28 December 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

     I'm very happy that I actually participated (mainly) in the last book of 2012 with the Reading to Know book club hosted by Carrie at her blog. The last book of the year was Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. You may already be aware that Dickens is my favorite author, so it will come as no surprise to you that I've already read this one.

Reading to Know - Book Club
     I don't think I'm going to review the book. I have a feeling that most people are generally aware of the plot and either have read it or have watched some film adaptation of it. In a nutshell the story takes us through three nights with the main character Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy and unfeeling man of business. He is visited first by his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, who comes to warn him of the afterlife to which Scrooge is doomed, and then by three spirits of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future. Scrooge is shown who he was, who he is, and who he will be if he does not change. It's a story of redemption basically and redemptive stories often top the list of favorite books for Heather.
     I will say that the story is beautiful! Charles Dickens is a masterful writer and his prose is magnificent. Even at twenty-six years old, I still shiver at the description of Jacob Marley dragging his chains up the stairs to confront Scrooge. I still am affected by Scrooge's pleading for mercy from the ghost of Christmas Future. The characters in the story are so real they stay with you after you've turned the last page, and his descriptions (though some may call them wordy) bring everything to life. Every passage serves its purpose, and each sentence is beautifully constructed.  
     Instead of really reviewing the book though, I'm just going to share some personal stories about A Christmas Carol. When I was a wee lass we used to read this every Christmas. There are five parts (or staves) and we have a beautifully illustrated copy, and a week before Christmas my dad read it out loud to us. Somehow this practice has slipped in the last couple of Christmases. In fact, my youngest sister doesn't recall ever hearing the story. So, this year we tried to do it again. I say tried because I think we only got through two staves. But this year we passed the book around and took turns reading aloud. I hope we finish it, but it gets harder to plan nights when we're altogether. I definitely will finish it since I'm counting it as part of my books read this year.
    One more thing that is semi interesting to know about my relationship with this book is that I turned it into a play format when I was about 17 and directed it myself. We were in a small church and I wanted to put a play together for our parents and the other church folk. There were some snags with people who weren't sure about the portraying of ghosts, but I thought the play ended up going well. If I do say so myself.
     Something I should mention that has nothing to do with Charles Dickens, but everything to do with the Reading to Know book club, is that it is happening again in 2013 and you can participate! I have been a tepid participator this year, but I have to for sure be more invested in 2013 because I'm actually leading one  of the discussions. So head on over there and check out the selections! It is all classics in 2013, and the books are going to be SO good.

29 November 2012

Getting to Know You

I caught on to the fact that this was happening, the day after we were supposed to post our answers to Carrie's fun questions. So, here they are. I ended up using her questions because I ran out of time to get really very clever with them.

Non Random Totally Normal Questions:

1. Do you attend church and, if so, what denomination are you a part of? I do attend a church. I currently attend a wonderful non denominational church though I would consider myself Reformed Presbyterian.

2. What social issue are you the most passionate about? I probably get the most bent out of shape about anything that has to do with women and children, things like domestic abuse, abortion, homeless children, and sex trafficking. My hatred of bullies is inherited from my mother, so I tend to worry about those weaker or more vulnerable.

3. Do you home school/use the public system or enroll your kids in private school? Any particular reason why? I don’t have kids, but if I did I would homeschool, because homeschooling makes your kids more holy and smarter and better and faster and taller and more republican than all the other kids. I’m kidding, but I actually do want to homeschool because I’d like to be able to spend more time with my children and give them more individual attention.

4. How long have you been married? How many kids do you have, or want to have? Have you ever thought of adopting, or have you? I am unmarried (for now….). I want to have seven children because this is the number of completion. I’m kidding, again. (I promise I can be serious) I want to have as many children, or as few children as the Lord gives me. I have often thought of adopting, and I might.

5. What is your greatest personality strength? Weakness? My greatest personality strength is my fabulous sense of humor. I’m kidding. I mean, I’m not going to deny that I have one, but really my love of people is a lot better. My personality weakness is that I take things too personally and I overthink everything. Just ask Boyfriend, poor man.

6. What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why? Hebrews. Particularly chapters 1 through 4. The not so holy reason is that I think it’s written so beautifully. I love the way the words sound. Another not so holy reason is that I am intrigued because Hebrews was almost not adopted into the cannon. It was only until most scholars were convinced that it was Paul’s work that it was added. Now scholars are pretty much convinced Paul didn’t write it. It’s a mystery, and I love mysteries. A better reason is that I think the whole book takes what some people see as a paradox between Paul’s “faith alone” arguments and James’s “faith without works is dead” arguments and brings them together in a beautiful way. Also, Hebrews has my favorite passage (Heb. 4:16): “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” So wonderful!

7. What is your real name? What does it mean? My real name is Heather. It means low lying shrub. Yep. It’s funnier if you know I’m 5’2”

Fun Random Question Time:

1. What do you like best about your family? My family is very open about everything. I always feel like I can ask my parents about anything. Teenage rebellion never was a thing for me because I really never felt hedged in or repressed in any way.

2. What's your favorite color? Why? My favorite color is orange. I enjoy bright and flashy colors that remind me of the summer

3. Are you a bold and trendy dresser, or are clothes "not your thing?" I guess my style is a little bohemian and/or sporty, but not a whole lot of thought goes into how I dress…to my sister’s shame.

4. Are you a foodie? What makes you love food so? I’m kind of a foodie. It’s more that I go through strange eating phases. I’m very into healthy foods. So, I’ll do things like, eat a different salad for lunch every day, or maybe live on sweet potatoes for an entire week.

5. If you were to write a book, what genre would it be? Poetry or fiction.

6. What is your favorite thing about where you live (country, neighborhood, etc.)? Least? My favorite thing about where I live is that my family lives here, and I grudgingly admit that Oregon can be pretty in the summer. My least favorite thing is what is outside my window right now: Misty, rainy, grey, cold, rainy, lousy, grey, gross, rainy weather.

7.  What is your idea of the perfect day? Reading, spending time with my mom, working out, spending time with Boyfriend, and making something delicious involving avocados.

28 November 2012

What's on Your Nightstand (November 27, 2012)

Oh hey! A Nightstand post. Finally!
Sometime before I was aware that I was going to be swept off my feet by a wonderful guy, I made this goal that I would read 200 books. Well, then in came wonderful guy and ruined everything! I'm joking, I'd much rather have my reading goal ruined. I have read 162 books and I guess that is pretty good, but I am very stubborn and weird about my goals and I still haven't quite let go of the fact that I want to read 200 books in 2012. So, I'm as down to the wire as I can get. This is multiplied by the fact that in December, I fly to the wintry wilds of the Northeast to see the amazing handsome wonderful man who dashed my reading goal to pieces in the first place.
So, here is what I think I am going to accomplish in December (haw haw haw). You can sense my desperation in my use of Agatha Christie and Daphne DuMaurier. I never said what type of books I was reading.

What's On Your

  • Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon: I read Godmother from her (liked it…I think…) and Mermaid from her (Ugh…with a capital gross!) and this is her last chance
  • Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie: Pretty straightforward
  • The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen: Hah! Not all fluffies! This has been on my nightstand pretty much all year. One day I promise I’ll finish it.
  • Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart: So, I don’t remember when exactly I discovered Mary Stewart. It was within the years 13 to 17. I think I found a book of hers that looked interesting at a used book store. I absolutely fell in love. Almost all of her stories are centered around a youngish woman in Europe who gets involved in some intrigue and some relationship with a handsome stranger. How is this NOT a fascinating tale? Now, I am also aware she wrote some books about Merlin (the wizard) and stories that may involve sorcery. I never read those, so don’t ask me anything about them. I can only answer for the ones I’ve described above. I do need to reread all of these and then force my sisters to read them so I can get them out of my bookshelves. I may have to move one day (*wink wink* *nudge nudge*) and I am working on whittling down my library to what I will definitely read again.
  • Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era by Ellen Tyler May (Not Mary Tyler Moore as I keep thinking): Ok, I’m doing better with the balance of intellectual books and non intellectual than I thought. This is another one of the books Boyfriend read for his exams. Ms. May examines the re-emergence of the “traditional” family (stay at home mother/bread winner father) and the rise of the birth rate and plunge of the divorce rate during the Cold War. The book is unique in that there will be more discussion about the family within the context of the political climate.  
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Ann Bronte (you may know her as the best Bronte…and if you don’t, you should): I just really like this book. Boyfriend and I were going to read it together, and it might still happen, but we decided to focus on something else instead.
  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer: We decided to focus on this one. 
  • The King's General by Daphne DuMaurier: Because everyone needs a little DuMaurier around Christmas.


What's on Your Nightstand is hosted monthly at 5Minutes for Books. 

13 November 2012

History Reviewlets (Part 2)

Although Boyfriend’s exams (written and oral) have come and gone (and he passed by the way, because he is so smart), I’m still working my way at leisure through his list of books. I thought I’d do another one of these fun little updates today.

Over Here: The First World War and American Society by David M. Kennedy: I don’t have a whole lot of memory of this one to be honest. I think I was attempting to read it while I was on vacation in Arizona. And if you are surrounded with gorgeous sun and scenery and have access to a beautiful sparkling pool, it’s hard to settle down to a book about the home front during World War I. I do know it went over some of the propaganda used to sell the war to Americans, and there was a long and tedious chapter about the economics of war. Are you recognizing a pattern here? Heather’s brain sees “economics” and groans inwardly.

Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America by Sarah M. Evans: I liked reading this one! Whenever women’s history comes up, I find myself insatiably curious and terribly skeptical. I guess I’ve heard too much of the gospel of “Women were trampled on and degraded and generally lived in darkness, until one day, like a light from heaven, birth control descended among us, and the salvation of all womankind was revealed.” Ok, so it’s not that bad, but it’s odd to me that there is an unquestioning acceptance of certain things in women’s history that I personally don’t agree with. Ms. Evans wasn’t really any different in that way, but I did enjoy reading this book quite a bit. What really struck my fancy was probably not the most scholarly thing one could get out of this, but it was the old war related advertisement. I have a strange collection of Life magazines that I’ve picked up at various antique shops when I am forced by my female acquaintances to enter an antique shop. I have this innate fascination with the advertisements in the magazines. I’m not even sure if I could explain it, but it’s just there. Anyway, this example from Born for Liberty just made me laugh. From a well known corset-designer and stylist: "Right now with the country embarking on its gigantic task of self-preservation it is essential that the women of America do not let down their men. Women must keep up the moral of their men and still continue to be their guiding star. To this end they must be their trim and shapely selves." Ladies, stay shapely. It improves morale. Anyway, while reading this I again found myself in the uncomfortable position I usually find myself in of not agreeing with anyone, but I did enjoy the dialogue.

Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture by Grant Wacker: I was really impressed by Mr. Wacker’s ability to talk about a touchy subject like religion and go into an even touchier subject, like speaking in tongues and handle it with respect and indifference.  The book outlines the birth and growth of the Pentecostal movement, particularly in America, because as Mr. Wacker explains it’s a very American movement. He attributes the success of the movement to the leadership’s ability to walk the line between primitivism (the movement back to a pure relationship with God) and pragmatism (the need to work with society and the world). I know very little about the Pentecostals and it was a helpful overview of their history and beliefs and how that fit into the early 1900s.

That will be all for now. I've got more...oh SO much more.

12 November 2012

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

     There are a few things you need to know regarding this book. Reincarnation is real, but there are some unlucky beings in the world who remember their past lives. There is one unlucky being who has fallen in love and lives each life looking for his love and losing her over and over and over. The plot is complicated even more by the fact that the first time he ran into the love of his life, *SPOILER* he actually killed her. So, he begins by seeking redemption for himself and ends up falling for her. The plot is even further complicated by the fact that there is an antagonist who follows them from life to life guided by a mysterious person who also has the memory.
     Ok, let’s not discuss reincarnation or anything like that. I make no secret of my faith and I believe when people die they go to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. There isn’t an in between state, and I see no reason to believe in a do-over.
     Now, on to the book itself. First of all, don’t read it. Honestly, I read it because I needed something fluffy. I really want to meet my goal of reading 200 books in 2012, and I’m behind. As in, I’m so behind I potentially need to read a book a day. I needed some serious fluff (hah…serious fluff). Also, as December looms closer with the promise of a trip to see Boyfriend, my mind is having a very tough time concentrating. It’s all I can do to keep up my schedule of ten pages a day of John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. So I thought to myself, who better to provide this fluff than Ann Brashares, author of the popular Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series? I couldn’t think of a better candidate either. This book is a little different from the Traveling Pants series in that it’s decidedly darker and there are a lot more of “those scenes” in it. I mean, a LOT! So, yes, if you read it, you can’t blame me.
     Now, I admit, the plot is interesting to me. Time travel (let’s call it that since reincarnation just has way too much baggage) kind of interests me. Mainly because I haven’t seen it done plausibly yet. There is so much potential for an interesting tale, but so much potential for failure. In my mind, Brashares did a decent job. She might have nailed it if the book was about two hundred pages shorter. Now, this is partially because she cheated and didn’t really use actual time travel, but still. I think if you can swallow the reincarnation theme, it’s a fairly interesting beginning to a story. Beginning you say? I'll get to that. 
     What interested me the most was not the romance. (I know, surprise surprise) Rather it was this thought: What if you remembered everything you’ve ever done, not just in this life but in many lives. Now, personally I just need to look back on a few things I’ve done in my one life and experience a crushing amount of guilt. But what if you had to keep living lives until you could right a really big bad wrong you have done? Well, the obvious answer to a believer is that you can’t. You don’t get do-overs and even if you did you would still screw up. Just thinking about this made me very grateful for Jesus Christ who not only died for all the sins I’ve committed, but lived a perfect life for me.
     The book did have a lot of interesting side thoughts. The protagonist has been around since the early 500s and has seen certain ideas and technologies and inventions come into vogue and pass out again, supporting the biblical idea that "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) So, things like that did give me a little thinking to do, and I like books that give me little ideas like that to ponder.
     It wasn’t until the very unsatisfactory end that I googled and learned that this was supposed to be the first book in a planned trilogy. Ms. Brashares never started the second and third book because this book just didn’t sell. I can see why. Though there were interesting tidbits to think about the book itself was entirely too long. There were so many parts I would have chosen to cut (particularly the sex…can I say this enough? There are a bunch of readers who DO. NOT. WANT. to read that!) and so much confusion. Also, readers of Ms. Brashares former Traveling Pants series would probably pick this up thinking it was going to be another heartwarming coming of age teen drama and find something entirely darker and heavier. I imagine the reception wasn’t overwhelming. It is a problem when you write for one specific audience and then want to branch out.
     So, mainly because of the inappropriate scenes, but also because it’s a part of a trilogy that may never come into being, I don’t think you should read it. But if you are a believer you should thank God for your one life to live and Jesus Christ who has already interceded for the wrongs you’ve committed. 

26 September 2012

The Stranger by Albert Camus

  I feel a little weird offering a review of a book that is considered a classic. I'm sure there are many people who have already written reviews and analytical papers and possibly a masters thesis on this book, so I feel a little ill equipped to offer much of anything, but I took some advice from a wise friend and write this blog for me. So, really, these are just thoughts I had about Albert Camus's The Stranger.

   I read The Stranger along with several people over at The Gospel Coalition. Leland Ryken led the discussion which was possibly the best way to read something like this. I can almost guarantee you would be sitting there reading it and thinking "WHY am I reading this? This is so BLAH. He's telling me every detail like all details are important and he's saying nothing matters!" Aha! You would have hit the nail on the head and you wouldn't even know why. If you want to read this book, I recommend the series of posts by Leland Ryken over at TGC.

   The story is absurd. No, seriously, that’s the genre. Most basic literature classes will also have this novel as a fine example of an existentialist novel as well. It’s about a man named Meursault (don’t worry, I couldn’t pronounce that either) who ends up on trial, not for the crime he actually commits, but for who he is. It’s also about a meaningless world, which Camus believes is our world. I don’t want to go into the details too thoroughly because I don’t like to spoil anything for anyone, and because I believe that Camus is less interested in telling us a story than telling us his worldview. Though I do admit the story is compelling as the main character becomes more sympathetic.

   Something Mr. Ryken brought up, which I think is very important, is that Christians need to read things like this to understand the world around them. Now, at first I balked at this thinking, WHY would I need to get in the mud to understand it is dirty? I once had a young man tell me that he watched some movie that I thought was very sexually inappropriate, in order to “really get a feel for man’s depravity.” I thought that was a bit of a cop out, but Mr. Ryken has a point. It is helpful to function in our world if we understand the underlying worldviews of others. It is particularly helpful to evangelism to understand how non-Christians think. This novel, as a quintessential existentialist novel can help you in just that way. Particularly at the very end of the novel, the existential mindset including the ultimate rejection of God is on display quite clearly.

   Another thing worth noting is the grace of God. I mean, I suppose the grace of God is always worth noting, but as Christians when we read something like The Stranger we can be even more thankful for it. I mean, why is everyone not going around committing crimes because it doesn’t really matter whether they do or not. Why isn’t everyone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife as depraved as they can possibly be? As one of the characters of The Brothers Karamazov would say “For if there's no everlasting God, there's no such thing as virtue, and there's no need of it.” It is pretty amazing that we worship a God who gives common grace to people to restrain them from doing all evil all the time.

   I think Camus is a very talented writer. He’s like a lyrical Hemmingway. Most of his prose is very sparse, but the way he manipulates words is the work of a genius. There were several sentences I had to re-read out loud because of how perfect they were. Not one word was unnecessary. You hear that Mr. Camus. Forget all the hat tips you’ve been given by actual literary theorists and literature professors. You have now been given credit as a good writer on my blog. Can you tell I still feel a little strange talking about this? I know I said earlier that I thought Mr. Camus was less interested in telling us a story than telling us his worldview. However, in order to get the reader into the worldview, Mr. Camus had to sell the reader on the story.

   Meursault is a weird guy. You begin the novel thinking he’s actually a psychopath. He can’t seem to feel emotions and when he does they are poorly prioritized. He got more upset about the towels in the bathroom at his office than the fact that his mother died. So, when he commits the crime, no one is surprised. It isn’t until nearly the end of the book that the reader begins to feel sympathetic to him. Mr. Camus himself has made allusions to Meursault as a possible Christ figure. "One would . . . not be much mistaken," he says at the beginning of the American translation of this book, "to read The Stranger as the story of a man who, without any heroics, agrees to die for the truth. . . .  I have tried to draw in my character the only Christ we deserve" At least for me, the strange fascination with Meursault was what kept me focused on the story and let me get a glimpse of Mr. Camus’s worldview. That and Albert Camus’s style are reason enough to recommend this book to others, particularly those interested in understanding the culture we live in.


29 August 2012

What's On Your Nighstand (September)

Yes, I'm late on this. It's a miracle I got to it at all. If you are remotely interested in what's on my nightstand (really this is a misnomer, I ought to call it, what is in a gigantic stack at the side of my bed looking at me in the morning and mocking me as I fall asleep at night) you may thank Shostagirl for giving me the inspiration to write this up anyway.

What's On Your
What's on Your Nightstand is a meme brought to you by 5 Minutes for Books and the letter M. I don't even plan on reviewing the last Nightstand post because I don't remember it, and I wouldn't expect you to either. So, starting fresh:

  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens: Yeah, I'm going to admit it. If you keep up with Carrie's blog at all, you know there are some slackers in the club. I'm one of them. Does it make a difference that this is the second time I've read it. And I LOVE it! And it probably won't be the last? Maybe?
  • Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America by Sarah M. Evans: One of those books I'm reading to keep up with my brilliant boyfriend. It's in progress now.
  • The Shadow Rising (#4 Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan: Yup...still doing that.
  • Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture by Grant Wacker: And yet another history book.
  • Religion in America Since 1945: A History by Patrick N. Allitt: Anyone want to take a guess at what this one is about. I'm thinking perhaps it has something to do with hmm, religion perhaps? I'm getting the vibes of a historical survey since maybe the mid 1940s. I do sometimes have to laugh a little at the inventiveness of these titles.
  • From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994 by Dan T. Carter
  • The Surrendered Wife and The Surrendered Single by Laura Doyle: Recommendation from a friend. I got both because I'm neither a wife...nor single. So, why not?

   Despite my making fun of all my history titles, I've been dreadfully excited to be reading them. Not just because they are of significant interest to my significant other, but because I haven't been reading a lot of history this year and I've really missed it. Getting it back into my life has been wonderful. So, even if you are raising your eyebrow over my list and thinking, "Well, Heather, Bleak House might be good if he wasn't so verbose, and the one fantasy book might be neat, but other than that....sounds kind of boring." You can content yourself with the knowledge that this month I shall be very happy with my book list. 

24 August 2012

History Reviewlets (Part 1)

   So, I bet that title caught your attention right? I'm sure everyone has a hankering to cuddle up with a nice history monograph, yes? Anyone? No? Really? Well, I am actually one of those people who does enjoy doing that, within reason. I've been reading some of the books my significant other is reading for his upcoming exams, and it's been really fun (for the most part)! Don't tell anyone, but I'm actually getting a Masters education right now without paying for it. (shhhh!) Ok, not really, but I do feel like I'm getting a bit of an "in" here.

   I thought since I hadn't posted in what seems like forever I'd get back into it by giving you little snapshots of what I've been reading with him. I began typing this with every intention of listing all of them, but I realized how long it was getting to be (story of my blog!) and decided to do this in installments. I'm nervous about this because I worry a little that he'll read this and think, "What!? Did you even read that book? That is not what it was saying." (He'll actually be a lot nicer than that) But that will be fine because if I understand something incorrectly he can point out what I missed. So, in order of appearance:

The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward (Completed): It's basically what it sounds like. The book charts the Jim Crow laws in the South, how they came in and how they died (or if they died). This was actually really interesting to me particularly because Mr. Woodward pointed out that segregation wasn't a problem during slavery. Because of slavery there was almost a forced (I hesitate to use) camaraderie that existed between white and black, just due to so much interaction. Also there was a very fixed hierarchy during slavery days. It wasn't until after emancipation did the whites feel a "need" to establish some form of dominance that had nothing to do with owning the now freed blacks. I feel like I ought to have known that. It was one of those things you read and think, "Oh. That makes...so much sense. Why did I not consciously know that before." But yes, I learned something. Also, I enjoyed how the author didn't rail on the southerners. He very fairly pointed out that Jim Crow thinking was kind of an imported idea from the North.

The Search for Order by Robert Wiebe (Completed): Here are my thoughts on this book. 1. It's a very tedious book; 2. I'm sure it is very helpful in establishing a lot of the thinking during the Progressive Era (of particular interest to John); 3. It's a very tedious book; 4. "Wiebe" is a fun name to say in a squeaky voice; 5. Annie and I kept calling it The Search for Search and now I have issues calling it by its official name; 6. It's a very tedious book; 7. There is a very long chapter in it about economics that basically made me look like this.  I hope that sums up how I felt about this one.

The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics 1830-1930 by Anne Firor Scott:  This was probably the most interesting of the books I've read so far (though the one I'll talk about after this is a close second). Most likely because women's history interests me. (Go figure...) Sometimes it can be a little infuriating, but it is very interesting to see what people have to say about it.
Ms. Scott had four main points (see, I really liked it because she laid out her points right in the introduction). 1. The cultural ideal of the "southern lady." 2. The pressure on women to conform to that ideal. 3. The ways in which the actual southern lady differed from the ideal, and 4. The breakaway into freedom from the ideal.  Now, there were very interesting things that I learned. I learned that some historians make the link between the patriarchal system in the home to the patriarchal system in the broader culture (White Americans over Americans of other races). I learned that there were a lot of silly things said about what an ideal woman should be. I wish I hadn't given the book back to the library in order to quote some of this stuff, but one thing I thought was hilarious was how the ideal lady was supposed to be vulnerable and need a protector, yet endowed with a "magic spell" (yes, that was a real quote!) to draw any man in her circle to her, in order to achieve said protector.  It was fairly accepted that unless you married you were basically not fulfilling God's will for you. Also, there were essays written urging women to submit to their husbands even when asked to do something wrong.
However, as funny/disconcerting/infuriating as I do find all that stuff, I do actually believe in the whole 'headship' thing. It's in the bible, so I take it seriously. Though, one also finds, "We ought to obey God rather than men," in the bible. And there are instances of single people having a place in God's plan as well. I do think Ms. Scott would go further than I would in the excoriation of this ideal lady. She gave one instance of a diary kept by a young woman listing what Ms. Scott thought were excessive resolutions. Listed among them were, "Read the bible every morning," "Pray before the rest of the house wakes up." How shocking, don't you think?
Something that stood out to me that I really wish I wrote down was Ms. Scott's apparent confusion that a patriarchal domestic system could actually contain happy marriages. She even said something to the extent of (and this is my paraphrase) "What is surprising is not that so many marriages were unhappy marriages, but that they seemed to be happy." And then she listed letters between husbands and wives that surprisingly contained actual romantic feelings. Imagine that. It's almost like God had a plan for men being the head of the household and it actually works.
So, you may know by the rambling I'm doing here, that I had some ideological differences with Ms. Scott, but I really appreciated her research. Basically I wanted to be her just because she had the opportunity to read diaries and letters and sermons and essays from before the Civil War. That just seems neat to me. I'm glad I read the book.

The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950 by  Jenna Weissman Joselit (In progress): Unfortunately I have not made much progress in this book yet. I had to set it down to read Bleak House for one book club and My Name is Mary Sutter for another. However, the book will end up how it sounds. It will talk about Jewish Culture in America, from 1880 to 1950. (That's the nice thing about History books...or the annoying thing depending on who you are...there really aren't many surprises) From what I understand the author is positing that "Jewishness" in America became more based upon the individual and the home rather than on tradition. This seems like it makes sense considering the American culture of individualism. Anyway, I've really been interested in it.

I think that is all I will do for now. I did go on about The Southern Lady longer than I meant to. I'll have more soon, I hope.

31 July 2012

Chronicles Concluded...sort of...

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

   Well, I didn't finish the whole series. I really thought that since it was a series, and since I read so fast anyway, it wouldn't be a problem at all to crank out oh say...a book a day. In theory this was actually very true, but something came up, you see.  I'd say I regret not finishing, but it just really wouldn't be true. I'm of course going to go ahead and finish the books, but not in the time I thought I would. I did get to The Magician's Nephew (reading non chronologically). So, it's not really the worst I could have done. I could have reached The Magician's Nephew reading chronologically. Hahaha...I don't even think I could blame my overfull heart for that.

   Also, late night phone conversations for three days in a row, regardless of how wonderful the person on the other end is, is bad for the brain. Do you know this? I did, theoretically. I have tried it out for myself, however, and I can guarantee that it's true. SO, I am going to do Mr. Lewis a favor and NOT attempt to review any of his wonderful wonderful Narnia tales, while my brain is in such a tizzy.

   Hopefully in the upcoming weeks I'll be less twitterpated and able to think about what I'm reading. Lies. I hope I'm never less twitterpated, but I DO hope I'll be able to think clearly about what I'm reading. Anyway, Carrie, as always it was fun. Can't wait to half participate in more of your challenges!

05 July 2012

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris (Part 2)

   A while ago I posted about what Joshua Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye isn’t about. Now, I’d like to take a minute and tell you what it is about. This is mainly for those who haven’t read it, but if it’s been a while, this review might be worthwhile to you. 

   I Kissed Dating Goodbye is about submitting yourself (particularly in your romantic relationships) to God and His will. Yep, it’s true. In spite of what you may have heard, that is basically what it is about. 

   Mr. Harris has been quoted in the past saying that he could have named the book, “I Kissed Short Term Premature Selfish Directionless Romantic Relationships Goodbye” but that would be too long of a title. His point is not (as I’ve already made clear) “dating is bad.” His point is that God has a plan that includes who will we marry (or IF we will marry) and we don’t need to act in fear that maybe God has forgotten us. We don’t need to pursue short term premature selfish directionless romantic relationships in hopes that we might one day turn up lucky. We can find contentment in our singleness and eventually move toward marriage with someone without breaking hearts along the way.

   Now I brought up the fact last week that the book was written mainly to the very young. Mr. Harris constantly questions the wisdom of intimacy before being ready to commit. This does not mean that it has nothing to say to older singles. (Am I allowed to call myself an “older single”?) In fact, I was so surprised at how much I got out of my rereading. 

   I found the parts that deal with utilizing your time of singleness instead of getting impatient and just dating someone because you can really spoke to me. There are just things one can do as a single person, that are harder to do as a married person. And I’m not just talking about getting to stay up later and getting away with eating ice cream and cheez-its for dinner (as fun as both of those may be). You can be fully devoted to improving your walk with God and be an asset to your church and community. I’m being careful here because obviously there are married men and women who are fully devoted to improving their walk with God and are major assets to their church and community. But when you are married you have responsibilities to your spouse, and to your children if God has blessed you in this way. They are wonderful and joyful responsibilities, but they are responsibilities. Single people have a more open schedule and can be more accommodating to the needs of their church and community. I’m actually reading Nancy Wilson’s Why Isn’t a Pretty Girl Like You Married: And Other Useful Comments and I just finished a chapter where she outlines all the opportunities for single (women in particular, but men too) people. Mr. Harris points out that dating (in the way he is defining it) could distract us from these opportunities.

    Not that singleness is always a fun walk in the park. I’ve entered a season of peace with it, but ask me in another year and I may have a different answer for you. Sometimes it’s a real trial and struggle. But the bible talks about struggle quite a bit and there is always a reason for it. God loves us and His love often takes the form of loving us into loveliness. This often means change. The change often involves pain and trial and hardship. Singleness for those who don’t feel like they’ve been called to be single can be one of those very ways God is changing you and teaching you. Mr. Harris thinks that avoiding this process by entering those short term premature selfish directionless romantic relationships, can be harmful. 

   I also found applicable the section where Mr. Harris talks about how we need to be on the lookout for each other. We need to be guarding our hearts and being sure not to mess about with the hearts of others. Now, I’ve heard many people (Mr. Harris included) talking about people who have taken this to an extreme. They cite examples where the young people are so worried about guarding each other’s hearts, that they don’t speak to each other. Ok, that’s a problem. But I’ve been on the other side of the problem, and let me tell you, I almost wish the other person in question had chosen to not talk to me at all rather than pursue a pseudo more-than-friends-relationship that ended up stealing a lot of my peace and my contentment with what God has for me right now. I’m not advocating the genders never interact, but I am advocating wisdom in our dealings with one another, keeping in mind that women and men think, act, and speak differently. I think Mr. Harris would agree.  

   Now, Mr. Harris says at the end of the book, ““The Bible doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all-program for moving from friendship to marriage. Our lives are too different, our circumstances too unique, and our God too creative to have only one formula for romance.”[1] But ultimately, I leave you with a question. How is dating working for you? Have you fled temptation, guarded your heart, kept yourself accountable with spiritual mentors, continued your walk with the spirit, and are working towards a God-honoring marriage with another person? Then GREAT! You just described what Mr. Harris has been describing all along. You just call it by a different name. But if you have found yourself compromising your purity, testing the limits of “how far you can go,” avoiding godly counsel, and just stringing someone along or know you are being strung along, perhaps it’s time to get out of the game, and re-think what you are playing.

[1] Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Books, 1997), page 205

03 July 2012

The Great Narnia Adventure

   If you read this blog, you may be slightly aware that I am reading everything of C.S. Lewis. Ever. (A commenter pointed out that in order to do this I'd have to read sections of the OED, but don't confuse me with the facts, people!) You might know that I have this blog with my friend Libby where we discuss Lewis's A Problem of Pain, and you will NOW know that I am joining this challenge with my friend, Carrie.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

   I'm so very very excited because I will be rereading The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time since my baby sister (?)...brother (?) was five. (For the record, I do know the gender of my younger siblings, but my mom read them aloud to us when each kid turned five and I'm not sure she did it for the last kid.....our poor caboose!) So, that is more years ago than I care to say, but it's definitely been too long.

   I also have been thinking this whole time that I was just planning on reading the series and that would be my participation in the Narnia Reading Challenge, but what if I wanted MORE? I mean, at the rate I read I could very well finish the series in the first part of the month and then I'd have two weeks of watching other people in the Reading to Know crowd do other cool Narnia stuff while I did nothing. So, I will give this a little more thought, and I might come up with more ideas of how to participate.

   And if you needed any FURTHER reasons as to why I'm so excited, the Reading to Know 2012 book club selection for July is any Narnia book! It all works perfectly. Anyway, regardless of how much gets done, I'm going to enjoy the month of July very much. Thank you, Carrie!

02 July 2012

"A Girl of the Limberlost" by Gene Stratton-Porter

     I'm a little late to the party.

Reading to Know - Book Club

     I realized that the deadline was coming up and I picked up the book last Wednesday night. I usually can blast through a book like this in a few days so I didn't think it would be a problem. 

     It's a story of a girl named Elnora, who is neglected by a mother whose life has been soured by her husband's early death. The girl rises above her circumstances by finding ways to earn her way through in life. Eventually becoming a teacher, finding love, and reclaiming her mother's heart along the way. 

     This was one of the slowest books I've ever read. I really like peaceful quiet stories, but this will probably have to go down as a little on the boring side. No. A lot on the boring side. It's a pleasant tale, but it was incredibly preachy! I read it before when I was about 14 or 15 and I remember not liking it, but it wasn't for the preachy aspects. So, maybe parents of young girls who would like to give their daughters a hefty dose of sound morals might consider this a good book. Rereading it at the age I am, I found myself saying, "Ok, you made your point. I agree with you. Stop harping on it."

     I didn't like it when I was young because I thought Philip, Elnora's love interest, showed too much attention to Elnora before he had broken off his engagement to his fiancee, Edith. I have somewhat altered my opinion. I DO think he showed a wee bit too much attention to Elnora while they were together, but this time around I did end up believing that he wasn't just breaking up with one girl because he fell for a new one. I, like many of the other bloggers reading this book, agree that Elnora did the right thing by establishing firmly in the mind of Philip and his ex-fiancee that Philip really was "over" Edith. Unfortunately this part, which I tend to consider the redeeming factor, doesn't happen until nearly the end of the book and you have to slog through a LOT to get there.

    Also, there were a few times characters were referenced from her previous works. So, I'm sure a reading of Freckles would have helped. I had Freckles read to me when I was a very very young person, so I had absolutely no recollection of who the other characters were. And when you have two characters named "Freckles" and "The Swamp Angel" it leaves you more than a little curious.

     Again, it's a book I think is tame and pleasant and maybe good for younger girls, but I could think of quite a few young adult books that I personally would rather read. Anne of Green Gables comes to mind. I'm glad it was picked for June because I highly doubt I would have picked it up again for any other reason.

28 June 2012

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 7 - Most Underrated Book

1984 by Geo-ok ok...

Well, I haven't done an update from the challenge in a really long time, so I figured, no time like the present. Only when I sat down to type this out, I found myself stumped. A lot of the books I really love and appreciate are already well rated books. This then caused a momentary existential crisis. Do I know who I am? Do I think for myself? Or is everything I consider good and beautiful just laid out for me by "the man."

I've recovered from my slump when I realized exactly what I would do. I can't pinpoint an exact book, but there is an author who I feel is grossly underrated. Her name is Anne Bronte. Now, I know you know there is a third Bronte sister, but have you ever read anything by her? That's right, you haven't. Because for some reason (despite the fact that she's far superior to her sisters...and I am someone who loves the Brontes more than Austin, and I dearly love Austin) Anne Bronte's works have gone fairly unnoticed compared to her sisters' books.

My personal pet theory is that her books are a lot more solid and grounded than her sister's books. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are both almost magical and sweeping romances that are admittedly a little thrilling, particularly to the female soul. Not to mention their dark horse heroes who fascinate and repel us at the same time. Not so Anne's hero. He's a dreadful person and serves as a warning to young women not to fall for such rogues!...Ok, I should really stop talking like this. 

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is her most notable work. So, assuming you actually knew her name, this is probably the one you would have heard of first (and the reason I refer to her hero in the singular). If you look it up you'll find critics decrying it as anti-alcohol propaganda and others praising it as a feminist landmark in the literary world. I tend to think reducing it to either of those, is not to do justice to Anne Bronte, but perhaps it's just time I read it again. Someone should appreciate it for what it is. A work of art and a great story.

27 June 2012

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

     I read Isabel Allende’s My Invented Country: A Memoir with one of my “real life” book clubs. (For expediency’s sake I will call them The Church Book Club and The Library Book Club…this was for The Library Book Club) I picked it up with some trepidation since Allende was a name I had heard before with much praise for her writing skills and much warning about her inappropriate content.

     The book’s subtitle is A Memoir and it’s with good reason. I would summarize it as Ms. Allende’s opinion of Chile and everything else. She begins by explaining how much nostalgia is central to what she writes and how her plots and characters are born from a sense of nostalgia. Then she goes on to describe her early life in Chile and her eventual exile during the reign of Augusto Pinochet to Venezuela eventually ending with her marriage to her second husband, who she lives with now in California. In between the story of her life, the reader is treated (or has forced upon, depending on your personal convictions) Ms. Allende’s opinion of pretty much everything: Feminism, Language, Childhood, Marriage, Socialism, America. You name it, she has an opinion on it.

     Some of the ladies in my group were upset because they wanted to know more about Chile, but I didn’t find it upsetting. I think the nature of memoir is such that you get the facts according to one person. I’m not being a relativist here, but if you get two people in two different rooms who witnessed the same event, they may have the salient points, but the stories they tell will be vastly different. I found that she was rather honest at the beginning and the conclusion about how much this was life in Chile from her own perspective.

     I thought it was enjoyable how she mixed fact and fiction at random times during the book, so you weren’t even really sure how much of what she was saying was true. I wouldn’t have accepted this from an historian, but from someone writing her perspective on her own country and her own life, I actually found it sort of adventurous and interesting. What I didn’t particularly enjoy were her politics, particularly regarding feminism or her religious cynicism, found throughout the book. There was also a rather cheap shot at George Bush which to me is a bit of a tired joke. (Haw haw...our former President didn't do well speaking extemporaneously lolz rofl !!1!)

     I do have to give Ms. Allende credit for fairness in her comparing and contrasting of her old country, lost to her on September 11, 1973 with the coup of Salvador Allende and rise of Augusto Pinochet and her new country, America, gained on September 11, 2001, with the attack on the World Trade Center. She doesn’t just take the low hanging fruit of “stupid Americans” or “evil white males” that I think we tend to help perpetuate, but she’s honest about our flaws and about Chile’s flaws, from her point of view. And she is generous in her praise of both countries (she’s a little more biased in Chile’s favor, but I would be too were I born and raised there. I’m a little more biased in America’s favor, so I didn’t think it was a big deal). I also found the loss of country and gain of country, both on September 11th very moving.

     Also, I'd like to bring attention to the fact that Ms. Allende focuses a lot on her family and her community. This is actually something I really appreciate about South American and Mexican culture in general. There is an emphasis on the importance of family and community. And there is a sense of being grounded in something and coming from somewhere that I think we often take for granted. I found myself personally connecting with the unwritten rule that you never come to someone's house empty handed. My great-grandmother who emigrated from Mexico with her husband lived by the exact same rule. Ms. Allende's family in particular seems to be made up of some very eccentric and strange people, but in mainly harmless and endearing ways.

     I’m glad I read it. I found her writing style and humor very compelling. I think whether she wants to acknowledge it or not, God has given her a particular writing talent. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I cared more about her as a person, by which I mean, I have interacted with her other books. I felt the same way when reading Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood. I thought Ms. Dillard was funny and creative and a very talented writer, but I just wasn’t convinced I cared about her life because I hadn’t formed a relationship with her by reading any of her previous works. I think before I recommend her though, I’d like to read one or two of her books.

   I’d specifically like to read The House of Spirits which started originally as a long letter to her grandfather while Ms. Allende was living in exile. She found out he was dying and began to write to him in a burst of nostalgia. The letter eventually became the novel. I tend to think it’s a little sad that he never actually got the letter, but it does make for an interesting story behind the story.

26 June 2012

What's on Your Nightstand: July

What's On Your
Nightstand   I am pleased to report that most of the titles I posted in my very first "What's on Your Nightstand" post have been completed. The two non completed ones are C.S. Lewis's A Problem of Pain and Albert Camus's The Stranger. But I have stupendously good excuses for both. I'm reading The Stranger along with the folks at The Gospel Coalition and they aren't done. I'm reading the Lewis book with my friend Libby to discuss on our new blog. These things take time, and I probably shouldn't have put them on my "Nightstand" list. So, keep in mind that I'm still reading both of those titles even though they won't be added to this list.

Without any more explanation here are my next adventures into the literary realm:

  • Room by Emma Donahue: I know nothing about this title. It’s a book I’m reading for the Silver Falls Book Club, and that’s all I know. If it helps explain the book at all, I secretly call the lady who picked it “Our Sincere Liberal.” I mean that in a kind way. I like her a lot.
  • Juliet in August by Dianne Warren: I won this book from Goodreads, and I hope to finish it soon and get a review out. In the cover letter from the publishers there was a blurb by Ivan Doig praising Ms. Warren’s book. So, that seemed positive. The book has been released before under the name Cool Water. I’m a lot more drawn to Juliet in August aren’t you? It’s set in the small desert town of Juliet, Saskatchewan. Yes, in Canada. Did you know there were deserts in Canada? I did not. This was entirely new to me. Anyway, the story sort of revolves around this town and the people in it. It’s one of those “everyone has a story” books, which I find really interesting.
  • The Dragon Reborn (#3 Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan: Pretty self explanatory. The third book in that fantasy series I talked about last time. At this rate, by the end of the year I’ll be finished with them. Did you know they might be making a movie out of this series? It’s a good thing I’m finishing them now before the rush to put them on hold at the library happens.
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson: What can I say about Ms. Robinson. She has restored my faith in Christian fiction. She weaves a beautiful story and revels in the loveliness of our language. Yet at the same time she holds firmly to truth and right and even mixes doctrine in. She’s living proof that you can write truth and still have it be compelling and beautiful (Yes, William Young, I’m looking at you!)
  • Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon. I don’t know anything about this book, but Carrie reviewed it (I’m not linking because I don’t want to accidentally spoil a plot for myself) and Libby read it. Libby has been needing someone else to read it so she can discuss it with someone. So I’m obliging her.
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: Because C.S. Lewis quoted it in The Problem of Pain and because I just felt like it, and because books as good as that ought to be re-read.
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand: I had no intention of reading this book until I read Unbroken by the same author and since it was one of my top ten favorite books of all time, I decided to check into this one too. 
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: Carrie's doing it. I use this excuse an awful lot it seems. hehehe...

And so, there you go! I can't wait to click around online and see what everyone else is reading in the upcoming month.What's on Your Nightstand is hosted monthly at 5 Minutes for Books.

20 June 2012

World War Z by Max Brooks

   These past two days I read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. I know what you are thinking. You are now completely skeptical of my reading habits, but please hold your judgment till the end.

     First, I’d like to get a few things off my chest. I enjoy scaring myself. I like scary movies (provided it’s actual thrills and not visceral repulsion I am experiencing) and I have a weakness for zombie movies in particular. So, when I first heard about World War Z I thought it would be scary and maybe a little cheesy and knew I would definitely read it. Plus, I had two friends who really enjoyed it and I try to get to things friends recommend. ("Try" being the key word there)

    Also I need to say as always, this review is not necessarily an endorsement unless you know how much you can handle. If you don’t like being scared, don’t read it. If you are sensitive to violence and swearing, don’t read it. There is quite a bit of bad language and I feel like it should be a gimme that a book with “zombie” and “war” in the title will be violent. 

     The actual book is set up as a series of interviews with survivors of the zombie war. The war has been over for a little over a decade now and Mr. Brooks plays the part of a reporter going around the world asking for survivors’ stories. From a Russian soldier to a suburban housewife in Texas, to America’s former chief of staff Grover Carlson (<-- Ho! Ho! Ho! See what he did there?) stories of the zombie war are collected. 

      I was surprised by how non-cheesy this book was. You almost forgot (aside from the actual zombie encounters) the improbability of the world being attacked by the living dead. It was actually more of a backdrop for Mr. Brooks’s social commentary. Now, with the cheap shot at Karl Rove (Grover Carlson) above, you can tell that I didn’t 100% embrace his social commentary, but it was interesting to see how much of our world he was able to capture. There were the noble and the villains. There was a disabled man who risked his life to keep his neighborhood safe at night and there was the scientist who invented a vaccine he knew didn’t work in order to get rich off of people’s fear. There was the suburban housewife who was able to save her child from a zombie with her bare hands, and the general who ordered his men to leave the civilians on their own. 

     World War Z also left the reader questioning how aware we are of what is going on. We know a zombie uprising is absurd, but how many other things do we hear about in our busy lives and turn a blind eye to because they happen somewhere else in the world, or they don’t concern us. I’m not here to guilt trip. I usually hate it when people do this, but it did make me think about how I don’t even know what the news headlines are right now. There could actually be a zombie outbreak and I wouldn’t know. I’m kidding. Kinda. Mainly. 

     Another issue the book discusses is governments not dealing with problems and covering them up instead. Now, I’m not going to get conspiracy theory here. I realize there are things for the sake of national security that it is probably good we don’t know about. But two examples did come to mind. The first is the HIV/AIDS outbreak in Russia. Russia is on track to have more cases of AIDS than most African countries, and their government refuses to acknowledge it. There was some talk from Mr. Putin in 2011 about the need for health reform, but it has so far proved to just be talk. 
     The next not everyone will agree with me, but it’s abortion in the United States. There are about 3,000 babies killed daily in the United States (yes, roughly the same amount of people killed in the attack on 9/11), and our government has decided that not only is that ok, but in some cases it would be wrong to NOTabort. We also use certain euphemisms to smooth over what is actually happening. We now use phrases like “termination” or “just a bundle of cells.” We mythologize it like it’s helpful and empowering to women. And we make this “choice” rather cost efficient too: It is roughly $450 for an abortion in the first trimester, and roughly $9,000 for a natural birth with no complications. Not that these numbers should be a surprise to Christians, but while reading the book I definitely thought of ways we cover up daily what we don’t want to think about. Nah-hah, Mr. Brooks, I bet you didn’t foresee someone using your book to discuss abortion, eh?
     *gets down from soap box*

     Ahem…anyway, I really did end up liking the book a lot more for the commentary and the exceedingly realistic depictions of human-nature, good and bad, than for the actual zombie part. In ways it reminded me of George Orwell’s 1984 (Oh no, Heather! Not that again) (You there! Quiet!). The characters in World War Z  were obviously much less one-dimensional than Julia and Winston, but the theme of the necessity of an alert people is very much the same. Both books have a bleak and futuristic setting born of a President who is more concerned with his election and power than his people (<--every president ever), a government willing to ignore widespread issues, and people who don’t pay attention. (Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”)

08 June 2012

A Woman's Wisdom by Lydia Brownback: Teil Zwei

Well, in all technicality it's part five, but this is the second post from me. I wrote a more in depth review of Lydia Brownback's A Woman's Wisdom for Carrie's blog. You should check it out, and then read all the other posts for this week. Mainly because this is your last chance to enter your name to receive a FREE copy of this book!

07 June 2012

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

   For whatever reason, Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye has cycled back into my life. I find myself having conversations with friends about it and oddly, none of them have been positive. One friend suggested I reread it, thinking that with age and experience (<-- haw haw), I would have a different opinion. I reread it. I retain the same opinion. I found I Kissed Dating Goodbye to still be the helpful and honest book, I found it at fifteen or sixteen. And it’s a book still needed at a time when purity and commitment are rare. 

   Before I say a whole lot here, I need to point out that while I was writing this review I realized my notes were going on far too long for my readers to read, unless they are committed friends in real life, who will struggle through a ridiculously long blog post just for me. So, in order to hold the attention of my readers, and spare my IRL friends the sacrifice, I condensed my thoughts into two posts. Really this is quite a feat considering I have SO much to say about this book....and considering that I...just like to talk. Probably need this blog from Carrie actually.

   I’d like to begin by getting some misconceptions out of the way first. I feel like whenever I talk to people about this book, they quote Mr. Harris incorrectly or talk about one of his anecdotes and apply it in some way that I was fairly sure he didn’t mean it to be applied. If I can recall all of them I’ll attempt to set the record straight. (Now isn’t THAT bombastic? My small time blog post is going to be the DEFINITIVE answer on I Kissed Dating Goodbye…yes, Mr. Harris, you may now write me an e-mail and thank me for the good work I do on your behalf. Haha…I joke)

   At the time I Kissed Dating Goodbye was published, Mr. Harris was very young. He was younger than I am now, and I’m young. Some people saw this as presumptive and still others view this book as the final say in all romantic entanglements at all walks of life. I believe both of these are inaccurate. To the charge of presumption: please reread and listen to Mr. Harris’s tone. If it doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. He’s not “telling others what to do.” He’s sharing (aha! Look…I used “sharing.” Points for cultural relevancy!)  his life and his own experiences with friends. He’s challenging others to think about what they are doing and whether the values they accept are from the world or from the word. If we don’t allow our young people to challenge other young people, we are discouraging them from acting as a part of the body in holding one another accountable.

   Let me bring something out that I just said: “allowing young people to challenge other young people.” This is a man barely out of his twenties writing to other people in their late teens or early twenties. I hope I don’t’ step on any young reader’s toes when I say romantic relationships begun in the late teens and early twenties rarely end up in marriage and often end up in compromised purity, broken hearts, and hurt people. This is the group Mr. Harris addresses. He isn’t absolutely explicit in this (and there are DEFINITELY things that are helpful to read even now as an adult), but the book wasn’t written with a thirty-year old man with a steady job and a house in mind. One of the ways I know this is Mr. Harris’s continual refrain of not seeking intimacy before you can commit. Obviously, my hypothetical thirty year old man, is ready to commit. 

   Something else I feel needs to be pointed out is that the entirely semantic issue of “dating” v. “courtship” is completely overblown in discussion of the merits of failings of I Kissed Dating Goodbye. On both sides. There are groups who have taken the “courtship” movement so far that they think those who date might as well be living together. There are still others who refuse to listen to anything Mr. Harris says because he thinks dating is sinful. To both groups I’d like to bring to the front this quote from Mr. Harris: “The Bible doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all-program for moving from friendship to marriage. Our lives are too different, our circumstances too unique, and our God too creative to have only one formula for romance.”[1]

   Some smaller issues are that some people accuse Mr. Harris of saying you absolutely cannot ever, under any condition touch one another before you are married. I read the whole thing. There is NO point in the book where he says this. The only place I’m guessing this is coming from is that he questions what right we have to act like we have access to someone’s body, if we are not married to them. And this is a fair question? When you are married you give one another access to your bodies. If you haven’t pledged this to someone, why are you acting as if you had? Mr. Harris never gives us a line like, “no kissing before marriage” or “only hand holding…anything else is out.” In fact, he says quite the opposite, “We have to understand purity as a pursuit of righteousness. When we view it as merely a line, what keeps us from going as close as we can to the edge.”[2] Don’t we all know this to be true? When given a rule, human nature will get as close as we can to the letter of the law, well before we embrace the spirit of it. Lydia Brownback in her book A Woman’s Wisdom addresses this problem in our relationships as well, “"Nowhere in Scripture do we read that sex is okay if you love someone enough. Nor do we find passages that address the oft asked question, "How far can I go before it's sinful?" To even ask this question is to reveal a divided heart.”[3] Later he gives practical suggestions of how one can avoid situations where there might be temptation, but he’s very clear when he says, “Rules by themselves won’t change our hearts, but once we’ve taken on a new attitude, protective boundaries can help keep us on course.”[4]

   Another misconception is that Mr. Harris insists on a chaperone at all times and that your parents basically dictate the terms and rules and direction of your relationship. This is never said either. Some of this stuff, I don’t even understand how it got to be a misconception in the first place. Mr. Harris’s comment on chaperones is actually quite negative. He mentions that when a person is dating according to the world’s attitude, they often pick up on things like, “don’t go anywhere one-on-one” and think that just adding another person will take the intimacy out of things. Again, the divided heart asking what is the least one can get away with. He then talks about how he didn’t appreciate being asked out by friends, only to realize that he was only there to play some kind of rule fulfilling role by being the “third person.” 

   When he talks about parental involvement, he explicitly calls it building a team. He suggests we ask our parents to be on our team. Why? Because they’ve been there and because they love you. Ideally if you are a Christian person with Christian parents, they can hold you accountable in your relationships, like they (again…ideally) do in everything. Now, he also takes into account that you may not live with your parents. Or you may not have a great relationship with your parents. Or your parents may not be Christians. He then suggests finding another (preferably older and wiser) Christian to bounce ideas off and get on your team. To me this doesn’t sound like anything revolutionary or unwise. 

   The only semi fair misconception I've heard is that Mr. Harris says you must be sure you know you will marry someone before you date them. Excuse me, court them. Woo them. Romance them. Seek a deeper relationship with them. Whatever you want to call it. This, isn't exactly what he's saying. I understand how someone would read the book at come away with that, but I think it's reducing his words by a lot. Almost to the point of misquoting him. He does suggest we take relationships more seriously than many people do. He does suggest you have a fairly good idea that you could seek something long term before you involve someone's emotions. But he never says, you must know you will marry someone before you seek something deeper with them. Again, Mr. Harris seems more concerned with the attitude than the "rules."

   So, when I came to the end of the book and found absolutely nothing upsetting or strange or ill advised, I was a bit confused. I don’t know what my friends were seeing that I missed. I have smart friends. I have godly friends. I have friends who do pursue righteousness and the knowledge of God and don’t want to live their lives like the world. I wonder if perhaps the reaction to the book from the more conservative section of Christianity (as in the people who rabidly embraced the concept of “not dating” and turned it into a NEW set of rules that will again just be followed to the letter and not the spirit), is perhaps closing my friends off to the actual message of the book. Mr. Harris in some of his own blogs now says that he still stands by what he wrote, but stands against the ways in which more legalistic minded people have taken his book and run with it. Perhaps it is the after affects that my friends object to?

   What is the actual message you might ask? Well, if you haven’t already read it or are in some way aware of it, I’ll be getting to this in part number two (which might not actually be consecutive by the way). The reason I did this backwards is that I figure most of my friends have read it or know about it in some way. At least in my little corner of Christendom, it was big. Also, the reason I reread it in the first place was because of its vilification in conversations with friends. So, in actuality, I was combing the book as critically as I possibly could and all I could come up with was the post above. However, if I have completely read this wrong, and you know something I don’t know, I’d love to hear your thoughts. In all fairness to Mr. Harris though, I feel like you should come with a quote from him and not from others tending to legalism who took his message too far.

[1] Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Books, 1997), page 205
[2] Ibid., page 91
[3] Lydia Brownback, A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2012), page 142
[4] Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, page 117