Category Archives: nonfiction

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Word Lily review

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans (Thomas Nelson, October 2012), 352 pages

a year of biblical womanhood

My first inclination is to say I learned stuff from reading this book. Valuable stuff, even. But after that first inclination is past — when you ask what I learned — I can’t come up with much I actually learned from the book itself.

I learned the labels for things. Complementarian vs. egalitarian, for example. I came to more deeply understand how flawed the idea that biblical womanhood = June Cleaver really is. June Cleaver wasn’t in the Bible, folks. Polygamy was, though.

Reminded again (Hello, philosophy minor!) how vital it is to recognize the bias and assumptions we bring to the table when we approach a text like the Bible. Pulling single verses to make our point(s) is rarely advisable. (context, context, context)

How liberating is it to learn that Proverbs 31, in Jewish homes, is memorized by the men as a way to honor and esteem, praise, their wives, rather than by women as a to-do list! I don’t need to live up to an unattainable, theoretical ideal of a poem; rather, I want to, along with so many others, begin to reclaim this idea and honor women when I see them persevering and doing hard things — “Woman of valor!”

I didn’t actually enjoy the author’s approach. She uses humor, which in theory is good, but which in practice fell flat and/or felt awkward to me at several points. She downplays the work she did and the points she’s trying to make with it, which bothered me. I could never figure out if she assigned herself certain tasks to make a flippant point or to sincerely explore/learn. The brief profiles of women from the Bible felt a little unconnected to the rest of the text. I liked them, and all the other parts, too, but the text overall felt disjointed.

Maybe the biggest thing I gained from reading this book — and it’s pretty big — is some encouragement to keep pursuing the idea that I am an empath/prophet and what that looks like. That my voice is valuable and should be heard. That I can and should speak for the marginalized and wounded. Now if only I could someday figure out what acting on this actually entails …

And now some quotes (without page numbers because I read the book digitally).

“I think this is one of the reasons why, despite the fact that I vote for Democrats, believe in evolution, and am no longer convinced that everyone different from me goes to hell, I don’t mind being identified as an evangelical Christian.

Evangelicalism is like my religious mother tongue. I revert to it whenever I’m angry or excited or surrounded by other people who understand what I’m saying. And it’s the language in which I most often hear God’s voice on the rare occasion that it rises above the noise.”


“We cause serious collateral damage to the advancement of our sex each time we perpetuate the stereotype that women can’t get along.”

I liked that she learned (and documented that she learned) things mostly not related to her quest. As she focused on gentleness and silence, contemplative prayer became attractive to her, for example.

A prayer from Teresa of Avila that Evans used:

“Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.”

More quotes:

“Jesus once said that his mission was not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. And in this instance, fulfilling the law meant letting it go. It may serve as little comfort to those who have suffered abuse at the hand of Bible-wielding literalists, but the disturbing laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy lose just a bit of their potency when God himself breaks them.”


“As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ. And following Christ is something a woman can do whether she is married, or single, rich or poor, sick or healthy, childless or Michelle Duggar.”

Rachel Held Evans is a blogger I’ve followed since roughly the start of this project (so, for several years now). She’s also the author of Evolving in Monkey Town. She lives in Dayton, Tennessee.

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this book? Leave the link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


Empaths and prophets

Most of the media experiences (not just books, although mainly books) that really struck me this year have a couple things in common. I learned something about myself, particularly through their confluence. They’re all about being an outsider, working on something that others don’t really understand. And yet this work is something that drives [the person], that it’s impossible to ignore. A calling, even.

Although perhaps not traditional (and certainly not all-inclusive), this is my greatest hits list for 2011.


I think the first one was from the TV show Angel. Along Angel’s circuitous journey, one of the guys who assists in his mission of helping people is an Empath demon. Backstory: The demons in this narrative (that starts with Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are various races and/or individuals with special skills or giftings. Taken as a whole, they use these abilities to further their bloodlust and rage, but there are a few here and there who’ve chosen another path.

This particular Empath demon uses his ability to feel other peoples’ pain to help them. Later in the narrative the gods see fit to give the empath ability to a human, and it very nearly destroys her. (Actually, I’m not sure I’ve seen the end of that story line. I know it comes close, but I’m not sure if it eventually does or not.) She should die because a human can’t bear that burden of feeling so much the pain of others.


The Reluctant Prophet illuminated what I’d seen in Angel, if that makes any sense. Allison has been asking God what she’s supposed to do, and when she begins to follow through on what she hears, the members of her church aren’t exactly thrilled. It’s a serious examination — in the form of one fictional woman’s story — of what a life of faith looks like and the risks it entails.

It’s a well-written story that I read at exactly the right time. It rings authentic, and I can’t wait to crack open the next book in the series, Unexpected Dismounts. I’ve also been enjoying Rue’s (@NNRue) blog.


The Falling Away is a truly excellent book (it won the INSPY in December for Speculative Fiction).

This quote will, I think, illustrate how The Falling Away fits into my list: “we’re almost magnets for pain and suffering, but because we have ways to control it, there’s a design to it all” (page 97).

WINTER by Keven Newsome

Winter isn’t really of the same calibre as the aforementioned books writing-wise (or editing-wise), but it does dwell in the same vein, of prophecy. Enough so to earn a place here. It may not speak to everyone as it did to me — the appeal of the others is probably more broad — but that’s not necessarily the point of this list. So.

Switching directions a bit, Passport through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by Kimberly L. Smith (2011 INSPY winner for Creative Nonfiction) also deserves a spot on the list. It doesn’t quite fit with the others in that, while the others taught me something about myself and showed a bit of the way I should go, Smith voiced so much of what I’ve felt leading up to this time. It’s almost like her words were echoing what my soul had been crying out. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been working in Darfur unbeknownst to you, but I did find significant parallels.

Summary: Several books I read in 2011 seemed to coalesce around a theme, enough so that it made me sit up straight and take notice. Through these books, plus the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, God spoke to my identity, my place/role in the Body of Christ. I don’t have it all figured out yet(!), but it was encouraging to learn. One piece: an implementable way to channel my empathy.

So, there you have it. Not a traditional best-of list — I read lots of other terrific books — but the ones that most stood out to me.

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Faith and Fiction Round Table Discussion: What Good Is God? by Philip Yancey

The Faith and Fiction Round Table is a group, started by My Friend Amy, that determined six books relating to faith and mostly fiction to read together in 2011. We have discussions via email and then post our thoughts on the book.

This month’s book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters by Philip Yancey

“Sometimes we must go outside the church to get nourishment — art, beauty, knowledge — which we can then bring inside to appreciate fully.”

~page 130, What Good Is God? by Philip Yancey

Is this true? Do we agree?

I, for one, certainly get nourishment outside the church. To give a quick example: Most of us read a mix of books, Christian fiction and general market books (I mean, not exclusively Christian fiction).

I believe strongly that artists within the Church should have the same level of craft and content as artists outside the Church. Restated: There should be the same quality of art inside the Church — being created in the Church, emanating from the Church — as there is outside the Church.

I hypothesize, though, that even if/when the Church is consistently producing art on that level, some people will need to seek (hopefully only) partial nourishment outside the Church.

But we’re neglecting the second part of Yancey’s statement. What about that second part, that to fully appreciate a work of art one must “bring [it] inside”?

If, by this, Yancey means that the artwork must be brought inside the Body, discussed and examined with the congregation, then I don’t agree. Sadly, the Church (I’m speaking in generalities here) isn’t equipped to discuss or appreciate art. The Church bought so fully into Modernism that is has no place for art. Still.

If, though, Yancey’s statement is read to mean that the artwork is most fully appreciated through a Christian worldview or lens, then I can’t argue. Sure. But that’s a pretty … unorthodox interpretation of his words, I think.

What do you think? Must we, sometimes, go outside the church to find artistic nourishment, but then bring it back inside to partake?

For more posts on What Good Is God? In Search of a Faith that Matters, please visit:
My Friend Amy Book Addiction, Book Hooked Blog, Books and Movies, Crazy for Books, Ignorant Historian, Linus’s Blanket, My Random Thoughts, Book Journey, Roving Reads, Semicolon, The 3R’s Blog, Tina’s Book Reviews, Victorious Cafe

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Giveaway: True Grit by Deborah Meroff

True Grit: Women Taking On the World, for God's SakeFor several weeks I was posting small snippets from a book — True Grit: Women Taking On the World, for God’s Sake by Deborah Meroff — as part of my Lenten observation. When I informed the publisher, Authentic Media, of my plan, they graciously sent me a few copies of the book, to giveaway.

Besides the vast amount of data (which I quoted from), True Grit also contains touching narratives related to each theme or topic; in no way, even in this many posts, have I done more than scratch the surface of this book’s content. It’s well worth reading.

And now the time has come.

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post with one thing you learned, or one thing that really struck you, from my 40-post series. I’ll accept entries through Tuesday, May 2, 2011. (One entry per person; U.S./Canada only.)

ETA: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Marking International Women’s Day and Lent

It seems fitting (even if only serendipitously so) that today, the day before Ash Wednesday (and thus the day before Lent) is International Women’s Day this year — and not only is today International Women’s Day, it’s also the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. I didn’t know about this date alignment, but it’s quite appropriate in light of my plan for marking the 40 days of Lent.

Every day of Lent I will post a statistic from True Grit: Women Taking On the World, for God’s Sake by Deborah Meroff.

If the connection between this book and International Women’s Day is unclear to you, I hope it becomes clear as the days unfold.

I’m doing this to:
• participate in the suffering of others,
• weep with those who weep,
• mourn with those who mourn,
• partake of the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, and
• keep my sin (in this instance: turning a blind eye to this injustice) ever before me.

I’m a relative newcomer to observing Lent (and the rest of Liturgical calendar, for that matter). Maybe this is a nontraditional way to observe this season of reflection and repentance; then again, maybe it’s not.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


Just realized I should have mentioned earlier Sherry at Semicolon‘s new lists of books set in Africa and/or by African authors. (That’s more than one list because they’re organized by country, and she’s broken those lists down geographically, to separate … Continue reading

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor

Word Lily review

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor

A collection of more than 150 full-color photographs of tattoos that draw on literature for their inspiration, often in the form of direct quotes from books, as well as (at least sometimes) the stories behind them.

I really hated the white text on black pages. It was quite hard on my eyes and nearly kept me from completing the book, even though the book’s short and has few words and thus the time commitment called for was very small. I’m sure the choice was intentional, but I don’t think this particular artistic choice to ignore legibility in favor of ambiance was a smart one.

I expected to feel more resonance, kinship, with the content than I did. As it stood, I felt like I could relate to very, very few of the chosen passages or quotes. Most weren’t even familiar to me, which is the way of books, I guess — so many books, so little time — but it still surprised me. There were a few that the reasons for choosing them drew me in, and a couple that I appreciated the content, but far fewer than I thought there would be.

The title is a bit unnerving to me. I know, the irreverence is probably intentional and perhaps even attractive to the target audience, but that just goes to show, even more, that this book was not for me.

Overall, I’m sad that reading this book created a sense of greater dissonance between me and the larger bookish community as a whole (or at least one aspect of it) rather than proving once again (it’s been done so many times it probably doesn’t to be proven again) that books are part of our collective consciousness, shared experience, and help draw us together.


The book’s website:

About the editors
Eva Talmadge has written some short fiction; her short story “The Cranes” was cited as Notable Nonrequired Reading in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009. Justin Taylor is the author of the short story collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever.

Other (more positive) reviews
Confessions of a Real Librarian
Dawn at 5 Minutes for Books
Books, Movies and Chinese Food
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

INSPYs shortlists announced!

I’m thrilled to tell you that after months of toiling, the Advisory Board has announced the shortlists for the INSPY Awards.

I think we have some really great books on the lists for this inaugural year of the INSPYs, and I hope you’ll agree.

The winners will be announced December 13, 2010.

I have more I’d love to post about — including the official release of my very first knitting pattern! — but I’ve about run out of words for today. So, check out the INSPYs shortlists and have a great weekend!

P.S. Not sure what the INSPYs are? Here’s the About the INSPYs page.