WATER Recommends: April 2021

Atwood, Margaret. DEARLY: NEW POEMS. New York, NY: Ecco, 2020. (144 pages, $19.23).

Incisive, insightful, delicate, determined words fill these pages. Start at the end with “Blackberries:” “Some berries occur in sun, but they are smaller. It’s as I always told you: the best ones grow in shade.” Choose your favorite in this collection for prayer, meditation, or just plain lovely poetry.

Boursier, Helen T. THE ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD HANDBOOK OF WOMEN’S STUDIES IN RELIGION. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, June 2021. (390 pages, $140.00).

Seasoned scholars and new colleagues alike illuminate diverse themes and perspectives from a range of social and religious starting points. The combination of theoretical analysis and applied wisdom demonstrates how feminist studies in religion can contribute to a more just, safe, and equitable world. Choose this as a text for a challenging and fruitful course or colloquium.

Farley, Wendy. BEGUILED BY BEAUTY: CULTIVATING A LIFE OF CONTEMPLATION & COMPASSION. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020. (212 pages, $30.00).

         Many meditate; Wendy Farley sketches out the why’s and how’s of contemplative practice. This is a helpful resource for both those who are beginning the path, and those who, though well along the way, will welcome a refresher about what it’s all about. Hopefully, this book will encourage people to take up both spiritual and activist paths which are, after all, one.

Hovey, Gail. SHE SAID GOD BLESSED US: A LIFE MARKED BY CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CHURCH. Jefferson, NC: Exposit, 2020. (268 pages, $19.99).

A Christian Education minister sexually abused a teenager. Gail Hovey’s riveting, beautifully written memoir is an excruciatingly honest account of her complex and committed life after abuse. She lives and breathes complexity—marriage, work, friends, lovers, family, a child, sex and gender, the injustices of the world. She finds ways to put the abuse by an older woman in a position of responsibility into perspective: she never forgets nor forgives, but she does not repeat the behavior with others. Instead, she finds healthy, fulfilling love. Not a “happily ever after” story, this is a compelling story of hard work at the job of life.

Kamionkowski, S. Tamar. WISDOM COMMENTARY: LEVITICUS. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical Press, 2018. (402 pages, $39.95).

This commentator displays an admirable humility before a complicated text, one that has been read variously depending on translation. She points out that many assumptions on things like bodies, land ownership, even issues of “impurity” with which Leviticus is often associated can be reread through contemporary eyes. Not easygoing, this work is helpful to the preacher and teacher, indeed to the believer who seeks to understand what a text that has had so much negative influence might mean positively.

Litle, Marcy. ILLUSIONS OF INNOCENCE. Durham, NC: RCWMS, 2021 (162 pages, $25).

This is “white people doing their anti-racism work” with grace and grit. It is not easy to look systemic racism in the eye and see oneself staring right back. But it is the work required of white people to undue generations of privilege and embrace future generations of justice. Readers and reading groups will take a well-written lesson from this book.

Matthews, Shelly, and Barbara E. Reid, OP. WISDOM COMMENTARY: LUKE 1-9. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical Press, 2021. (408 pages, $39.95).

Many commentators have lifted up the Lukan narratives and themes as evidence that women’s experiences are taken seriously in scripture. These authors do not dispute that, but they suggest that there are more questions than answers here, more ambiguity and variety than often acknowledged in these commonly used texts. It is a refreshing reality check.

 McPhillips, Kathleen, and Naomi Goldenberg. THE END OF RELIGION: FEMINIST REAPPRAISALS OF THE STATE. London, UK: Routledge, November 2020. (232 pages, $128).

All of the feminist deconstructions of religions are for naught if the fundamental meaning of religion is not interrogated. This volume offers new insights into the whole enterprise, inviting foundational changes to the field if scholars are courageous enough to be sufficiently critical.

Park, Song-Mi Suzie. WISDOM COMMENTARY: 2 KINGS. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical Press, 2019. (408 pages, $39.95).

2 Kings is an especially fraught book of the Bible. The overwhelming masculinity of YHWH is traced throughout the text. But the concluding chapters make clear that such imagery is tenuous at best, inviting the reader/scholar to reimagine other influences that shape the narrative and thus might reshape concepts of the divine.


Savor this autobiography by an activist of the first order whose spirituality is doing. Sally Timmel, longtime member of the Grail and co-creator with her partner, the late Anne Hope, of the Training for Transformation Handbooks, has wisdom aplenty to share. Written in a brisk, clear, unambiguous style, Sally offers a life story worth reading: a life lived to the max through global community and personal responsibility.

Tokaji, Diana. SIX WOMEN IN A CELL: A STORY OF SISTERHOOD AND SURVIVAL AFTER POLICE ASSAULT. Silver Spring, MD: Root to Rise Production, 2020. (246 pages, $16.99).

Diana Tokaji unwraps in powerful prose and poetry her brutal, unjust arrest. Police brutality, moral injury, assault, sexism, white supremacy, and insanity bred of injustice all bubble in the stories of six women thrown together randomly that one night she spent in a holding cell. Their microcosm foreshadowed the locked-down, out of work, out of school, out of kilter society that is the culmination of such social disintegration in a pandemic. Diana’s remedies—kindness, silence, yoga, peer counseling, social justice, humane and equal treatment of all—make this book both a work of art and a manual for change.