What LC Read: Vol. 18 (Mormonism, #MeToo, & Radical Jesus)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019 San Francisco, CA, USA




Elders | Ryan McIlvain 
Notes: Randomly picked this one for the cover/spine art and found it such a satisfying, human introduction to a religion I'm unfamiliar with. I'm always so moved by how people arrive at their beliefs, even when/especially if they're far from mine. I've been reading more faith-based non-fiction, which tends to start from a place of conviction, rather than doubt. While I see their purpose (nobody's going to read a memoir called "I am sure of absolutely nothing, but here goes"), they also seems to create so much distance between those who are struggling in their faith and those who, I guess, don't explicitly admit to doing so. This one felt so tenderly human and forgiving, though the ending was a bit abrupt.
Synopsis: Elder McLeod—outspoken, surly, a brash American—is nearing the end of his mission in Brazil. For nearly two years he has spent his days studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon, knocking on doors, teaching missionary lessons—“experimenting on the word.” His new partner is Elder Passos, a devout, ambitious Brazilian who found salvation and solace in the church after his mother’s early death. The two men are at first suspicious of each other, and their work together is frustrating, fruitless. That changes when a beautiful woman and her husband offer the missionaries a chance to be heard, to put all of their practice to good use, to test the mettle of their faith.  But before they can bring the couple to baptism, they must confront their own long-held beliefs and doubts, and the simmering tensions at the heart of their friendship.
A novel of unsparing honesty and beauty, Elders announces Ryan McIlvain as a writer of enormous talent.




Whisper Network | Chandler Baker
Notes: I hate admitting that I was surprised to like this one, as if it betrays some part of me that doesn't want to root for women. There's so much to untangle in our personal reactions to this book (how quickly we side with the men or not, our insistence that we will uniquely never face such circumstances, our expectations for the respectability politics of womanhood, etc.). I found Whisper Network a worthwhile, "easy" read. Clearly urgent, relevant, and funny enough to avoid being frustratingly prescriptive.
Synopsis: Four women learn their boss (a man who’s always been surrounded by rumors about how he treats women) is next in line to be CEO—what will happen when they decide enough is enough?
Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are four women who have worked at Truviv, Inc., for years. The sudden death of Truviv's CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Ames is a complicated man, a man they’ve all known for a long time, a man who’s always been surrounded by...whispers. Whispers that have always been ignored by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching Ames’s latest promotion differently. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. Sloane and her colleagues set in motion a catastrophic shift within every floor and department of the Truviv offices. All four women’s lives—as women, colleagues, mothers, wives, friends, even adversaries—will change dramatically as a result.
"If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one, “none of this would have happened."




Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth | Reza Aslan
Note: SO GOOD. SO, SO, SO GOOD. Was recommended this by a coworker, which makes me believe more vehemently in the intimacy and friendship of book recommendations. Compelling, powerful evidence that Jesus was/is a man worth following, and not for the reasons so often taught in church. I've never highlighted so many passages in a book or found myself so breathlessly fascinated. I urge you to read this, whatever system of faith you hold (or don't).
Synopsis: Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry—a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.




At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus among My Ancestors & Refugee Neighbors | Russell Jeung
Note: A re-read from two summers ago, At Home in Exile presented additional depth and significance when I tried it again with a more open heart toward's God's grace. This book is exceptionally wise in a way that only arises at intersections of crises: that of the ever-wandering Hakka, that of the justice-minded, imperfect Christian, that of the privileged among the not. I can't recommend this book, especially its epilogue, enough as an example of a true Christianity that resists the white-washed, controlling, conservative message of fearful white supremacists masquerading as evangelicals. "Quite literally," Jeung writes, "God calls us to be guest families who recognize that we do not fit in this world, and that our present sufferings will soon pass. This knowledge enables us to endure and hope, to travel through this life lightly while resolutely seeking the peace of the city. In fact, the Hakka were described as 'a people of the future' precisely because they could suffer through forced migration again and again as they diligently worked for a real home. And today, we Christians in the United States are continually invited by the King of Kings to a rich and royal calling. God invites us to be Hakka."
Synopsis: Russell Jeung’s spiritual memoir shares the joyful and occasionally harrowing stories of his life in East Oakland’s Murder Dubs neighborhood—including battling drug dealers who threatened him, exorcising a spirit possessing a teen, and winning a landmark housing settlement against slumlords with 200 of his closest Cambodian and Latino friends.
More poignantly, At Home in Exile weaves in narratives of longing and belonging as Jeung retraces the steps of his Chinese-Hakka family and his refugee neighbors. In the face of forced relocation and institutional discrimination, his family and friends resisted time and time again over six generations.
With humor and keen insight, At Home in Exile will help you see how living in exile will transform your faith.


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