book reports
JULY 2017


Adam Gidwitz

Katie Carter recommended this to me when I said I wanted to read books with talking animals. None of the animals in here talk but I still liked it quite a bit. It's set in France during the reign of Louis IX, the king who St. Louis, Missouri is named after and who burned thousands of Jewish books and documents. In this book three kids and a dog are trying to save the last few remaining Talmuds in France; some people think they're saints, and some people think they should be burned at the stake. Occasionally there was too much Action for me, but I usually liked when people talked about religion. There's a rabbi and a monk who are best friends and love arguing with each other; several characters say interesting and surprising things about God, and there were even several lines that I found to be Deeply Moving, LOL.


Guy DeLisle

This is about a guy working for an NGO in the Caucasus in 1997 who was held hostage for several months. It was sort of fun and stressful to imagine how I would handle the same situation, but the main thing I thought about while reading this was how tedious it must have been for Guy Delisle to draw 400 6-panel pages showing nothing but a bearded shirtless man handcuffed to a radiator.


James H. Cone

I read this as a christian who is frustrated by the narrowness with which the cross and Jesus' death are always discussed, and it helped solidify my feeling that that story is just as much about God entering into suffering and oppression and calling attention to the evil and injustice of it, as it is about some kind of sin-cleansing culmination of Jewish sacrificial rites.

Cone describes the many similarities between the execution of Jesus and the public lynching of thousands of black americans, shows how the horrific reality of such injustice worked its way into black art and spirituality, and calls out the refusal or inability of white preachers and theologians to see the clear parallels.

In the final pages of the book, Cone connects the lynchings of the past to the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the often-racially motivated use of the death penalty. He finished writing this book in 2011, and reading it this year my mind went to the black mothers and teenagers killed by police, the men gunned down in Kansas City for being brown, the murder of trans women across the country.

In the gospels, Jesus says that if you give a blanket or a drink of water to someone who needs it, or if you visit someone in prison, then you're doing that to him; and if you refuse to do those things, then you're refusing to do them for him too. I don't want to trivialize or romanticize or prettify suffering or violence by saying *~everyone is Jesus~*: outside of any religious consideration, people who are suffering and oppressed deserve empathy and help and justice because they are just as human as you are, as I am, as all of us are. But for christians in particular, if we believe that God actively and intentionally aligned himself with the poor and the abused and the oppressed, it should never be an option to do nothing, to stand silently watching while every empire including our own kills Jesus again and again and again and again and again.