Not only have I been lured by the writing of my own (about to hit 25,000 words!), I’ve also been reading through a huge stack on my bedside table. I wouldn’t say my reading habit is Iris’s favorite thing about life ever, but independent play is a good life skill too. More on that later (spoiler: it’s FRENCH).
So here are, in no particular order, my June reads:
Choking on a Camel by Michal Ann McArthur (Fiction)
Full disclosure: this is my aunt’s first novel. That being said, I would have liked it anyway. I don’t tend to read a lot of fiction with strongly religious subjects—mostly because it’s either very pro- in a scary, cloying way (Romantic Lead is so GODLY! Also his voice is deep and we will probably have at least one demure reference to his genitals) or because it’s very anti- in a most-religious-people-are-whack-and-if-there’s-a-pastor-character-he-probably-abused-someone. Let’s just say that middle ground is not a strong point in the field.
But this book explores a crisis of faith in Alex, a young woman in her senior year at a fundamentalist university. In the South. In the 60s. And while there are a lot of scary Christians in the story, it’s not a morality tale of pro vs. con. To me, the real strength of the novel is in the portrayal—the slow unraveling—of the crisis itself.
When you’re not in crisis, it can be hard to remember just how angry, devastated, neurotic, and vulnerable you really were. That’s what makes this book brilliant… and also, at times, hard to read.
Or maybe that’s just a bit of free autobiography.
I’ve had a few religious crises in my day, and while they weren’t over the same things as Alex and the scenarios couldn’t have been more different, the emotional patterns rang true for me. It’s hard to detach from fundamentalism. It’s hard to take responsibility for your own spiritual journey. Mostly, I wanted to tell Alex that she needs a good therapist as much as she needs new theology, but again… that might just be me.
Since there are obvious prejudices at work here, I don’t want to oversell the book. It’s not a perfect novel. The relentless distress of the main character translated at times into the distress of this particular reader, but the book has an honesty that is beyond refreshing in the field of Christian literature. It gave me a lot of things to think about. And I finished it in two days, which—with a toddler in the house—is really saying something.
French Twist by Catherine Crawford (memoir/parenting)
If you don’t have a kid you may not have any reason to be aware of this, but there’s kind of a huge trend in parenting books right now. Basically you pick a country (China! Japan! France!) and then talk about how their parenting is super nifty and obviously better than ours here in the States. If this sounds snippy, it’s not. I’m just mad that my latest buy (Parenting without Borders) didn’t show up in the mail today. I may or may not be getting addicted.
This book is part memoir, part parenting guide with France as subject. And so far, it’s my fav of the bunch.
ALTHOUGH, I just have to say: French parenting basically sounds like old-fashioned parenting with a healthy dose of Good Life-ing and a pinch of feminism. I’m not sure how French it is, but it sounds appealing to me. I make a terrible helicopter mom. (This I realized the other day when we had people over and they expressed alarm that I was totally fine with Iris carrying a heavy dog statuette around. Which, let it be noted, she did actually drop on her foot. But hey, she’s carried that thing around for weeks. It was bound to happen eventually. And you know what? She’s fine. This is not the same thing as letting her run in the street, so you need to just let your eyebrows resettle on your faces, people).
Anyway, if you have kids or just like parenting books, this one is worth the (quick) read.
How to Know God by Deepak Chopra (spirituality)
At the risk of sounding really Oprah, if you’re interested in spiritual topics, or got burnt by a religion in the past, or feel restless in your faith, or have a pulse… you might want to look into this book.
I know there are lots of Christians who insist that God answers their prayers both big and small in obvious, daily ways, but that hasn’t really been my experience in life. I don’t take that as indicative of much, but anyway the point I was trying to make is that the one prayer that is consistently answered for me is when I ask for a book.
I do my best growing through books. I need the exposure to new ideas and the chance to chew through them without the debate or pressure that often comes in live chats. I can usually tell when they suddenly appear in my way—on display at Barnes and Noble when I’m stopping by the bathroom (true story. I liked the blue cover) or randomly in the new books stack at the library. I usually know pretty quickly if there’s something there for me. And maybe it isn’t the whole book or every single idea the author ever had. But something. Something I needed in order to move a little further along in this lifelong spiritual odyssey of mine.
This book is one of them, and I’m only 100 pages in.
Happy June, everyone, and happy reading!