I saw this book mentioned a lot (UCC + mental illness), but I really didn't wanna read it. I wasn't a fan of the title (I don't think we've reclaimedI saw this book mentioned a lot (UCC + mental illness), but I really didn't wanna read it. I wasn't a fan of the title (I don't think we've reclaimed "crazy" enough that people who don't personally identity with that tern get to throw it around), and I'm not that interested in people talking about their experience as someone who KNOWS someone in a marginalized position (whether that's trans people, mentally ill people, whatever) -- can we please center the stories of marginalized people themselves?
But the author was gonna be at a small conference I was going to, so I got a copy.
I was prepared to have a lot of negative feelings, but honestly I was mostly "meh."
In the Foreword, Donald Capps quotes Sarah saying, "Telling the stories about my crazy father, bipolar brother, executed cousin, and my own spiritual visions makes room for light and air, the things of God's Spirit, to enter in" (p. vi) and the book does consist of her telling each of those stories, in that order. I agree that sharing one's story is important, but the mental health struggles of Sarah's family members are so severe as to feel somewhat distancing -- like we're watching terrible things that we hope we never have to deal with and have no idea how to deal with if they showed up in our midst. (And she really doesn't offer much in the way of suggestions for how church communities could/should handle these sorts of situations, other than occasional mentions of opening up space where people can be honest, and the obvious that you shouldn't teach people that if they're depressed it's a sign that their faith isn't strong enough etc.) And I don't feel like her own mystical visions mean she gets to throw around the word "crazy," though I was somewhat convinced by her talk about how having mental illness in her family meant she was hyper-attentive to possible manifestations thereof in herself -- I'm not necessarily going to police her use of the term "crazy (in the blood)," but I really wish she had unpacked it some, talked about care around usage, rather than just opening with "I acknowledge that the language we use to talk about mental illness can be controversial because of various ways it is understood. I use the language that most closely reflects my experiences" (p. v) and leaving it at that.
Rev. Molly commented to me that this book is helping to start an important conversation. I am glad that people who weren't previously engaging with this issue are doing so, but I don't feel like this book does much to get the conversation beyond "sharing your story." And I also wish that it was stories of people who themselves lived daily with mental illness whose stories got to be centered in this conversation, who got the book tours and speaking engagements......more
**spoiler alert** The book opens with narrative anti-semitism, and I was still unsure at the end of the book whether the author shared that opinion.
I**spoiler alert** The book opens with narrative anti-semitism, and I was still unsure at the end of the book whether the author shared that opinion.
I dozed off multiple times while attempting to read this. I didn't really understand what was going on in this book -- and didn't care -- until two women started having an affair.
The lengthy speeches (and narrative monologues, lbr) mostly didn't seem to convey any actual meaning.
I often felt like the author was doing what I did as an adolescent writer -- declaring that a character was some tremendously interesting type, but then not actually providing any "there there."
I read the Preface and Introduction after I finished the book (as is my wont), and T. S. Eliot talks about how the doctor was the highlight of the book for him, and I boggled because my consistent reaction to the doctor was to want him to STFU. When he dressed as a woman and maybed IDed as a woman he became more interesting to me, but not much came of that and mostly he just continued to talk incessantly....more
I'd heard good things about this book but didn't actually read it until a local book club was reading it. (I was dubious about its being written by aI'd heard good things about this book but didn't actually read it until a local book club was reading it. (I was dubious about its being written by a white woman, but Oyce [a thoughtful Asian-American blogger] had read it and not expressed significant reservations on that front, so I felt okay reading it.)
(view spoiler)[Primed by genre expectations, I kept expecting Big Things to happen -- the transfer to Baffin to plunge Zhang into some sort of conspiracy, etc. But it's just character's lives. (Which is fine, it just took me a while to realize that's how this was going to go, so things would happen and I would brace myself and then nothing of global import would come of it. The epigraph to the novel is from Albert Camus' The Plague: "A simple way to get to know about a town is to see how the people work, how they love, and how they die.")
I was enjoying the various vignettes, though somewhat confused that we got a lot of stories about Zhang, a few about characters he had intersected with, and this seemingly unrelated storyline about some folks on Mars (though I was totally into the Mars plotline, don't get me wrong -- I liked Martine and Alexi more than I liked Zhang, and was more interested in their context than in Zhang's). Yes, I know Zhang is the titular character -- but the way the first few chapters were structured, I was expecting them all to connect sooner than the Martian connection reveal.
As Zhang learned organic engineering, this authorial choice made some more sense to me -- making a point about systems. And then his lecture to the class about dependent systems...
I was glad that Zhang found a way to make it work in the end. I wasn't sure how the book was gonna end, since we were running out of pages and no path to resolution seemed imminent. I actually put the book down after his politics lecture because I really liked that and didn't want to rush on into what I was sure would be sadness.
I went back and read reviews after I'd finished the book (as I am wont to do).
Oyce wrote, "Science fiction set in a world where China has become the one superpower and America has turned socialist. Instead of using the set up to explore overtly political issues in a larger setting, McHugh chooses narrate from the POV of the titular character and a few of the other people in the world whose lives he affects, no matter how obliquely. Because of this, the book has a much more intimate tone, even while it explores the larger issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural authenticity without ever losing sight of its characters, who are always human first."
And in an earlier post, she wrote, "The book's actually more a series of short stories, all interwoven by the presence of Zhang, with every other story using his POV, and the others of random people." (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm working on a project about depression and Christianity and am aware that the vast majority of what I'v[disclaimer: I'm a non-Hispanic white woman]
I'm working on a project about depression and Christianity and am aware that the vast majority of what I've read is white (male, cis, straight), so I've been attempting to read some more broadly -- including reading stuff not specifically about Christianity and/or depression.
I was surprised at how little marked the stories in this book seemed (that in a lot of ways the stories felt to me like they could have been anyone's).
The importance of community came up a lot -- and these women's community consisted almost entirely of other women. While there was very little representation of queerness, there also wasn't much representation of men in these women's stories.
There was almost no mention of religion -- some indigenous stuff, but no e.g. Catholicism, which surprised me, given how much Catholicism has seeped into Latin@ culture.
I didn't love the way that obesity was repeatedly mentioned as a self-evident health issue (my fat pol, let me show you it), but it also wasn't super-surprising that the book didn't have radical politics on that issue....more