This is a really fascinating look at various ways of reading the Bible. The author is definitely writing from an historical, non-literal perspective b...moreThis is a really fascinating look at various ways of reading the Bible. The author is definitely writing from an historical, non-literal perspective but does cover the literal viewpoint as well. He's also writing from a Christian perspective, but I think those just looking for information on how various people look at the Bible will find this really helpful as well (and so I particularly recommend it to Julian). The writing is clear and accessible, although it's possible that those not even as versed in some of this material as I am may have some questions. More thoughts on this here or possibly in a blog post later. (less)
Interesting, but it almost feels as if too much was trying to be said in one book. I suppose the book I really wanted here was one that explored the e...moreInteresting, but it almost feels as if too much was trying to be said in one book. I suppose the book I really wanted here was one that explored the experiences of a few women in more depth, rather than tidbits from everyone. Still, an intriguing read, with some good commentary on the importance of women recognizing and acknowledging their own spiritual needs and taking time for themselves to develop their own spiritual practices if they are so inclined, rather than pouring all of their time and energy into other people, and rather than ignoring their own spiritual instincts and inclinations to adhere to (largely patriarchal) tradition.(less)
Thought-provoking and interesting. May have lost something in translation from German, and for my having read it on a long bus trip. Nonetheless, intr...moreThought-provoking and interesting. May have lost something in translation from German, and for my having read it on a long bus trip. Nonetheless, intriguing. I feel like I'd need to read some of the theologians she references to really understand what she's getting at, however. (less)
As in her other work, Russell shows us larger than life events from the perspective of one fairly ordinary person. In this case, it's the creation of...moreAs in her other work, Russell shows us larger than life events from the perspective of one fairly ordinary person. In this case, it's the creation of the modern Middle East in 1921 in Cairo. While Agnes Shanklin, a schoolteacher from Ohio, finds herself (and her dachshund) merely on the periphery of events (in contrast to Russell's other works, where the protagonists are very much in the midst of things), her observations are useful in understanding how the decisions that shape our present situation might have been made, and in understanding figures like Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. Agnes's distance and the focus on the political situation make this a less wrenching read than Russell's other works, though the subject matter is nonetheless tragic. It's an enjoyable, educational read, if not quite as emotionally gripping as Russell's previous novels. (less)
Shinn's world is strangely intriguing, although I'm not sure what her intended audience is. Given the spoilery particulars of the world, I assume it t...moreShinn's world is strangely intriguing, although I'm not sure what her intended audience is. Given the spoilery particulars of the world, I assume it tends not to appeal so much to a devoutly religious audience. This was her usual love story (it was more satisfying the first one or two times) and this time it had more than ever of oh, the Jansai (aka the not!Muslims) are so evil and everyone hates them and they're just terrible blah blah blah. Her allegory would be more interesting if there were some more depth to, well, all the characters. I was expecting this one to be more about the women obsessed with angels and bearing angel children; part of the book was about that, but the other story overshadowed it (it should have been two separate books). Again, more depth could've been used there as well-- a little bit more social science in the worldbuilding, maybe? Anyway, I think I'm done with this author, as the entertaining escapism has now entirely worn off.
ETA: Not to mention that if you're going to really hammer on one of your parallel culture's treatment of women, you really can't more or less entirely ignore the sins of your other parallel cultures as far as that goes... (less)
Expansion of author's dissertation on the subject. Pretty interesting, quick read (although okay, I skimmed some of her basic explanations of what eth...moreExpansion of author's dissertation on the subject. Pretty interesting, quick read (although okay, I skimmed some of her basic explanations of what ethnography is, as I already know that). She used interviews and participant observation to explore the lives of women new to a modern Orthodox congregation (Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC) and a residential institute run by the Lubavitch Hasidim (Bais Chana in St. Paul, MN). The most interesting part was the narratives professional women had about the restrictions these traditions involved, and moreover what the few women who considered themselves feminists thought. I'd ideally have liked to see a follow-up a couple of years later to see where the women she interviewed were on their journeys, but obviously that's not very practical in a dissertation (phds take too long already), so I'll see what else the author has written. I wouldn't mind reading something specifically on the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights, either.
Incidentally, I kind of wish I'd read this before I read _The Yiddish Policemen's Union_ as it would have provided much useful context (the yiddish was easy, having enough context for the orthodox characters' mindset and traditions wasn't)-- between what I already knew and what Davidman took the time to explain in text, I barely needed to look at the glossary or the internets (and then I usually found that she explained those things later on). In any case, if you're looking for further information on orthodox Jewish traditions and why they attract some people, this might be a good choice.
confidential to julian: you might consider adding this to your list o' books on religion to read. you might find it pretty interesting. (less)