WATER Recommends: November 2020

Arjana, Sophia Rose, with Kim Fox. VEILED SUPERHEROES: ISLAM, FEMINISM, AND POPULAR CULTURE. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018 (147 pages, $36.99).

This is a welcome look into the powerful and creative lives of Muslim women as depicted in a variety of media. “Female Muslim superheroes are often strongly political characters, challenging patriarchy on numerous fronts…the Muslimah superhero provides a way to counter both Islamic and Western misogyny” (p. xv).

Cooper-White, Pamela. GENDER, VIOLENCE, AND JUSTICE: COLLECTED ESSAYS ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2019 (281 pages, $35).

Value added to the content of this book is the chronological sequence. Readers can see how the field emerged, what this well-respected author had to say along the way, and why it is that sexual and domestic violence remain such a huge issue today.

Chittister, Joan. ON WOMEN: FROM THE WRITINGS OF JOAN CHITTISTER. Erie, PA: Benetvision, 2020 (93 pages, $8.95).

Slip this gem into your backpack, purse, or pocket and pull it out when the need arises for intelligent, reinforcing, synthetic insights about women in all of our power. Joan Chittister’s signature wisdom coupled with LMNOPI’s haunting yet inviting artwork make an accessible book sure to challenge, inspire, and spur to action readers from many starting points. It makes a welcome gift at a troubled time.

Espín, Oliva M. WOMEN, SAINTHOOD, AND POWER: A FEMINIST PSYCHOLOGY OF CULTURAL CONSTRUCTIONS. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2020 (211 pages, $95).

Oliva Espín offers a highly readable, indeed compelling account of the construction of saints in their many and varied contexts. Her favorite, Joan of Arc, for example, influenced Thérèsa of Lisieux, while Edith Stein looked to Teresa of Avila as a role model. So, the lineage continues, making the theo-political sainthood process a matter of cultural concern. As Espín cautions: “Now, as ever, we women need to make meaning for ourselves on our own terms just as these women saints did.” Re-appropriating the ‘saint making’ business to ourselves is an integral feminist act.

Legath, Jenny Wiley. SANCTIFIED SISTERS: A HISTORY OF PROTESTANT DEACONESSES. New York: New York University Press, 2019 (253 pages, $35).

What a fascinating study of Protestant women, mostly not married to men, from the 19th century to the present who engage in the service work of their churches. While some clearly accepted diaconal ministry in lieu of ordination, once ordination opened up for women some still insisted that they did not want ordination. This lends credence to certain Catholic arguments that the two are quite separate routes to church work. Well worth pondering.

Melcher, Sarah J., Mikeal C. Parsons, Amos Yong, THE BIBLE AND DISABILITY: A COMMENTARY. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017 (498 pages, $ 59.95).

This volume is a useful introduction to the many ways in which disability is woven into biblical texts and interpretations. It opens many doors to far more accessibly-oriented ways of thinking and helps readers to avoid the damaging ways in which scripture has been used to exclude and marginalize.

Meyers, Debra and Mary Sue Barnett. CRISIS AND CHALLENGE IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: PERSPECTIVES ON DECLINE AND REFORMATION. Lanhan, MD: Lexington Books, 2020 (257 pages, $95).

The Roman Catholic Church is in a disheveled state given its misogyny, clericalism, sex abuse crimes and their coverups, financial irregularities, and the rest. These editors have gathered an array of writers, including Miriam Duignan, Mary E. Hunt, and themselves among others, to diagnose and offer creative solutions to the sorry mess. No magic formulae here, but serious, solid thinking about how, for the good of the world, this monarchy can be transformed into a community.

Russaw, Kimberly D. DAUGHTERS IN THE HEBREW BIBLE. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books 2018 (225 pages, $39.99).

The author makes the important point that little attention is paid to the role of daughters in the Hebrew Bible, perhaps less in the Christian scripture. Wives, mothers, concubines, widows, and others are given more attention. Kimberly Russaw’s study opens that door to why there is such a lacuna in the scholarship and how it might be remedied.

Wilcox, Melissa M. QUEER NUNS: RELIGION, ACTIVISM, AND SERIOUS PARODY. New York: New York University Press, 2018 (288 ages, $39).

This community does not belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, but these contemporary “queer nuns” have raised a lot of important issues by their mere existence: sexual safety, supporting people living with HIV/AIDS, moving beyond the binary (calling ‘sister’ a third gender). They add sparkle and snap to every scene, letting parody carry their message of spiritual and social renewal. A challenging and rewarding read about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Williams, Natalie E. FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE: THE ETHICS OF DIVORCE AFTER MARRIAGE EQUALITY. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2020 (127 pages, $90)

Natalie E. Williams provides an important missing piece in the dynamic, fraught, theo-ethical conversation on marriage. Divorce, according to many religions and to the state, is seen as a shame-inducing decision that unleashes family catastrophes when in fact it can be a multifaceted, sometimes liberating relational choice. Queering the data reveals many creative relational options for those who are open to difference.

Wolfe, Lisa Michele. QOHELETH (ECCLESIASTES) WISDOM COMMENTARY. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2020 (203 pages, $39.95).

This is a good example of how feminist/womanist biblical scholarship creates new readings of texts many have long ago written off. The Afterword, “Qoheleth as a Model for Feminist Hermeneutics” is a stand-alone essay that could fruitfully be studied in classes. Readers will find that the section on women as makers of beer (Ecclesiastes 11:1) shatters a few more myths as craft makers prove today!

Worsham, Sandra.  GOING TO WINGS: A MEMOIR. Hickory, NC: Third Lung Press, 2017 (348 pages, $17).

Enjoy this novel of a southern convert to Catholicism coming out as a lesbian and finding her way to a meaningful life of faith and love. She lives in Flannery O’Connor’s Milledgeville, GA where perhaps there is something in the water that sparks good writing. Anyone who ever had a mother, fell in love, or thought for themselves will find this a compelling read.