, there’s no way to have ‘real’ morality without the guidance of a Christian God, a mild vilification of science, etc. etc. etc.) the book takes atheist’s words (and scripture) and twists them to its own purposes. Blech. It feels like the authors are almost willfully misunderstanding what atheists think. It leaves a vile taste in my mouth.

I don’t even know who to recommend this book to. I suppose conservative Christians locked in their echo chambers might enjoy it – but I’ve read reviews that say they’re actually ‘disturbed and depressed’ by the number of quotes from atheists. (Which raises the question, Why is that? But that’s another discussion for another day and another place.) 

Do I have anything nice to say? Admittedly, not a whole lot. But the citations did give me a fabulous reading list of some of the greatest thinkers in our time and before – you can bet some of those will be on my TBR list soon. 

So, Reader. I’ve tried really hard to be fair with this book. What do you think? Am I out of bounds? Does this book look at all appealing to you, if so, why? (It’s not a trap, I’m just trying to understand.) How do you feel about apologetics? Can anyone recommend any Islamic or Jewish apologetics? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Top Ten Books I’d Recommend to Religious and Social Conservatives

Posted 5 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

I know it’s rude to discuss religion and politics… but that’s just what we’re going to do today! These are my top ten picks that I would recommend to religious and social conservatives if they would be willing to read them with an open mind. Enjoy! Links go to my reviews unless noted otherwise.

  1. Pastrix by: Nadia Bolz-Weber – a beautiful spiritual memoir. Bolz-Weber is an ordained Lutheran pastor, but she’s a bit unorthodox and totally amazing. Hot topics: Religion, LGBT, Feminism
  2. Never Pray Again by: Aric Clark, et. al. – Written by three pastors, this book is a call to action for theists and atheists alike. They call for action to be more Christlike, through charity, understanding, and love. They call for you to get out of church and do something. Hot topics: Religion
  3. The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion by: Martin Thielen – a book that is targeted towards progressive Christians, I think that conservative Christians could get a lot from this book if they read it with an open mind. Hot topics: Religion
  4. Atheists in America edited by: Melanie E. Brewster – A collection of essays from atheists around America. I recommend this to theists and non-theists alike. It’s a fantastic and empathetic portrayal of American atheists. We’re all around you, you just don’t know it. We’re not interested in eating your babies, either. Hot topics: Religion, atheism, LGBT
  5. God and the Gay Christian by: Matthew Vines (Monika @ A Lovely Bookshelf’s review) – I haven’t read this one yet, but I trust Monika. This book is written, surprisingly, from a conservative Christian viewpoint. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Hot topics: Religion, LGBT
  6. A Queer and Pleasant Danger by: Kate Bornstein – Another memoir, Kate Bornstein was born a nice Jewish boy, who then joined The Church of Scientology – left, transitioned to a woman and now considers herself a gender outlaw. It’s compelling and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Hot topics: LGBT, religion, gender politics
  7. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by: Peggy Orenstein – a ‘feminism-lite’ parenting book. Good thoughts to think about whether you are raising a girl or not. Hot topics: Feminism, parenting, princess-culture
  8. How to Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran (this is the latest of my read along posts -the previous posts are linked at the top, but there are spoilers. Clicking the title will take you to the Goodreads synopsis.) A coming of age novel that frankly explores female sexuality, masturbation, poverty, and growing up a girl. It’s fabulous. Hot topics: Feminism, sexuality, classism, poverty, welfare.
  9. Requiem For a Dream by: Hubert Selby, Jr. – a classic novel that expertly explores the horrors and havoc drug addiction and mental illness can wreak. I hope it can help people better understand and feel empathy for such people, instead of complete disgust. Hot topics: Addiction, mental health.
  10. Guns (Essay) by: Stephen King – a brilliant essay written by Stephen King in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. There is something for everyone on all sides of the American gun debate. Hot topic: Gun control
So there you have it, Readers! Sex, drugs, religion and politics all in one post. What can you recommend to get me out of my comfort zone?

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Women’s Rights Wednesday: Silk Armor

Posted 30 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Women’s Rights Wednesday: Silk ArmorSilk Armor by Claire Sydenham
Published by Old Harbour Press on April 30th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 318

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.

Her name is Didem, a young Turkish university student. Though she has left her veil behind in the provincial village she grew up in, she is still watched over closely by her father and certain friends. But when she meets Victor, an American instructor at the university, and they fall in love, Didem is propelled into an entirely new and dangerous future. The obstacles and threats they face lead Didem and Victor into plans of escape, an escape Didem must keep secret. SILK ARMOR follows her adventure through her battles with her community, her culture, her traditions and conscience, leading to her realization that though these battles may be lost her war can still be won.

This book is so much more than that synopsis. It sounds a little like chick-lit, a forbidden, cross-cultural romance. All I can say to that is no. ABSOLUTELY NO. Romance in an element in this book, true – but it’s also a necessary device that is expertly used to explore the cultural significance behind the veil in modern Turkey. This is a story about the struggle of being a woman, even in a nation as secular as Turkey is.

Silk Armor is a cultural exploration of what it means to be veiled and what it means to eschew not only that tradition in Turkey, but tradition in general. Girls like Didem and Sevgi aren’t meant to go to school. This is a compelling and beautifully written piece of literary fiction about tradition, feminism, and that place where east meets west. 

Highly recommended. Had this book been picked up by a larger press it would have been on best of lists last year. It is very very good. 

Negative: That cover is awful. Even though the publisher sent me a copy, it took me ages to open up the book just because I found the cover so unappealing. Don’t let that put you off. Go read this. Now.

A better review can be found over at Guiltless Reading, where I first discovered this gem.

What do you think, Reader? Do cross-cultural books interest you? Do you have an opinion on the controversy surrounding the veil? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Guest Post: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – A Reader’s Retort

Posted 8 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

Obligatory introduction: I’m Brooke, a friend of April’s, we met in high school, where we had brief band room exchanges at best, but Facebook drew us closer. Thanks, Zuckerberg. But truthfully…she has become one of my favorite people. Where we differ in theology, we find common ground in snark and the love of books. I’m also an elementary school teacher, so children’s books are a dear love of mine.
So here we go…
First, yes, like April mentioned…there is strong Christian allegory in the book. It’s undeniably the message of Christ and His last days. But I would expect no different from a Christian novelist. When you take an orange and you squeeze it, you get orange juice, no?
Being a Christian myself, I of course have no issue with the meaning behind the story, and indeed, appreciate a Christian based book that is as gripping and exciting as LW&W.  Overall though, if you are uncomfortable with the parallel, I would suspect a child, reading this would see a good story, with good messages. So what can a kid take out of LW&W?
Lets turn to the kiddos…
I’m going to be short with the boys…because I want to focus on the girls since April, you had a bone to pick with Lewis over their characters.
I love Edmund. He screws it up, over and over. He’s a smart mouthed kid, complains about everything, and loves to make poor Lucy come off like a fool when she starts in about the world in the wardrobe. 
So what does Edmund teach us? Forgiveness, forgiveness from his family, because even though Edmund is a complete schmuck his family still wants to save him from his stupidity because that’s what family does.
Not a huge fan, I admit. I tend to root for the underdog, so I am team Edmund. Peter is a bit self-righteous at times and definitely revels in the fact he’s the older brother.  Which is annoying. But you have to love Peter for facing his fears.  He takes the lead, literally, in battle. And is coming to terms of not only having to be responsible for his family, but to be a commander of an army of talking animals and centaurs. That’s a lot for a pre-teen to take on, let’s be honest.
So what does Peter teach us?  Bravery doesn’t happen all at once. But when forced in a situation that a talking wolf attacks your sister, you gotta do, what you gotta do.
Susan and Lucy
Okay so here’s the deal. April, you had issue with the fact that Susan and Lucy are lame. But take another look and buckle up buttercup, ’cause they aren’t.
Okay well…. maybe Susan… Susan is a little lame.
But my girl, Lucy. Here’s what’s heavy, out of the four kids, she’s the main one to focus on.
But first let’s address Susan and her boring personality and why she is super important to Lucy’s development of character.
Who is Susan?
She’s practical, she’s motherly, she’s nervous to go where no daughter of Eve has gone before… into the wardrobe, and beyond the light post. She sees the letter that Mr. Tumnus has been arrested and her first thought is,  “It’s getting colder every minute and we’ve brought nothing to eat. What about just going home?”
Nice, Susan…classy.  Her title is Susan the Gentle. Susan the Gentle?
Let’s be honest. Susan is a bit of a snooze fest and if you continue on with the books, April, you will discover (spoiler alert) that Susan doesn’t remember Narnia, and likes to party. Who would have thought?
But here’s what’s big for Lucy.
Lucy breaks down gender roles. She wants to fight. She’s ready to fight. Santa gave her a freakin’ dagger.  Her friend Tumnus is in trouble and what is Lucy’s first thought?
“We simply must rescue him.” Atta girl Lucy!
She’s young, but she’s adventurous. She’s stubbornly truthful. She doesn’t back down when the other’s don’t believe her about Narnia. She is Lucy the Valiant, having healed her brother after war.
(More spoiler alerts) Later down the road in the series, we see Lucy wishing to look more like Susan…but in that beautiful way, we know Lucy is worth ten Susans. Susan is necessary for us to see Lucy in her brilliant and fearless way.
So what does Susan teach us? When you go into a wardrobe that turns into a winter wonderland… bring food. She also teaches us by example… don’t be lame.
What does Lucy teach us? Don’t be a Susan. Be a Lucy.

A big thanks to Brooke, who became tired of me besmirching her childhood favorites on the blog. (See The Little House Posts, I also may or may not have insulted Charlotte’s Web at one time or another…) Anyway! 
Brooke is a talented artist who’s work you can see (and purchase!) at Art, Love, and Joy and who will occasionally pop into her own blog Applesauce is the New Black

Darlene from Lost in Literature also directed me to her review of The Chronicles of Narnia for another positive perspective on the series. Check that out too! 
What do you think Reader? Have I been too hard on Lucy? Who’s your favorite? Finally, do you see The Chronicles of Narnia as Christian fiction? I ask because I never considered thinking of them that way. If you missed my original negative review of this book – you can find it linked below.

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Haters Gonna Hate: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Posted 3 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Haters Gonna Hate: The Lion, The Witch, and The WardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Published by Zondervan on 1950
Genres: Classics, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 208

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, completed in the winter of 1949 & published in 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy Pevensie. They discover a wardrobe in Prof. Digory Kirke's house that leads to the magical land of Narnia, which is currently under the spell of a witch. The four children fulfill an ancient, mysterious prophecy while in Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan (the Turkish word for lion) & his army save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who's reigned over the Narnia in winter for 100 years.

After I re-read this for the first time as an adult and I disliked it so much that I wanted to use the MOVIE ADAPTATION BOOK COVER HERE. Yeah. Passive aggressive all over the place. 

So! I picked it up because I read a short story by Neil Gaiman “The Problem of Susan” that referenced The Last Battle which of course is the last book in this series. As a kid I could never finish Prince Caspian so I never read any further. Well I’ve finished Prince Caspian but first I want to express my views on how very distressing I find this book, which I re-read several times growing up.

First, what we already knew. 

The extremely heavy Christian overtures undertones. Get ’em while they’re young, I suppose. Yes, yes, I do know C.S. Lewis was also a Christian apologist, but is it fair to sneak theology into children’s food without them knowing? Obviously I’m incredibly uncomfortable with this. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoyed both Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, but those are books for adults.

I mean the death (and resurrection) of Aslan at the stone table? All we’re missing is a cross and three days. It definitely warms kids up to the religion if you can point to a much beloved fairy tale character and bring parallels, don’t you think? Or am I raving like Richard Dawkins? 

ANYWAY. What I find more disturbing, partially because it seems to fit in so well with the Christian undertones, are the extraordinary overtones of misogyny. The most powerful evil character is both a woman and a fool. There is no redemption for her. Even looking at the sisters, Lucy and Susan, they are far weaker than the brothers and irritating to boot. Susan’s character is by far the most distressing (and yes, I’m jumping ahead) by the fact she is cast out of paradise forever for the sin of liking make-up, nylons, and parties. I mean come on.

I know this was published in the 1950’s… but seriously? Ugh. If you haven’t read this series skip it and go straight to Harry Potter instead.

So haters gonna hate. Feel free to totally disagree with me here, Reader. I know I’m probably ruffling feathers today. What do you think? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader