Category Archives: Books
Earlier this summer I registered to take a poetry class through Coursera, a “company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.”
“Hot diggity,” I responded, as I Facebooked and Tweeted my findings. “I’mma get in on this sweet, sweet learning action lickety split!”
The first class I signed up for, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) is taught by Al Filreis through the University of Pennsylvania, and the course description sounded right up my alley:
This course is a fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, from Dickinson and Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly “difficult.”
Fast-paced? Poetry? No experience necessary? Wahoo! All that would be required to complete the course would be submitting four short essays, commenting on other students’ submissions, passing weekly quizzes, and participating in the discussion forums. Easy peasy, and fun to boot! If, you know, you enjoy writing essays, commenting on things, taking quizzes, and participating in discussions.
Which I totally do.
As do thousands of folks who are still learning English, and a bunch’a weirdos intent on dumbing down the Facebook end of the experience…
Things I Have Learned From Joining ModPo’s Facebook Group
1. There Are Not Enough OTE Mods/Admins
For about one hora gloriosa the other semana, I played make-believe as a Spanish-speaking T.A. for a handful of Facebook group members who are using ModPo in part as an opportunity to work on their English. It’s an admirable goal with the unfortunate side-affect of making me feel like a useless layabout for never having attempted any such thing in an effort to work on my Spanish.
It was fun getting to know a few of my ESL classmates a little better through that experience, and I enjoyed it on both a social and an educational level. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how the lack of Other Than English mods/admins throughout the Coursera universe might be impacting the experience of those students hoping to use Coursera as an English exercise.
Mostly I’m picturing hands being thrown in the air “I give up!” style across the globe, Google Translate tabs slamming closed in browsers worldwide.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Coursera “should” or “must” provide OTE support, particularly since Coursera doesn’t market itself as a “work on your English” resource, so it’s not like it’s failing to supply something it promised in not having live translators on hand for real-time assistance. Plus I have no idea how it is being funded or how much money it is actually making, and real-time human translation services are notoriously expensive. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to offer a website and services entirely in English, or Dutch, or Guarani… I’m just wondering if such an effort- providing OTE mods- would be possible for some of the classes with higher numbers of students, and if expending that effort might pay off in the long run for Coursera and similar sites.
2. Even Poetry Attracts Trolls
Hoping to engage in a thoughtful discussion about a question someone raised about the poem everyone is currently reading? Too bad!
but I inform: if, I will see in essays in context something about : word-killer, precious stone and poem, diamond and poem or else, what I have written, I will shame you for all over the world.
That’s right. If during the course of the discussion any of the participants should draw similar conclusions from reading the same poem, and if any of those shared conclusions should appear in any of the participants’ future comments or essays, there is no other possible recourse for this particular troll but to shame the alleged offender on a global scale for stealing their ideas.
Or if you are participating in a thread and would like to point out that you think Classmate A and Classmate B “are very inspirational locutors“? Be prepared to be informed that you are wrong because, frankly, “they are absolutely standart thinking people -it’s complitely boring.“
Say that in a meatspace classroom. Please. I dare you.
And don’t bother asking these self-righteous poetry trolls to stay on subject, to keep non-productive and exclusionary comments to themselves, or to behave like adults. Your requests will only be met by such gems as “this idea everywhere is in internet…about innovation. may be your own ideas?” Or the dare to “block me. any perssonmay just block.” Or perhaps it’s time for the “how many Universities have you graduated from ?” challenge.
Wheaton’s Law: It also applies in poetry forums, ass, and you are breaking it with fantastic regularity.
Things I Have Learned From Reading ModPo’s Official Forums
1. Whatever you wanted to say in the forums? Yeah, it’s already been said. About 10,000 times.
I’m having trouble tracking down the exact figures, but the last estimate I saw for the number of registered ModPo students was hovering somewhere around 30,000. That’s right: 30,000 people from all over the world participating in discussions on the course’s forum page, submitting essays, and taking quizzes.
On the one hand: This is awesome and encouraging and crazy and inspiring and gives the international poetry community an approachable and familiar feel and I love love love it and am so glad things like Coursera exist and that people like Filreis are so excited about blazing new trails in online learning and I can’t wait to see how this model develops in the coming years.
On the other hand: Anything you think of to say in a discussion thread? It’s been said. Any question you want to ask? It’s been asked. Any idea you find yourself puzzling through? Spoiler alert! It’s been unpuzzled, and if you are participating as directed you will come across myriad possible conclusions, including your own. Any thought you were developing has already been written out- short form and long form- by literally hundreds, even thousands, of your classmates. So that “participate in the forums” part of passing the class? Maybe you’ve got something new to add, Genius, but me? Yeah, ain’t nothing I can add that’s not already in there a hundred times over, and more clearly and eloquently expressed than anything you’d ever wring out of me.
Presenting an idea or question first isn’t necessarily an ideal solution either, however, as whatever you have to ask or add will be met by the same trollish horseshit (please pardon my French, Christie) addressed above.
For example (using actual quotes from discussions in the Facebook forum) (I know I know the Facebook forum is not the official forum):
Classmate B: (Thoughtful reply offering up gratitude, further exploration, and new questions.)
Troll: poor Emily [Dickinson], she couldn’t even imagine that her brilliant poetry will be dissected into small bones and this brilliant monolithic poem will be broken into separate words…God..poor Emily. dig, dig dig with dissection her poetry, losing it’s spirit…dig to nowhere..good luck :) Could you be so kind and tell the meaning of this popem using two sentences ?
Classmate A: (Two sentence reply offering a well-constructed summary of the piece.)
Troll: I have asked to depict , to show your idea using two senteces.Sorry, I will not even read this. good luck. how to say the truth in a soft way , in rush way : you are daun and stupid. How it will be on your opinion with YOUR interpretation of E.D. how to tell truth to people ? LOL, know what wanted Emily Dickinson? have you been on spiritualistic seance with E.D. ? I have asked you a very concrete question and wait your answer on it
Classmate B: I am going to assume that you are not meaning to be rude, since English is not your first language. However, your previous comments are coming across as extremely rude and insulting.
Troll: I have already blocked about 5 idiots, who are really mentally retarded))..I am just enjoying of stupiiidity, reading all this ))) what are you doing with E.D. brillian poetry I am FRANK and complitely DIRECT
See, now that’s your problem right there: You’re a mentally retarded idiot whose replies are stupiiid and you are unable to deal with fellow classmates who are simply being frank and direct with you.
I’m sorry, but who wants to participate in a discussion when trolls are interrupting conversations, derailing threads, mocking fellow participants, and decrying attempts to dissect poems even though THAT IS THE POINT OF THE CLASS?
I don’t mean to say the environment is always this hostile. While there is certainly a sad abundance of awkwardly inappropriate participants (here’s lookin’ at you, Facebook trolls), there is also a tremendous number of people in this course who present such brilliant ideas and feedback it’s a wonder they’re not teaching their own poetry classes.
I do mean to say I think a classroom- whether IRL or online- is not the place for this sort of behavior and my personal opinion is that participants like this, whether in official forums or officially sanctioned forums like the one on Facebook, should be given the ol’ heave-ho so they can stop wasting everyone’s time and making our “classroom” ugly every time they sit down at their keyboards.
And by “everyone,” I of course mean THIRTY-THOUSAND PEOPLE required to offer individual insight after reading thousands of others say what they were thinking.
2. Words, Words, Words
We recently received the question for our first essay writing assignment, and have been advised that we are expected to write at least a 500 word response. 500 words? Awesome. Short, sweet, to the point. A totally reasonable expectation.
For the students, that is.
‘Cause that’s 500 words (minimum) x 30,000 students for a potential total of at least 15,000,000 words being turned in for this assignment. Assuming an average reading speed of 250 words per minute, it would take 60,000 minutes, or 1,000 hours just to read all the essays if every student participates as directed, let alone the time required to weigh in on them. For comparison’s sake, there are 168 hours in a week, during which time the professor and the TAs are also expected to participate in the forums; prepare, administer, and grade quizzes; record, edit, and upload videos of themselves discussing the assigned readings; and teach and attend other classes.
If Coursera has developed a way to make this work, that’s great. And probably also magical. But I can’t help feeling like this is a an implausible load to lay on any professor, regardless of the subject matter. Regardless, even, of the fact that this isn’t an actual college class offering college credit. I almost feel like I need to offer my condolences with each essay I turn in, along with links to stress relief tips and pictures of the candles I’ve lit for the TAs.
One alternative is that there is no actual expectation that the profs and TAs will read all the essays, but in that case I find myself scratching my head about the point of requiring the assignments in the first place. Sure it gets students thinking about the subject matter, and who doesn’t benefit from a directed writing exercise? Lord knows I do! But why bother developing the infrastructure of tracking assignments when most of them will, of necessity, go completely by the wayside? I wouldn’t call it an exercise in futility, necessarily, but perhaps a warm-up…
Another alternative is that they’re counting on most of the students to not fully participate. But that sure seems like a shaky bet around which to plan a semester in a system that is still being developed. And I’d rather believe they’re not banking on most of us slacking off, even though, ya’ know, we probably are. I mean– I know I am.
Third alternative: Peer evaluation? I just hope it’s the thoughtful students and not the trolls doing the evaluating…
Ah… but I still love poetry. I still love the idea of online learning. And I still want this class to work- for Coursera, for Filreis, and for me. So I’ll keep trying. I’ll return to the forums, dive into the boards (ignoring the fact that accusations of plagiarism have already garnered us an official memo on the subject), submit my essays to the (potential) void, and enjoy the fact that at the very least I tried something new and saw it to completion.
And I’m a big girl! I can flag the trolls and move on. I can enjoy essay writing for its own sake. I can even ignore the perpetual TMIers. (Hi! I’m Linda from Seattle and I’m deaf because of injuries I sustained when a co-worker pushed me in front of a car, which I forgave him for because my therapist says I’m trying to compensate for my uncontrollable flatulence and psychosomatic allergies to all animals, which just kills me because I have dedicated my life to rescuing animals and cannot imagine parting with my eight dogs, four cats, six rabbits, twelve birds, or my goat. Also I love poetry.) (That was neither a direct quote, nor an exaggeration.)
But for now I think probably the most realistic description of how I’ll use this course is as a passenger-seat test-drive of how this whole “online learning” thing works. I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me, so the likelihood I’ll finish the essay on time is low, and as much as I enjoy being on the internet I have never gotten into forums or message boards, so the likelihood I’ll engage in that fashion is even lower. But for the price of Free? I’m up for a test drive.
Vroom vroom, Coursera…
ETA: A ModPo member just posted this link to a very positive, pro-Coursera write-up on edcetera. If you’re considering signing up for a class through Coursera, I’d strongly encourage you to check out this link. It discusses a lot of the strongest points of the Coursera format and will be sure to get you excited about your upcoming studies!
I was looking for a book at the library. I found it, but the cover art and dust jacket description totally turned me off so I took home the book next to it instead; I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, by Barbara Sher. Don’t feel badly, Other Book; it happens.
I Could Do Anything… description from Amazon:
A life without direction is a life without passion. The dynamic follow-up to the phenomenal best-seller Wishcraft, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (the New York Times Bestseller) guides you, not to another unsatisfying job, but to a richly rewarding career rooted in your heart’s desire. And in a work of true emancipation, this life-changing sourcebook reveals how you can recapture “long lost” goals, overcome the blocks that inhibit your success, decide what you want to be, and live your dreams forever!
As many of you know I’ve been looking for a new job of late. There is always more than one reason to conduct such a search, and most of the time those reasons are uninteresting unless you’re a) the one experiencing them, or b) the one asking about them in a job interview, so I’ll spare you, Gentle Reader, by leaving them out. You’re welcome.
With my job search in mind I performed a few of the exercises in Sher’s book, then decided to go out on a limb- breaking every goal attainment rule in the process- and share my responses. I’m doing this because goodness knows I process information best when it’s weighed and measured in thoughtful discussion (I’m counting on you, Nerdfighters!), but also because I’m eager to read how youwould answer the following questions and can hardly ask you to share your responses unless I’m willing to share my own first. Right? Right.
Ready? Let’s go!
Chapter 3: Resistance, or What’s Stopping You, Anyway?
Exercise #1: Meaningful Work
Here Sher asks readers to write down what the world considers “meaningful work.” She goes on to say “…in the back of your mind is the thought that somehow you have to make a contribution to something, be acknowledged, do something that matters–or you’re just fooling around.” I wrote down what I consider “meaningful work” since, frankly, the idea of pursuing a path simply because the world considers it meaningful sounds exhausting and a little silly.
For work to be meaningful to me…
- It must involve creating something new, which will hopefully be acknowledged by its intended audience as 1) truly different from its alternatives, and 2) helpful.
- It must involve working with people, either in person or through the written word, to help them understand something better, or appreciate and be enriched by something they hadn’t previously given much thought.
Exercise #2 Part A: The Job from Heaven
Sher instructs readers to include what the job entails, where it would be performed, and who it would be performed with, and not to ”limit [themselves] with reality or practicality, because this is Fantasy Time.”
- Blogging about every day life
- Travel writing on back road gems, Americana road trip culture, and introducing readers to towns that barely make it to the map
- Publishing interviews/mini-biographies on “folks” I meet along the way. Not the rich, not the famous, just the folks.
- Reading to kids at the library, homeschool groups, churches, etc.
- On my laptop at the table in my ground floor hotel room with the curtains open no matter how drab the parking lot outside
- In a notepad during walking tours
- On my laptop at a large, clean desk in a home office. A home office with a door that locks, plenty of natural light, a love seat, a coffee table, an electric tea kettle, and lots of green and wood and overflowing bookshelves and a giant map of the U.S. painted onto one of the walls. A home office outside the big city, on the edge of a small town– maybe even just outside of it– but with easy access to the city, the library, the theatre, and maybe a local museum or two.
- When writing I need to be alone, but when traveling I prefer the buddy system
I think I may have missed the point ever so slightly because “Fantasy Time” this ain’t. Is it too late to tack on something like “…and spend every other week riding horses in India and make $80 gajillion dollars a year”? Or should I just be glad that my dream job is more realistically attainable than, say Ballerina or Astronaut?
Exercise #2 Part B: The Job from Hell
- Processing bills. AP, AR, doesn’t matter. If I had my druthers I wouldn’t process payments.
- Scheduling international travel itineraries
- Customer service (for past-due payment collection) over the phone
- Answering a multi-line phone
- Being the final decision maker on things involving big costs and make-it-or-break-it deadlines
- Business professional dress code
- Long hours on weekdays, with lots of weekend shifts and mandatory overtime to top it off
- Working for a company which creates goods or provides services I care nothing about, or which I actively dislike
- In a cube farm surrounded by windowless gray or institution-green walls
- In a large metropolitan area
- In a building with more than four stories, or with a configuration that necessitates taking an elevator to my floor
- In a room that’s always extremely loud or always silent
- More than a half hour commute in bumper to bumper traffic
- Intense, high pressure coworkers who start the day stressed out
- Coworkers who are cool and stand-offish and who don’t want to sit with me at lunch or show me the ropes when I’m learning my job
- Coworkers who are perpetually dramatic, narcissistic, jealous, who harbor cruel opinions, and who are more mouth than eyes and ears
- Screaming customers upset about issues I have no power to correct or change
- So many coworkers I can never hope to know all their names
- Supervisors who make politics part of the job, with the understanding that agreement is the first step to advancement
Two things struck me about the second part of this activity: 1) I was surprised (and slightly embarrassed!) at how much easier it was to come up with the things I don’t want, and 2) the “professional” skill set I’ve spent the last nine years developing lends itself to the kinds of jobs that fit this bill. Uh-oh…
Chapter 4: The Sure Thing
Exercise #1: What Are Your Escape Dreams?
Per Sher, “…make sure they’re true fantasies, and not practical in any way… Escape dream[s hold] a powerful clue to something you really need. It’s like a photo film negative of your life. Whatever in your life is missing, wherever a blank spot exists, it shows up in this fantasy. …[W]e should do something about what’s missing. Because if you don’t use that information to improve your life, you’re using escape dreams to help you avoid life.“
Yeah, I can see that.
- My escape dream involves having enough money in the bank that my needs are met; enough that I can afford to travel simply on a regular basis (road trips, trips to other countries where I could stay in friends’ homes or mid-range hotels); and enough to give generously to support charities and friends’ projects and dreams; all while being able to help family members in need and to put funds aside into a retirement account and into college funds for my kids.
- In this dream I write, I read to kids, I act in plays, I road trip, I help community theatres in out-of-the-way towns to organize themselves and reach out to their communities, and travel throughout Latin America.
- I live with my husband, kids, dogs, ferrets, and home library in a ranch house somewhere out West (not the coastal west; the north/central West) where the outside of my office door is painted to look like the TARDIS, and where we own acres and acres of land that will one day go to the kids. It’s land with hills and woods and open fields and creeks and animals you don’t want to run into at night, and there’s a fenced in area and a barn where I house transient livestock rescues for the local animal shelter, and a special room to house all my ferrets, and a tree which for some reason is always filled with crows.
My constantly recurring themes? Family, Security, and Writing. Okay you three, you’ve made your point.
Chapter 6: I Want Too Many Things; I’m All Over the Map
Exercise #1: Time Management for the Person Who Loves to Do Too Many Things
This exercise is geared toward people Sher refers to as “Scanners.” These are folks who “want to taste everything. … Because our culture values… specialization and determination, we too often think of scanners as people who simply won’t get down to work. This is a foolish cultural oversight. … We’re trained to believe that we only get one choice in our lives. But to scanners, one choice sounds like someone’s saying, ‘You can have a coloring book or you can have crayons, but you can’t have both,’ and they’re onto something. Scanners know that life is not stingy. If anything, life is too generous. The choices are dizzying. But there’s a way to manage the riches.”
Part 1. If you were ten people, what would each of you do with your life?
- Documentary Filmmaker
- Wife and mother
- Something with independent ministry projects, focusing on providing education and technical training for children and young adults
Part 2. Quickly answer each of the following questions with one of your ten lives.
- Which life can you devote yourself to this coming year?
- Which life can you do when the first one is completed?
- Which activities can you do for twenty minutes or less each day?
- Which ones can you do on a weekend?
- Which ones can you do once in a while?
Naturally I was able to match up bits and pieces- or sometimes even whole “lives”- to each of those questions. And that’s the trick, isn’t it? Being faced with the fact that if you really want to do something you can probably find- or make- time to pursue it? Given that I don’t have much of a natural inclination toward the sciences, and that some of these pursuits can take years just to get the degrees necessary to engage in them for profit and to create the necessary relationships and contacts to make them fulfilling, it’s clearly unlikely that I could pursue each of the above “lives” to its fullest professional extent. But that’s okay too, because if I achieved some of them on a professional level I’d have to spend a great deal of my time doing *mostly* those things, and that wouldn’t satisfy my inner scanner either!
The book is 322 pages long and I’m only up to page 187, so I can’t speak for the whole thing. What I’ve read so far, though, has provided a thoroughly worthwhile reading experience filled with useful advice and approachable anecdotal support for the author’s opinions. It’s a charming, simple enough read, and I’m looking forward to working my way through a few more of the exercises, particularly those in Chapter 13: A Rage Against the Ordinary, and Chapter 14: The Red Herring, or Trying Hard to Love Something You Don’t Really Want.
I’d love to hear your answers to one, a few, or better still to all of the above exercises. If you’re up to playing along you can leave your responses in the comments, or provide a link in the comments to wherever you’ve answered them elsewhere. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!
You: You know what this world needs more of?
Me: What’s that?
You: Your awesome opinions.
Me: In that case…
Title: Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics
Author: Alisa Harris
Pages: Paperback, 219 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press*
Release Date: September 6, 2011
“A wonderful story for political misfits of all shapes and colors.”
- Shane Claiborne
Something I’ve noticed about myself is that while I’m willing to consider new and different angles on a given issue, when it comes to using what I’ve learned in order to take a side on that issue my firstborn brain often hesitates if I don’t have a feeling of permission to make the choice I’m about to make.
Alisa Harris’s new book “Raised Right” gave me the feeling of permission I needed.
***We interrupt this review to bring you the reviewer’s Life Story for the sake of journalistic transparency in background comparison between her and the book’s author.
The oldest of three kids, I was raised in a warm, nurturing, politically conservative Christian home by parents who loved their kids, their families, and the world around them. To the point, even, that they sold their home in the Chicago suburbs to live in South America for three years where my mom taught grade school and my dad built schools, churches, a drug rehab facility, and whatever else came up. They loved God. They loved people. They loved each other. Luckily that love rubbed off on their kids.
While our family rejected the absurd stereotype of many culture-Christians who live to call This, That, or The Other politician either a Saint or an Anti-Christ, we were a Republican-voting family. My parents never specifically instructed me as such, preferring to keep politics out of their children’s lives, but I still knew which box I should check when I reached 18. In fact, I was in my early 20s before it occurred to me to even think about listening to- not just hearing- the whys and wherefores behind the reasoning of the American Left. Not even to agree with it, mind you, but just to listen to it.
I didn’t really need for there to be alternatives growing up. What I knew was working just fine. My folks weren’t crazy religious or political extremists. They didn’t demand all Christians be Republicans, yell at people who disagreed with them, crack mean jokes about people they weren’t voting for, or make me wear culottes. They simply stood behind a set of political ideals I could identify with. A set of ideals most of my friends’ families seemed to identify with, too. It was just part of our community. A community which included going to church, reading the Bible, watching “The Simpsons,” and having epic sleep-over birthday parties where mom would make crafts with us with no regard to our messes while dad told us scary adventure stories with strong female protagonists. (The parallels between mine and Harris’s upbringing are many, but clearly not universal.)
As I grew older it still made sense to me to support those ideals because I was raised seeing the heart behind those ideals, not the loud-mouthed pundits spewing them on TV. I was raised on the “best case scenario” of those ideals being put into play, not on the distorted logic behind “worst case outcomes” like blowing up abortion clinics. I was raised seeing that some people really do live out a commitment to justice from a standpoint of loving God, wanting to do right by the world, and who are willing to make real and significant sacrifices to bring peace to others. And I strongly believed that if we all did our part we could see those “best case scenarios” coming true.
(Another firstborn thing, I suppose. You know- work hard, work smart, and things will fall into place. If they don’t you probably just didn’t work hard and smart enough. There’s a lot of pressure to this whole “firstborn” thing. Thank God we’re all so awesome.)
But then I began my own life and met people and lived through situations that forced apart my faith life and my political life, all the while speckling my black-and-white understanding of the world with flecks of moderate gray. Again and again I faced people I loved in situations that caused them pain, and there I was with a political map that didn’t feature the roads they were walking, let alone viable exits or much needed rest points to serve their needs along the way. I didn’t feel like I needed to toss my map just because it lacked way points, but I did recognize that it was incomplete, and that if I didn’t start adding those missing roads to it myself no one else was going to do it for me. The world is too complicated and life too short to allow ourselves to rely on invisible routes to paper towns.
Every time I thought about those new roads, I worried. Was it okay to look at the same facts and draw different conclusions? Would I still be welcome in that warm community I grew up in? I really needed to know. I still need to know, actually, if I’m gonna put that “Hillary 4 Prez” sticker on my car. And while intellectually I know it’s okay, it still hurts a little to wonder, to differ, to change without permission.
“I see both sides telling us that to be uncertain, to dialogue instead of rail, is to betray the cause.” (p. 174)
***We now return you to the Book Review you’re actually here to read and apologize for the reviewer’s interruptions, though we cannot guarantee she will not make another such attempt.
“Raised Right” is about growing up in a home where Christianity and the Republican Party are considered to be two sides of the same shiny, home schooling coin. Where Ronald Reagan is practically neck and neck with the prophets. Where a gal could find herself believing “…Jesus was not Someone who gave victory over the sin in [one]self but a shadowy figure who had left us to work for the salvation of the world through politics.” (p. 39) Where the gospels of preachers and politicians often get crossed. (p.72) It’s about changing without permission. Boldly. And in spite of the “shell-shocked” exhaustion that can follow such changes. (p. 144)
In it, Alisa Harris shares an intimately detailed look into her younger years, spent picketing abortion clinics, stuffing ballot boxes for the Republican candidate du jour, and arguing for Reagan’s supremacy as an American president in exchange for a calendar bearing the great man’s likeness. Her narrative goes on to cover her careful, tenuous shift toward becoming Alisa Harris, “Teetotaling Theologically Ambivalent Christian Feminist Honors Program Enrollee” (p. 127) and “liberal feminist.” (p. 145) It’s a bumpy ride- it’s a bumpy road- but it is delivered in such an approachable and well-penned way that readers should be hard pressed to find her conclusions unexpected or unreasonable.
One of the things I appreciated in particular about her book is that in spite of the quirky conservatism- and sometimes outright extremism- of the people who shaped her life and values, she never speaks with anything resembling mockery or disdain toward those individuals. Quite the opposite. In writing about their strengths as well as their struggles, she traces her journey’s history back to how their love of and commitment to God, justice, and humanity taught her to value those things as well. This applies to her parents in particular. “What did my parents teach me that I will pass on to my children? To care… To love… To take heart.” (p.218) We the readers are given the gift of seeing the sacrifices they made for her and her sister, the time and love and effort they put into building their relationships with each other. It’s a peek behind the Christian Curtain, and I liked what I saw.
“Raised Right” gives an insider’s look into a religious group many in this country look at with fear, and many others with folly. It’s broad, it’s deep, it’s touching, and somehow it still doesn’t pull any punches. For these reasons I would strongly recommend this book not only to fellow Christians raised in conservative homes who have found themselves wandering left of Square 1, but also to people for whom this subculture and lifestyle are totally foreign. People who’ve ever asked themselves why so many Christians believe they “must” be Republicans, and why they then do what they do, support what they support, and picket what they picket. It’s an eye opener without being a raging political alarm clock. It’s more of an unexpectedly early sunbeam through your bedroom window on a trip back home for Christmas.
Harris has produced a real gem in “Raised Right.” It’s part memoir, part apology, and part field guide to modern Christianity in the American Right. Regardless of where you stand in regard to religion or politics, there is something to take away from this book. Be it permission to admit to yourself as a Christian that you, too, have explored these ideological territories and that “people can hold blends of belief that seem incongruous to someone else,” (p. 144), or permission to view conservative Christians in a more accepting light and not to “[define them] only by [their] political characteristics and which special-interest group claims to represent [them].” (p. 126)
I struggled to find an appropriate excerpt from the book with which to conclude this review. The struggle was not for a lack of quotable material, but for an almost overwhelming abundance of poignant thoughts begging to be shared. So I will end with the following in the hope that it will prompt your spirit as it did mine:
We seek in one another the assurance that there is just one correct interpretation of the world, that everything is so simple anybody can see it unless they’re malicious or stupid or willfully ignorant; and we punish one another for proving with our differing conclusions that truth is not that easy. We think we must suppress dissension to present the unified front we need to gain power over our enemies. But there are pro-life Democrats, pro-choice Christians, feminists who love their families, and conservatives who care about poor people. Not all of them are right, but neither are they heretics.
*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I don’t owe it to them to like, or not like, this book. The opinions in this blog are mine and mine alone. All it really means that I was given this book for free is that I’ll have paid less for my copy than you’ll pay for yours. And you should really consider paying for a copy.
Date. The Right. People.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough, folks.
Not only will you gain much higher caliber mutual friends if you date someone you honest-to-God believe is cool, but everything afterward will also be way better when years later you’re still friends with them and with their super cool wife and the two of them mail you a “pop culture care package” out of the blue for absolutely no reason whatsoever thereby causing a beautifully sunny day to suddenly feel that much brighter and amazinger.
You: What comes in a “pop culture care package,” Ruth?
Me: That’s… a little nosy, don’t you think?
You: I don’t– You said you got this package thing and I’m just wondering what’s in it. You’re going to, what, just not say? *pause* Is this a control thing?
Me: A control thi…? No! No. I just don’t feel like I should have to tell you things just because you ask. Or– Did you ever think maybe I wanted to tell you what was in it but that I wanted to be able to volunteer the information instead of having you drag it out of–
You: Drag? Whoa, how was that “dragging”–
Me: Yes, drag it out of me. Maybe I wanted to give you the information, huh? You know? Maybe I wanted to give it. To gift it.
You: Okay, you know what I think? I think this is a control thing and that for someone who keeps a public blog you are taking your privacy way too seriou-
Me: DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S IN THE BOX OR NOT?
You: *close tab*
Right then. Now that we’re alone…
Nick Jaina‘s The Beanstalks That Have Brought Us Here Are Gone
Yeasayer‘s Odd Blood
Portugal. The Man‘s In the Mountain In the Cloud
Vampire Weekend‘s Contra
Fleet Foxes‘ Helplessness Blues
Elbow‘s Build A Rocket Boys
The Black Keys‘ Brother
I’m hoping to take a road trip to Montana later this fall (*crosses fingers* *hopes really hard*) and was psyched about all the new music I’d have to listen to during the drive out there after my trip to HPB yesterday. And now with this new stack of CDs? Yeah. This is officially the best road trip soundtrack ever.
Let me know if you want to schedule a speakerphone call with me during the drive. (Rates double during peak hours. Now accepting cash and Paypal. Requests to skip ahead will not be honored.)
Game of Thrones is HBO’s attempt at creating something which could in some way measure up to the incredible work of fiction that is A Game of Thrones, the first book in the seven book series of George R. R. Martin’s gift to the world, the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The HBO series may very well be awesome, but I wonder if it could ever truly match the heights or the depths to which my imagination traveled when reading the book itself.
By which I mean, of course: OMG I AM SO EXCITED OMG OMG I CAN’T WAIT TO PUT THIS IN AND WATCH ALL OF IT ALL IN ONE SITTING GAHHHHHHHH OMG OMG!!!
I have to admit I am in a bit of a pickle over getting started on the DVDs, however. I’m just over half way through watching Moonlighting, which will be due back at the library soon. While I know the DVDs I received today are wildly awesomer than anything that could possibly befall Maddie Hayes and David Addison in the remaining episodes of the 80s favorite fourth-wall-buster, I’m hesitant to start something new that I know I won’t be able to turn off until it’s finished, thus guaranteeing me overdue fines for hanging on to the tales of the Blue Moon Detective Agency longer than is allowed.
On the other hand, I received these DVDs for free. I could consider any potential late fees to be the “cost” of ownership. Yeah? Yeah?? Yeah.
All right, then. Lay it on me, HBO…
The rest of this post is for James and Laura…
OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS ARE ABSOLUTELY THE COOLEST! This box seriously made my day! I went to leave my apartment and saw the package leaning against my door and I was so confused because I couldn’t remember ordering anything. And then I opened it and my jaw dropped and I got all Kristen Stewart breathe-y before jumping up and down all over the living room trying not to drop everything as I zipped through the stack of discs! So exciting!! :D Let me know if you want to come over and watch any of this with me. I just picked up a bunch of frozen pizzas and Diet Mt. Dew this afternoon. You can park in the lot or anywhere out on the street. OMG OMG OMG I AM SO EXCITED! YOU GUYS ROCK SO HARD!!!
*The title of this post is taken from Martin’s A Clash of Kings. ”Winter will never come for the likes of us. Should we die in battle, they will surely sing of us, and it’s always summer in the songs. In the songs all knights are gallant, all maids are beautiful, and the sun is always shining.” – Brienne
Half Price Books‘ Labor Day weekend 20% off sale is my Christmas. Already awesomely priced books available at even lower prices than usual, a cozy shelf-packed shop buzzing with book lovers sharing recommendations with each other over what to read next; it’s like a physical manifestation of Nerdfighteria.
Today’s highly successful haul demands yet another post wherein I brag about my awesome finds. (Scroll to the bottom for a full list of HPB posts.)
Link-clicking fingers ready? Let’s go!
Books | Grand Total: $8.48
Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
God Emperor of Dune, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert($0.80)
The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin ($0.90)
Something with “mumpsimus” and “hobnail” on the cover and which I can’t name because it’s a present! ($5.18)
Grand, ain’t it?! I’m especially thrilled to be making such good progress on filling my Frank Herbert shelf. So far all I owned were Dune, and the Atreides, Dune, and Harkonnen chapterhouse books after having read the rest of the original novels via the library. In fact– now that I think about it, all I need now is Children of Dune and I’ll have completed my set of Frank’s originals. I just get cooler and cooler…
Also: I wish I’d been trained as a Bene Gesserit (by Donna Kummer).
There. I said it.
CDs | Grand Total: $12.80
On My Way, by Ben Kweller ($1.60)
A Passage in Time, by Dead Can Dance ($1.60)
To Venus and Back, by Tori Amos ($1.60)
The Hour of Bewilderbeast, by Badly Drawn Boy ($1.60)
Whatever and Ever Amen*, by Ben Folds Five ($1.60)
Seven Swans, by Sufjan Stevens ($1.60)
Moon Over the Freeway, by The Ditty Bops ($1.60)
O Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack ($1.60)
*I might already have this. If I do, this one’s all yours, bro.
And after all that I still have $6 left on a gift card I received for “actual” Christmas. I’m fighting the urge to go back tomorrow and put the remainder toward completing my Dune collection. Ah Life and all her accompanying difficult decisions!