On the Shelves

Have you finished all the books on your summer reading list? On the Shelves features book recommendations from a variety of Princeton Seminary faculty and staff, with the hope that these suggestions will help alumni/ae choose books that will contribute to their personal and professional growth.

From Carol Lakey Hess, Assistant Professor of Christian Education:

Religion, Feminism, and the Family, by Anne Carr and Mary Stewart VanLeeuwen, eds. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox,1996; Families in the New Testament World: Household and House Churches, by Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox,1996. These are two books in the comprehensive series The Family, Religion, and Culture, edited by Don Browning and Ian Evison. Focused to raise important issues surrounding the North American debate about family, the series advances no single point of view and gives no one solution. It does, however, attempt to create opportunities for a middle way between neo-conservative and neo-liberal extremes. Religion, Feminism, and the Family includes a range of authors and viewpoints (excluding extreme viewpoints on either end), and it delves into historical background as well as raises current issues. It is a readable, informative, and provocative collection. Families in the New Testament World builds on and extends the work that Osiek and Balch have done before. The result is an interesting and helpful archaeology of early Christian households. The consideration of social patterns oriented around honor, shame, and gender roles is especially illuminating. There are other books to follow in this series, including a summary of the debate and a handbook with a practical emphasis.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 1997. This inspiring and vibrant story of a real-life family gives flesh and blood to discussions on the family in the US. Raised by a Jewish mother whose family fled pogroms in Poland, and who herself fled an abusive father and found refuge, love, and life in the black community, the author tells of his family's triumphs over an inordinate number of hardships and ills: anti-semitism, racism, death, and poverty. McBride was told by his mother that God is neither black nor white but rather the color of water; the book traces this remarkable young man's odyssey to understand his rich and complicated heritages.

From Michael E. Livingston, campus pastor and director of the chapel:

Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers and Sons, Race and Society, by John Edgar Wideman. New York, NY: Pantheon Press, 1994. In Fatheralong, author J.E. Wideman combines a trenchant social analysis of race and society and a revealing personal narrative. Wideman's earlier book Brothers and Keepers introduced his siblings.

Here he acquaints the reader with his parents: "My first rule of my father's world is that you stand alone. Alone, alone, aloneŠ. My mother's first rule was love." He travels from Amherst, MA, to the harsh inner city of Pittsburgh, to a town called Promised Land on the wrong side of the tracks in rural South Carolina. Wideman's insights into the development and misuse of the concept of race are rendered in piercing and lyrical prose. "The word 'race' evokes a paradigm," he writes, " a system, network, or pattern of assumptions, relationships, a model of realityŠ of history and causation as complete, closed, and pervasive as religion." This book is both a a strong social commentary and a sensitive autobiography.

A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African American Religious History, by Albert J. Raboteau. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. This collection of essays provides a fresh perspective and rich historical detail on a wide range of issues in African American religious history. Believing the Gospel to be "of necessity, universal in a particular way," Raboteau shares diverse stories of individuals and groups prominent in the African American religious experience in the United States. Among topics included are Richard Allen and the AME church, an exploration of black Catholicism, a comparison of Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King Jr., and black destiny in nineteenth-century America. The book is further enriched by Raboteau's search for further knowledge about the circumstances of his father's death, and his meeting with the son of the man who killed him.


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