Review of A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

A Promised Land

by Barack Obama
read by the Author

Random House Audio, 2020. 29 hours, 10 minutes.
Review written January 20, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review

Okay, when I heard about this book, I preordered my own copy — and then, with one thing and another, I never did get the big fat book read. So finally, after finishing my Morris Award reading, I placed a hold on the eaudiobook version. I enjoy listening to Barack Obama speak anyway — the president who spoke in full, articulate sentences.

There isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t have an opinion of Barack Obama. If you already hate him, you won’t want to read this book anyway. If you’re a fan, let me encourage you that it’s well worth reading. Let me tell you about what you’ll find here.

Yes, it’s long. It covers from his start in Illinois politics to the point in his first term as president when the Seal Team killed Osama bin Laden. Yes, he goes into great detail — but a lot of that is to give attention to the many people who helped along the way. He gives the stories of probably hundreds of other people he met along the way who influenced his thinking or whose stories touched his heart, as well as the stories and qualifications of many people who worked with him — from the butler at the White House to his chief of staff. He appreciates the people around him and gives them credit for all the ways they helped.

Some ways I appreciate Barack Obama anew after reading this book:

He doesn’t blame others for his mistakes. That was an attitude he tried to build into his White House from the start. He gives others credit for good things, but doesn’t blame others for bad things. Yes, he talks about many situations where he had to give up some things he wanted in order to get bills passed. But he took responsibility for the decisions he made.

He genuinely wants to help people have better lives. I got the same impression from reading Elizabeth Warren’s book and Katie Porter’s book. It’s not something you can fake when you write a whole book. That was exactly why it hurt him to have to compromise to get some bills passed, but ultimately, he wanted to bring some people some help instead of bringing nobody perfect help. It struck me that Ronald Reagan did the whole country a disservice when he mocked the line “I’m from the government; I’m here to help.” Because if government isn’t here to help people, then what is government for? Obama talks about how as a community organizer, he talked with people who were struggling after a factory shut down, or people who weren’t able to pay for the healthcare that would save their lives. And he went into politics because he wanted to be able to do something about the systemic problems that caused that.

He doesn’t take human life lightly. He regularly attended soldiers’ remains being returned. He visited soldiers in the hospital. He agonized over choices as president of whether to send more troops and what steps to take — all because of the price of human lives.

He listened to people. He had his office send him a selection of letters every week. He’d answer them. Some he’d visit. And he can still tell some of those stories today.

I was also reminded just how bad the recession was that Geroge W. Bush left him with. And all the work he did to mitigate its effects. And the worry about H1N1 and how he believes working to protect the nation from that helped them when ebola threatened.
Also, how Obamacare almost didn’t get passed and how glad I am that pre-existing conditions are now covered. He knew the bill as it ended up wasn’t perfect – may we continue to improve it! – but it is so much better than what was in place before.

Okay, there’s lots in this book — 29 hours of it! If the things I like about Obama sound like criticism of his successor — well, yes, the contrast is big and I’m still sad about some of the things that got reversed, but glad for another person of integrity in the White House now. May we elect people who seek to make lives better for the many, and not just to get power for themselves. This book is an eye-opening look at the astonishing amount of work that goes into being president of the United States.

barackobama.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of No Cure for Being Human, by Kate Bowler

No Cure for Being Human

(And Other Truths I Need to Hear)

by Kate Bowler

Random House, 2021. 202 pages.
Review written January 16, 2024, from my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com
Starred Review

I ordered this book because of how much I loved the author’s book of meditations, The Lives We Actually Have, and that after reading it, I realized she was the author of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Since I loved that book, I clearly needed to read this follow-up.

This book is a memoir about the author getting experimental treatment for her terminal cancer at thirty-five years old. Spoiler alert: She survives. But many other people in the same experimental trials did not. And the outcome was by no means certain when she lived it. In fact, she was told she had a 14% chance of survival.

Kate Bowler is a professor who’s studied the prosperity gospel in America. And she found as she was going through this that she had strong feelings about self-help books promising “Your Best Life Now” and bucket lists and other mantras that rang hollow when she was facing high chances of dying before she saw her small son grow up.

This book is her story of that journey. I love her short chart at the back of “Clich├ęs we Hear and Truths We Need.” A couple of examples:

Carpe diem! –> I mean, yes, unless you need a nap.

Let go and let God. –> God loves you, but won’t do your taxes.

Make every minute count. –> Life is unpredictable. You’re a person, not a certified accountant.

You are invincible. –> There’s no cure for being human.

I hope that gives you the idea what you’ll find here: No trite formulas for happiness in hard times. But at the same time, encouragement that being human and being alive is a good thing.

katebowler.com
randomhousebooks.com

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Review of Rough Sleepers, by Tracy Kidder

Rough Sleepers

Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People

by Tracy Kidder
read by the Author

Books on Tape, 2023. 8 hours, 42 minutes.
Review written January 3, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 More Nonfiction

I’ve read a few of Tracy Kidder’s in-depth biographies now: Among Schoolchildren, Strength in What Remains, and Mountains Beyond Mountains. Like those amazing books, this one takes a deep dive into a man who has given his life to helping people who need it.

In this case, we’re looking at Dr. Jim O’Connell, who got drafted into a program of providing medical care for the homeless in Boston after he’d finished his internship. His plan was to simply help out for a year, but the people there and the need pulled him in, and his work has gone on for decades.

Tracy Kidder traveled along with Dr. O’Connell and gives a picture of the day-to-day and night-to-night work he and his organization do. They’ve got a van that goes out to rough sleepers, bringing blankets and cocoa. They’ve got a home where people can go when they’re discharged from the hospital but not yet able to care for themselves. Most of all, the homeless people of Boston have doctors looking out for them, caring for them. I’m honestly a little envious – but at the same time glad that this vulnerable population has people in their corner.

And the portrayal of Jim O’Connell makes him shine like Mr. Rogers — someone who sees people, who cares about his patients. He sees them as wonderful people, looking far beyond their difficult circumstances.

The book doesn’t sugarcoat the situation. Many of their patients die, and sleeping rough is still associated with shorter lives. Even efforts to get them housing doesn’t always work because the patients don’t necessarily know how to conduct themselves in that situation. We also get stories of some of the striking characters, with all their complexity, whose lives have been touched by Dr. O’Connell’s work and whose lives in turn touched others.

This doctor shines because he sees the beauty and wonder in vulnerable people and cares for them. This book shines because it helps the reader see that, too.

tracykidder.com

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Review of Executing God, by Sharon L. Baker

Executing God

Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught about Salvation and the Cross

by Sharon L. Baker

Westminster John Knox Press, 2013. 205 pages.
Review written December 28, 2023, from my own copy.
Starred Review
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Christian Nonfiction

After reading Sharon L. Baker’s book Razing Hell that demonstrates the Bible’s teachings about hell aren’t necessarily what we’ve been taught, I was ready to read what she has to say about the cross and the atonement.

This book reminded me of Tony Jones’ book, Did God Kill Jesus?, since both books look at historical theories of the atonement and show us why those that have been commonly taught worship a violent God instead of a loving, restoring God. Sharon L. Baker is a university professor, so her book is a little more academic, but because of that gives us a thorough and detailed case for taking a fresh look at the cross of Christ.

She makes the case right at the beginning that if you believe God orchestrated the violence done to Jesus, you will tend to not have a problem with violence yourself. And beyond that, the story told that way isn’t attractive to unbelievers. If God can only forgive us when paid off by violent death of his innocent Son, how is that even forgiveness?

But don’t weigh her argument from my summary. The author is meticulous in her approach, spending chapters on the historic ways Christians have looked at the atonement. You might be surprised that most of the theories churches teach today were developed hundreds of years after Christ’s death, including the Satisfaction Theory developed in medieval times to appeal to people living under feudal systems. Sharon Baker looks at the meaning of justice, forgiveness, and sacrifice, and how they relate to the cross.

Now, I was easily swayed, since I’ve already read similar books on this topic including Did God Kill Jesus?, by Tony Jones, A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, by J. D. Myers, and Creation and the Cross, by Elizabeth A. Johnson. Where this book shone for me was in the later chapters, where she pulls the ideas together and talks about her view of God’s atonement, forgiveness, and restorative justice. It was especially meaningful to me to finish reading the book on Christmas Day, because her view is that Christ’s atonement is very much wrapped up in the life and incarnation of Jesus.

Here’s a paragraph about the meaning of the Incarnation:

Because of the incarnation, something tangible happens on a cosmic level to change our relationship with God and with each other. In the words of Cyril of Alexandria, “God made human flesh his own.” Or, in other words, regardless of the way we might think of the divinity of Jesus, God descended into the human condition by becoming one of us with a human body and mind. But there’s a bit more to it. In Jesus, two natures were united – human and divine. And since the son has taken on humanness, the two natures are united in Jesus. So he took what belonged to him – the life of God – and gave it to us. And he also took to himself what belonged to us – humanity – and healed it, restored it, and transformed it into what God created us to be. What a sweet gift. Jesus participated in humanity and in the process healed and reconciled it so that humanity could participate in God. In other words, he lifted human nature into the Godhead (Eph. 2:6). We could say that God descended to us in our humanity so we could then ascend to the life of God.

I also loved her discussion of forgiveness and how God has never required payment to forgive. Here’s a bit of that:

If we look at the life and teachings of Jesus we see a vastly different image of God. We see a God of love and peace, who freely forgives sin without first balancing the cosmic accounts. As the fullest revelation of God, Jesus never demands retribution. He never talks about his offended honor. He forgives and heals and saves unconditionally. He is the Prince of Peace who reveals to us the true nature of God and tells us so when he says, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

She talks about how the violence of the cross came from humans, not from God:

What would have happened if Jesus, in terrible pain on the cross, had commanded an army of angels to come and wipe out his persecutors? What would have happened if Jesus had bought into the violent response of Peter when the Romans came to arrest him? Violence, bloodshed, death, maybe even war, right? But instead, Jesus responded in the opposite way. He commanded Peter to put away his sword and he spoke words of forgiveness from the cross. In so doing, he broke the cycle of violence and reconciled us to God so that we could spend an eternity celebrating and enjoying our restored relationship with a God who loves us. Which brings God more glory – retribution or restoration? I think the answer is obvious.

And more about restorative justice:

Actually, we might say that sin condemned and punished through retribution is sin condemned without hope for redemption. But sin exposed through righteousness, with the intent to restore the sinner to God, is grounded in the hope of salvation. So instead of saying that God inflicted the pain of the cross on Jesus as a penalty for our sin, we can say that the horrific nature of the cross exposed and condemned the gravity of our sin. After all, human beings are the ones who put Jesus to death, not God.

And remember, Jesus never said anything about coming to receive punishment for sin, but he said quite a bit about forgiving it. The righteousness of God in Jesus transcended the retributive aspects of the law and brought about our forgiveness — think about Jesus’ prayer for our forgiveness from the cross. In this manner, Jesus gave us his life and revealed to us the law of love that restores us to God and to each other. The Bible tells us that no greater love exists than this (John 15:13).

This part resonated when I was reading it at Christmastime:

Reconciliation through forgiveness brings peace between formerly conflicting parties – in this case, God and humanity. The book of Ephesians tells us that Jesus proclaimed peace to those of us who were far from God and to those who were nearer to God (2:15-20). And Jesus proclaimed this peace by something that speaks louder than words – by his actions. Even though he suffered because of our sinful actions in putting him to death, Jesus sought to forgive and to reconcile us to God, bringing peace, love, and restoration not only between God and humans but among those in conflict with each other – Jews, Gentile, male, female, slave, and free. Peace all the way around! But isn’t that what the angels declared at the birth of Jesus – peace on earth, goodwill to all people?

This is a point I’ve often read in George MacDonald’s writings:

Jesus did not die in order to win God’s love for us, but to win us over with God’s love. God’s love went to the limit for us, dove into the depths of the human condition, suffered the consequences of our sin by dying a terrible death as an innocent man. And in the midst of that suffering love, Jesus revealed the greatest love of all – forgiving his enemies and praying to God to do the same. Through the incarnation, God took on human flesh and gave human flesh the life of God.

Here’s how she finishes up the main text of the book (with lots of notes and an index to come – she’s an academic):

It takes one to forgive and two to reconcile. Although God freely forgives all of us without condition, we can choose to enter fully into the equation in order for reconciliation with God to happen. And this reconciliation takes place as we turn back to God. God lifts us up into the life of God and we participate joyfully in the new life we have in Christ. We can interpret the cross of Jesus as at-one-ment that deconstructs notions of a violent God bent on retributive justice. We see that the justice of God is love and that love forgives, transforms, and seeks to create new and harmonious relationships. Through the forgiveness of God, a way is opened up for the transformation of all humanity (all creation, to be exact). Through the cross of Jesus, we are forgiven without condition, accepted as we are. Through repentance we are reconciled with God and transformed into those who live in the power of divine love.

Divine justice, therefore, is the act of loving and forgiving, a bottomless, endless, profoundly absurd forgiveness that reaches out in love to all humankind. Our response-ability is to receive it, to enter into the forgiveness of God, reconciled and restored. If, that is, we have eyes to see and ears to hear:

Yahweh is tender and compassionate,
slow to anger, most loving;
his indignation does not last for ever,
his resentment exists a short time only;
he never treats us, never punishes us,
as our guilt and our sins deserve.
— Ps. 103:8-10 Jerusalem Bible

If, like me, you find that vision of God’s restorative justice beautiful, but if maybe you aren’t sure how to fit that picture with what you’ve been taught about the Bible – in that case, I highly recommend this book.

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Review of Counting the Cost, by Jill Duggar

Counting the Cost

by Jill Duggar
with Derick Dillard
and Craig Borlase
read by Jill Duggar

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2023. 7 hours, 7 minutes.
Review written December 15, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review

I have never watched one episode of the shows about the Duggar family. I am the third child from a family of thirteen children, and I knew it would be painful to me to watch a big family’s lifestyle glorified like that. I knew that what cameras saw would not be the same as what day-to-day life is really like.

But when I heard about Amazon Prime’s “Shiny Happy People” documentary series, I dropped everything and watched the series. It took me five blog posts on my Sonderjourneys blog in my “Shiny Happy Childhood” series to process what I saw in that series.

Based on what I saw in the documentaries (which included interviews with Jill), I put this audiobook on hold as soon as I heard about it. This is the story of Jill Duggar, growing up in her filming family and highly involved in the cult that IBLP ended up being. IBLP stands for Institute in Basic Life Principles, and was founded by Bill Gothard, who began by going around the country doing seminars — seminars I attended as a child several times.

This book is Jill’s personal story. I admire the woman she’s grown to be, learning to set boundaries, make her own decisions, protect her own privacy, and stand up for herself in healthy ways.

My reaction to this book will be more about me than it is about her. It’s not often – not often at all – that I get to read a “mirror” book, a book I see myself in. Jill was the fourth child in a big family, taking care of younger siblings from a young age. I was the third child in my big family, and yes, I was changing diapers and tending babies from eight years old on. She was in a conservative Christian family, heavily influenced by Bill Gothard’s teachings. I was in a conservative Christian family, heavily influenced by Bill Gothard’s teachings, but before he got quite so extreme.

First, after listening to this book, I’m so thankful that my parents didn’t ever get to the “Advanced Training Institute” level of following Bill Gothard. Girls were allowed to wear pants in my house, we listened to Christian rock music, attended a private Christian school, and went to a Christian university. I think there was some hope I’d find a nice Christian guy to marry at that Christian college, like my mother had done, and my older sister did, too, and — oh, wait a second, I did meet my ex-husband at that Christian college, though I was much slower than they were, and we didn’t get married until after I finished grad school, which it sounds like wouldn’t have met Bill Gothard’s approval.

My parents did homeschool for a number of years — but they started after I was already in college. I liked the idea of homeschooling in theory — but in practice, I knew that school had been my lifeline. Making friends and learning how “normal people” lived was vital to my growing up years. And when I had kids of my own, we sent them to public school.

I heard of Bill Gothard’s “umbrella of authority” and probably believed it was true, but it wasn’t hammered into me the way it was for Jill. I wasn’t afraid I was opening myself up to Satanic destruction if I displeased my father. (And I was a rule-follower anyway, so how would I have displeased him?) But one part of the teaching as she related it surprised me. I was taught that a girl goes from under her father’s authority to under her husband’s authority. Marriage is all about “Leave and Cleave,” or so I was taught. I thought it was part of Bill Gothard’s teaching, but Jill reported that she was told she was under her father’s authority as long as he lives, and her husband is under his authority, too. So she had an especially difficult time establishing her own home as an adult, with boundaries from television cameras, making decisions against her father’s wishes.

It was interesting to me, though, that my areas of pain from my upbringing were completely different from hers. Now, it sounds like doing the show gave their family more resources to meet the needs of that many children. However, for me, besides having to do without some physical things at times, I felt starved for attention, easily invisible, not really known by my parents. The focus and attention in our family always went most to the newest baby, and the older kids got easily overlooked. I didn’t get the impression Jill felt a lack there.

I do agree with the Duggars that children are a blessing. But I also believe they are people who need to be nurtured. And if you have so many children you don’t have the physical or emotional resources to nurture them all, I think you’re being irresponsible with precious lives.

Now this is a discussion every couple should have on their own. I try not to judge big families, because children are indeed a blessing, after all. But neither should they judge me for having two kids, six and a half years apart, so I had the joy of showering individual attention on each child. Bill Gothard claims to know what’s best for every family — and I believe that’s presumptuous and wrong.

But the topic that hit the hardest when I watched the “Shiny Happy People” documentary (pun intended) was spanking. One whole blog post in my processing was about it. As an adult, I am very much opposed to using violence to control your children. Jill didn’t even mention spanking as an issue, though I know it’s a big part of Bill Gothard’s teaching, and I think there was a clip of her mother describing “blanket training” in the documentary. (Shudder.)

So Jill didn’t include the things I think of as issues from this background. But a lot of her issues sprang from having her growing-up years always on camera. And then being manipulated as an adult to continue to let the filming control her life, without getting paid for it.

I appreciated that Jill finished her book with the things she loves and admires about her parents. She points out that loving someone does not mean you have to be blind to their faults.

I wish Jill and Dereck continued success as they grow and heal and establish boundaries and nurture their own family, following Jesus in the ways he leads them, rather than in the strict set of rules someone else makes up for them. This book made my heart go out to a sister.

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Review of Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws, by Alan Hamilton

Luke

Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws

by Alan Hamilton

Abingdon Press, 2022. 155 pages.
Review written April 5, 2023, from my own copy.
Starred Review

My church went through this book in our small groups (including the one I co-lead) as an all-church Lenten study. There are six chapters, one for each week of Lent, and there is a leader’s guide and videos to go along with it, as well as the sermons from our pastors on the same topics.

I’ve grown up in church and know the Bible well, so it’s always a challenge to set aside what I think I already know and gain new insights. That wasn’t a problem at all with this book. Although I think I’m very familiar with the book of Luke, I had never noticed the theme that Alan Hamilton brings out again and again — of Jesus lifting up the lowly.

Indeed, there’s a chapter on Jesus’ interactions with women, and I’d never noticed how very much Luke includes women in his gospel — much more than the other gospel writers.

Since there are 24 chapters of Luke, but only 6 weeks of Lent, the study is only loosely chronological. We start with a firm foundation of Jesus seeing and paying attention to outsiders, outcasts, and outlaws all through the book before traveling with Jesus to Jerusalem, looking at his final week, and then covering the crucifixion.

Even with the crucifixion, Adam Hamilton points out that the words on the cross that Luke chose to report fit with his theme of lifting up the lowly. This is where we read about Jesus’ forgiveness, his promise to the thief, and ultimately committing himself into his Father’s hands.

This paragraph is from the first chapter, looking at the Mary’s Magnificat:

It is on the lips of Mary that Luke lays out the theme of his Gospel, the theme of this book: God looks with favor on those of low status. God brings down the powerful from their thrones. God lifts up the lowly. God chooses the people others think are washed up or have no value. God values and uses those who have been pushed down, oppressed, or disdained. This one line captures Luke’s theme.

And here’s a paragraph from the chapter about Jesus’ crucifixion:

Regardless of what Luke was seeking to convey about Jesus’s death, he clearly sees this as the climax of the story he has been telling. Here, too, Jesus is lifting up the lowly. In Jesus’s death, we see his obedience to God (“not my will but thy will be done”), his innocent suffering, and, once again, his ministry with and for the outsiders, outcasts, and outlaws. We see his mercy and grace as he prays for his Father to forgive even those who tortured him. We see him reaching out to “seek and save the lost,” even from the cross. We see him as a King suffering for his people — a picture of selfless love. And we see Jesus absorbing evil, hate, sin, and death. As we will see in the postscript, Jesus ultimately triumphs over those things, and in the process brings salvation to the world.

Studying along with this book gave me a whole new appreciation for the gospel of Luke.

AdamHamilton.com
AbingdonPress.com

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Review of Book Bonding, by Megan Dowd Lambert

Book Bonding

Building Connections through Family Reading

by Megan Dowd Lambert
illustrated by Mia Saine

Imagine! (Charlesbridge), 2023. 160 pages.
Review written December 4, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

Book Bonding is a collection of essays about the joy and wonder of reading to and with your kids, but especially about the powerful connections you can build that way. The author is a children’s literature professor and a mother of seven, so she has lots of experience with this topic.

Here’s an excerpt from the Preface that captures well what she’s doing in this book:

So how can I best bridge the distance that exists between my children and me, while I recognize and celebrate that they are their own human beings and not “mine”? How can other parents and caregivers do so, too? My multiracial, adoptive, queer, blended family life affirms that familial bonds are rooted not only in biology but in legal measures, choices, and above all, in shared experiences and love.

This is where “book bonding” comes in. I coined this phrase during my time as an educator at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in western Massachusetts. It highlights the social and emotional impact of shared reading in classrooms and libraries. It’s a happy truth that my work as an author, educator, and children’s-literature scholar is deeply enriched by my life as a mother. The books on my family’s bookshelves hold not just words and pictures but also memories of time spent together and of moments when reading and talking about reading have helped us better understand each other. In other words, books have helped us bond.

Time and again, shared reading has forged a common ground for my children and me as we reach toward each other across the distances between us. Witnessing my children’s minds and hearts in action when we read together — or when we discuss books we read separately — gives me a greater appreciation for their individuality. This, in turn, helps me be a better parent, attuned to my kids’ specific needs, strengths, and interests….

I’m convinced that the sort of book bonding that my family experiences is similar to that of anyone who reaches out to the children in their life with a book in hand. I hope my essays will enrich your family’s reading and perhaps inspire you to write down some of the book-bonding memories and connections you’ve created when you and a child have met in the pages of a book.

The essays themselves are beautiful. Yes, they will inspire you to read with kids.

This book is a good defense against book banners, too. In her multiracial family, she talks about reading and discussing books with her white kids and her Black kids and talking with all of them about how diversity is portrayed in books. Diverse books get adults and kids thinking and talking.

She talks about specific books that inspired her kids and tells stories about their interactions with books. Yes, you’ll learn about specific wonderful children’s books here — and there’s a list of books mentioned at the back.

I also love the way she models talking with kids about books. She gets the kids’ perspectives on how books are mirrors and windows for them, and gets insights from the kids that she wouldn’t have noticed on her own.

I read this book too slowly — an essay now and then as I had time, and I didn’t have much time because I was reading for the Morris Award. But whenever I did dip into it, I was reminded of the power, beauty, and joy of reading with kids, and this made my children’s librarian heart happy.

megandowdlambert.com
agoodson.com/illustrator/mia-saine
imaginebooks.net

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Review of Burn the Page, by Danica Roem

Burn the Page

A True Story of Torching Doubts, Blazing Trails, and Igniting Change

by Danica Roem

Viking, 2022. 296 pages.
Review written November 12, 2022, from a library book

Note: I wrote this review a year ago and didn’t get it posted, but now Danica Roem has just been elected Virginia’s first transgender state senator.

I couldn’t resist reading Danica Roem’s story. She’s the first transgender delegate in Virginia, and she represents a district right next door to me, so she’s a local political force. With a transgender daughter myself, I’m always interested in stories of transgender people, and am proud of how Danica Roem is representing our region.

So I did enjoy this book for those reasons. Mind you, there’s a lot in the book about her love for heavy metal and leading a metal band which I didn’t relate to at all and started to gloss over. She’s also from a different generation than me, so the story of her growing up years didn’t hit any common threads.

But I like hearing about her work first as a local reporter and then as a political leader. She gets to know her constituents and honestly wants to bring their concerns to Richmond to make a difference. And I also like hearing about her joy in living as the woman she’s always known herself to be, and finally daring to make that public.

In all, she’s got an inspiring story. And a refreshing voice in politics. Here’s how she finishes the last chapter before the Epilogue:

For all of that, your most honest internal default setting, in which you don’t trip over yourself and stumble over how you think people want you to be, is to just be authentic. You don’t have to keep track of who you are to some people and who you are to others. I say this as someone who inherently wants to be liked: If they don’t respect you, they’re not worth your time. If they do, though, let ’em know who you are, not who you think they want you to be.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Yes, And . . ., by Richard Rohr

Yes, And . . .

Daily Meditations

by Richard Rohr

Franciscan Media, 2019. 412 pages.
Review written March 21, 2023, from my own copy.
Starred Review

I purchased this book when I was looking for a new devotional book to read through in 2022. Well, there are 366 “Meditations” in this book, but they are not dated. So I took my time. Sometimes I read a page a couple days in a row. And I ended up finishing it a few months into 2023. The advantage, of course, is that you can start reading it at any time.

I chose a book by Richard Rohr because I love his email meditations which I read daily, sent out from the Center for Action and Contemplation. It was nice to have a set I could hold in my hands, because sometimes when I use my phone to read the email meditation, I get distracted.

It’s hard for me to do justice to this book in a summary. The entries were gathered by others from Richard Rohr’s many writings. Action and contemplation, like the name of the Center he founded, is maybe a good way to sum them up. We see thoughts about a life of faith, thoughts about how that looks and how it’s experienced, and what it means to you and to others around you.

I will put a link to my Sonderquotes blog with quotations from Richard Rohr to give you a taste. I also recommend signing up for the daily emails in the link above, and if you like what you read, this book is a way to get more.

Richard Rohr’s writings leave me inspired and encouraged, with my eyes opened to more of the beautiful things God has placed in this life.

cac.org

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Solito, by Javier Zamora, read by the author

Solito

A Memoir

by Javier Zamora
read by the author

Random House Audio, 2022. 17 hours, 8 minutes.
Review written May 2, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review
2023 Alex Award winner

The Alex Award is for books written for adults that will appeal to teens. Solito is a worthy winner, since in the entire memoir the author is nine years old. It’s the intense subject matter that put this book into the adult market.

Solito is a memoir — and the story of the author’s journey from El Salvador to the United States all by himself in 1999 when he was nine years old. His grandfather took him on the first leg to Guatemala. But then Javier was entrusted to a “coyote,” supposed to be taken safely to Mexico and then the USA to be reunited at last with his parents.

The trip was supposed to be relatively simple, taking a maximum of two weeks. Pretty early on, the plans got messed up. I won’t tell you how many weeks or how many tries it took before he was reunited with his parents, because I don’t want to mess up the suspense — but it was more than one try and much more than two weeks.

The journey was harrowing. In boats, in cars, buses and vans, and on foot through the desert. The author remembers details from a child’s perspective, doing what people told him, and making up names for the desert plants and animals. He is especially grateful to the adults who took him under their wing when plans went terribly awry, pretending he was part of their family to get him safely past officials.

The author doesn’t tell you what to think about the journey. But my reaction is that this is terrible. No child should have to go through such an arduous journey just to have to be with his parents.

But no matter what you conclude, this amazing story will have you riveted and will touch your heart.

javierzamora.net

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/solito.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?