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Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun
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Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  277 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Reluctantly leaving behind Pop Tarts and pop culture to battle flying rats, hissing cobras, forest fires, and decomposing corpses, Faith Adiele shows readers in this personal narrative, with accompanying journal entries, that the path to faith is full of conflicts for even the most devout. Residing in a forest temple, she endured nineteen-hour daily meditations, living on ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2004)
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Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After almost failing out of Harvard - the culprit, a nervous breakdown brought on by trying to navigate the racism of Boston, the search to find her identity - Adiele goes to Thailand for a year, eventually taking refuge as a Buddhist nun. Despite the fact that Adiele doesn't really consider herself Buddhist, and doesn't really practice or possess any particular faith, she does devote herself to the precepts of the convent while she's there. Much of the book, therefore, explores the meaning - th ...more
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this. I loved the detail, the story, the travel, the commentary on race and gender, and of course spirituality, I loved soooo much about it. Absolutely intriguing. My only issue is that at times the storytelling was too circular and I'd just want it to move forward. Also, I found the side notes (or whatever they were called) way way too distracting and often just skipped them. It's a complex layered narrative that deserves every award it received.
Mar 25, 2022 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting memoir about both this young woman and the Thai nuns whose order she joins for a while. However, I think the author did her tale a disservice by using the side notes not just for quotes or background info, but also for part of the story. That affectation made for disjointed reading.
Mary Ellen
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...a unique memoir. As a scientist, I will reach into sciences for metaphors to describe my feelings. This book travels a trajectory from the astrophysical realm to the molecular and subatomic; from the big bang to the end of days, all while never leaving home.
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book jumps around in time and place quite frequently because it is organized into idea blocks rather than a totally linear story line. The jumbled time line emphasizes the messy, twisted road Faith took to find- well, faith.

Faith uses marginalia like David Foster Wallace uses footnotes in that there is almost a book within a book through the margins. It can break up the reading in odd ways or it can give you a break from the main story to read her comments, thoughts, and ideas. While the m
Mar 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
p.80 Freedom of movement in lay life is merely a way to compensate for the lack of freedom while standing alone with oneself."
p.84 "It takes four minutes to unpack. On a wooden crate I line up my four books about Buddhism, my journal, the bottle of orange juice concentrate and jar of instant coffee, and a spoon and glass. I fold my two extra sets of robes and fluffy lavender blanket and two towels and put them in the corner atop my sleeping mat. I arrage the pairs of pens and three candle
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love the journey Adiele shares in this book. As she tells how she ended up in Thailand in the first place, her reasons for return, and deciding to become a maechi, she delves into the common identity struggles many of us face. Her descriptions of life in the wat, including the sexism of Buddhism and its physical demands, are interesting and encouraged me to think more broadly. For the most part I appreciated the chapters themselves much more than the scattered journal entries and quotations. H ...more
Tamara Gantt
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm reading this again. It's a glimpse into a world that fascinates me; I sometimes wish I could live that life.

A good passage:

"Every day you are responsible for how you feel. No one can make you unhappy or nervous. The untrained mind is so vulnerable to circumstances. Something good happens and it is happy. Something bad happens and it is in pain" (127).
What an interesting journey. A mixed race girl raised by a strong, independent single mom, internalizes her mom's teachings, but finds that in the real world she feels fragmented and torn by racism. She explores her feelings of anger and otherness and, like many books about or by bi-racial authors, she talks of not belonging anywhere.

She leaves Harvard and goes to Thailand, still searching for meaning, for contentment, for some internal peace. She is working on a project, a study, about women in
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed the author's descriptions of meditation and her experiences within those unusual states of mind... I'm a dabbler there, but I've never had the visual experiences that she had. (In fairness, I also did not move to Thailand and get ordained and dedicate my life to practice!) Her interweaving of simultaneous narratives in the sidebars with the main flow of the text served as a useful illustration of the wandering nature of thoughts to me, how we can relate ideas to each other, p ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Pretty cool book about a meditation journey. I was surprised by how much I could relate to Faith. This is a great book for someone learning about or thinking about getting into meditation. It was a great reminder of some of my first years with the practice. She does talk about sexual abuse and sexism in the book, which made me feel quite triggered while I was going through it, so abuse survivors- be forewarned.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story of this book is interesting and engaging. I liked Faith as a character of her own memoir, she is very relatable in her awkwardness, she is funny and smart, and a really good anthropologist. As light anthropology this book is great. As a memoir it feels a bit unfinished as different parts of the story are not clearly connected and the jumpy storytelling (and formatting!) is sometimes confusing. I usually like non-linear narratives but this one was not seamlessly crafted.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Faith’s journey from Harvard to becoming a Buddhist nun is a strange , interesting one and I’m glad I was along for the ride in this beautiful read. From her childhood to Harvard to Thailand to her forest wat, each offer such a unique perspective of a life. A lovely peaceful read that I could not put down.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Guided tour via Faith's narrative and journals of becoming a Buddhist nun in Thailand. The text layout (like the Talmud) is part of what makes it a captivating read. ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
It was okay. Interesting story. I wished she focused more on being a nun than everything else in her life.
May 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Charmingly told and I’m not a fan of any religion, but this was done without preaching. Lovely and interesting.
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
(Homework response October 11, 2011)

I found Faith Adiele's Meeting Faith to be an enjoyable, fast-paced read. This paces is kept by the actions of the characters being described minimalist terms, but she still manages to get a lot out of her descriptions, such as “I had the impression that [Maechi Roongduan] was shaking with delighted mirth, though she stood perfectly still” (43). In this sentence she is able to capture both the delightful mood of the senior maechi and her monastic solemnity.

Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a very thoughtful, introspective book. It was certainly not trying to impress its readers, and therefore did read more like Faith’s journals than “Faith trying to write a book about her Buddhist nun experience.” I like the frankness of the prose and the way the thoughts seem to flow. When she’s repetitive, it’s not because the writing is bad and she forgot to edit something out; it’s because her thought process in that wat was very cyclic; it returned to topics and hovered around them u ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was many things. It was an excellent supplement to studies of Thai Buddhism, it was a great view into the complexities of race in America and abroad, it was a good guide of things to expect and Ugly Americanisms to avoid while in Chiang Mai and Thailand ingeneral, it was a great read. I grabbed this book as one of the stack of Oh-God-I'm-going-to-Thailand-and-don't-know-anything-about-it books. It was one of the only books I found that was actually set in the Chiang Mai area (or, for t ...more
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
In “Meeting Faith,” Adiele recounts her journey to Thailand to become a Buddhist monk. Having spent a year in high school abroad there, she fell in love with the country and found herself seeking out its tranquility and beauty after she returned to the United States to attend Harvard. So, naturally, she returns. With the mission of immersing herself in the lives of Buddhist nuns, the female equivalent of monks, she winds up deciding to become ordained herself for the full experience.

I enjoyed pa
Chimezie Ogbuji
Jan 05, 2010 rated it liked it
A very interesting book about a first generation, mixed race Nigerian american who seeks to write about the experiences of a Maechi (a Thai / buddhist nun) but ends up ordaining to be one herself for a year. It is also about the identity crises of being mixed race, first-generation West african (which I can relate to - partly at least) and of the journey of understanding buddhist principles and how they can be applied to everyday life. It is a very unique story and the writing is of good quality ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: woc-writers, buddhism
Faith Adelle is a compelling character with a brilliant story and nuanced, thought-provoking perspective. The parts of the book that dealt with her personal history and observations of her life in America were spot-on. I could have read hundreds of more pages on that topic.

I found her discussions of Buddhism to be not that engaging. They seemed to be a tale of "Buddhism from a beginner's perspective," and I myself am a beginner with a basic meditation practice, so there just wasn't much new for
This is the story of a biracial American woman (Finnish-Nigerian) who goes to Thailand as a Rotary exchange student in high school, returns during college and as part of her studies, ordains as a maechi, Buddhist nun. It's part memoir, part exploration of Buddhism, part anthropological study. Having read "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki I wanted to know more about Buddhist nuns and this seemed a good choice. It was and it wasn't. Turns out nuns in Thailand are different from elsewhere. ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Not only was it a fascinating story of the writer becoming a nun in Thailand for a brief time, but it also included much of her biography and reflection on being raised in the United States, half Nigerian and half Finnish-American, by a white mother. Her experiences, both in the United States and abroad, are fascinating. I am also drawn to the unusual structure of the book. Adiele moves seamlessly between the present story of her experience as a maechi in Thailand and ...more
Kris V
It was an unexpected pleasure to come upon this book. Granted, I was assigned to read it for my creative writing course in Graduate school, but it's unlike any non-fiction read, in structure as well as subject. Faith Adiele is a gifted poet who stained the pages with metaphors that left me breathless.
An inspiring story that took guts to tell it the way it could reach readers the most. There's the spiritual aspect that those interested in the practice can learn about - and there's also the story
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to read a personal story of transformation
Shelves: buddhism
I love everything about the hardcover version of this book. I love her story and her writing, I love the layout, I love the size of the book and the way it feels in my hands. I love the part where she talks about writing a comic book called Super Afro. An incredible journey, although the parts about the snakes, rats and komodo dragons outside of her meditation hut quite frankly scared the shit out of me (in a mostly good way).
Melanie Hughes
Dec 10, 2008 rated it liked it
My husband gave me this book, and in addition to being a good introduction to Thai Buddhism, it is also a good introduction to Thai culture. It gets off to a rough start, and I wasn't completely clear on some how she got from Harvard to Thailand with a different university, but I'm still reading, and fell asleep reading it last night, so maybe I'll know some answers later. ...more
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jessica by: Magazine recommendation
Fascinating book about a African American girl who becomes a buddhist nun in Thailand after flunking out of Harvard. There are moments where she borders on preachy but there are great insights as well. I am glad I stumbled on this one.
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the memoir of a woman suffering from depression who drops out of college and moves to Thailand to study Buddhist nuns. She ends up becoming a nun for a year and learns how to sit with herself. It's honest and funny and wise. ...more
I can't tell if it was meandering to illustrate a point about the journey vs the destination or if it just didn't have a point. It was interesting as a memoir, but I would have liked to hear more about the research that the author was trying to do about the place of women in religion. ...more
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