Blog

A Few Things in May

Every now and then, with absolutely no rhyme or reason to it, I like to make a list of a few things I'm enjoying. Like these:

Things I'm Reading

Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir

After seeing her speak on a panel at the Festival of Faith and Writing, I was curious about Carlene Bauer, so I checked out her memoir about growing up evangelical and moving to New York City to work in publishing, about virginity and faith and maturity.  I loved the first 2/3 or so - lovely sentences, apt images, strong level of self-awareness and humor.  The final section was much weaker, with too many characters to keep straight (including one never named, but called "my Friend") and a less-interrogated sense of her own self.

Frances and Bernard

I'm happy to say that Carlene Bauer's first novel shone with gorgeous prose and strong characters from beginning to end. An epistolary novel, it tells the story of the relationship between two young writers in the nineteen fifties in New York (inspired, I've read, by the relationship between Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell). This book isn't for everyone, but for people who love books, sort-of-pretentious language, faith, doubt, genius, Catholicism -- highly recommended.

The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for literature last year, and for good reason. Dickensian in scope and character, it's still very much a twenty-first century novel, telling a story about a boy whose mother dies in a terrorist attack on a museum in New York City.  If I say much more about the book's themes of beauty, restoration, fatalism vs. free will, etc., I'll end up with an essay here.  Loved it.

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries, No. 1)

The Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series by Louise Penny has been my bread and butter this month, though, and they are perfect.  With the caveat that it took me two tries to get into the first one (too many characters introduced all at once in the first chapter, in my opinion), these are readable, addictive, lovely, and willing to engage with the big ideas that the best murder mysteries (like Dorothy Sayer's or P.D. James's for example) deal with.

My To-Read List for Summer

Americanah

The Empathy Exams: Essays

Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (Modern Library Paperbacks)

I'll also finish up the Louise Penny books, hopefully complete some of the nonfiction books that I love (but never seem to choose when I have a fiction alternative), and be reading and re-reading a select list of memoirs and biographies (because...)

Things I'm Writing

- My name, on the third page of a contract agreeing to be represented by

Heidi Mitchell at D.C. Jacobson & Associates

- A book (apparently), especially the first twenty pages or so, which I have to submit to the writer's

workshop I'm attending this July, which is going to be amazing for many reasons, not least among them, 

a room of one's own. No responsibilities but writing and workshopping, for a whole week.

-1500 words on Buzzfeed quizzes.  You'll have to read all 1500 of them to figure out

Which Kind of Buzzfeed Quiz Taker Are You?

-And my name, again, on (talk about burying the lede, here!) a contract for a new position at Taylor, as the Assistant Director of the Honors Program.  I'll be working twenty hours a week beginning August 1, helping to plan the events and programming the Honors program.  And probably going to China with the Honors freshman for two weeks in January (!!!).

Things I'm Watching

Not very much, because the internet out in the country has been almost non-existent, so there's no streaming of anything.  But we're excited every week for new episodes of Mad Men and Orphan Black.

And we watched the movie Philomena last weekend, and really liked it.

Oh, and watching Rosie at ballet, and Owen with his swords.

Michael Rachap of Readeez sent me and the kids a couple of his dvds, too, and they're quite nice.  Simple, whimsical illustrations (sort of in the style of Calvin and Hobbes) accompany fun, catchy tunes, and reinforce word recognition by showing the words on screen, syllable by syllable, as the music plays.  The kids liked them, and the music didn't drive me crazy (big, rare bonus for kids' music). There are also some Bible memory CDs available. You can try some for free just by joining the email list.

 

Things in my Garden

So many things!  Snap peas, carrots, lettuce, kale, chard, arugula, asparagus, potatoes, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, corn, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.  

And bees in the hive, and chickens in the coop. 

What are you enjoying these days?

#FFWgr

 In 2012 I posted my top ten favorite things about the Festival of Faith and Writing.  Yesterday my sister texted me, saying "I hope you'll do that again," and, as I love to hear myself talk, I guess I can do that.

When I first attended the FFW in 2012, I felt like I had found my happy place.  The kind of conference where I got to listen to smart people talk about books in interesting ways?  The kind of place where if people found out that at the age of twelve I had both a "bookwoman" sweatshirt and one that read simply "So many books, so little time," there was a chance they might NOT smile weakly and start looking around for someone less crazy to talk to? 

This year the experience was equally wonderful, but different in one particular way: this year the experience was extremely social for me. I missed sessions to continue interesting conversations.  I even skipped THE NATIONAL to be with people.  THE NATIONAL, people.  What was I thinking?

The truth is, in this weird way I kind of hate to admit - because I want to be all about presence and embodied experiences and wendell berry - the connections I've made online over the last two years are real. I am a different person because of them.  I'm more inspired and confident creatively due to the relationships I have with many people I never or rarely see in person.  When I think about the Inklings in a pub in England or the Lost Generation in cafes in Paris, I think of my writing group on Voxer.  And while I'm no C.S. Lewis or Ernest Hemingway (I do like to think of myself as a Sylvia Beach, but now's not the time to discuss that), I believe that we are finding a similar kind of creative community through the internet.

And that's why, though the sessions at the festival were great this year (and I missed a lot that I want to revisit when the audio is put online), most of my highlights were about people.

10.  Seeing one of my favorite contemporary mystery novelists, Julia Spencer Fleming, and finding her to be smart, funny, self-deprecating, grounded, and knowledgeable about her craft.  That's a person I'd like to be like in thirty years.

9. I've appreciated Luci Shaw's poetry for many years now, so it was a pleasure to finally hear her read in person.  She's eighty-five, and so stately and gorgeous, so alive and attentive to life. That's a person I'd like to be like in fifty years.

8. Miroslav Volf spoke about education and human flourishing, about how "Decisions about the life worth living are increasingly shaped by decisions about consumer goods" and "We seek to satisfy our desires without exploring what is genuinely desirable." He's smart.

7. The Taylor University creative community made me proud: We had students with their names printed on the covers of journals, and everyone was asking me, "Do you know Dan Bowman?  What has he done to your creative writing program?"  The truth is that Dan is an agent of change, an advocate not just for students, but for friends as well, and he's having significant impact.  Of course it was just fun, too, to sit and talk with students and friends, and to run into alumni and see how smart and motivated they are.

6. On Friday night my writing group had dinner with Rachel Held Evans.  It was great to reconnect with her. Rachel is kind, honest, and, as DL said, always using her platform to highlight other people's voices.  She's generous.

5. Hermeneutics hosted a really fun reception on Thursday night, and it was great to re-connect both then and throughout the weekend with some of the writers I really admire - Karen, Rachel, Katelyn, Laura, Marlena, etc.

4. Several of the regular Christ and Pop Culture writers were there!  I only got to meet them for a few minutes at lunch one day, but it was good. They are thoughtful, smart people.

3. Would you believe that when I moved to Southeast Asia ten years ago, I met a kindred spirit right away?  I knew it when I walked into her house and saw her books.  I've only seen her a handful of times since leaving Asia, but every time I see her, I find that I still want to be just like her.  Sandy and I got to spend the better part of an afternoon together catching up.

2. I met with a couple of publishers about the book I'm currently working on, and would you believe they're interested? Now I'm just preparing myself to spend the summer with an open vein, losing blood into the keyboard until my heart is on the page the way I want it to be.

1. Most of all, it was beautiful to be with my writing group. What a gift from God it is to share life with these women. I would never have believed - and I still have trouble explaining - that you can make friends online, and that they could change your life for the better.  But here's the proof.

my favorite books of 2013

Not all of these books were published in 2013, but each of them found its way to me this year, and isn't so much of the magic of a book finding the right book at the right time?

In no particular order:

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
A fun, smart novel, this is the story of 15 year old Bee Branch’s attempt to understand what happened when her misanthropic mother disappeared without warning on the day before they were set to leave for an Antarctic vacation. Compulsively readable. (Full review here.)

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and part hagiography, journalist Dreher’s book is the story of his saintly younger sister’s untimely death, his return to his small hometown in Louisiana, and his struggle to understand what it means to live a Good Life. (Full review here.)

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Remember in highschool how you felt like you were different from everyone, and then you found that group of kids at summer camp who were interesting? Artistic, unconventional, gifted, "on-fire," aspirational, rich - whatever?  Remember how for the rest of your life you were trying to make sure you fit into that group, even at the expense of your own happiness? That's basically what this novel is about.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
This two-part graphic novel tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion in China, first from a peasant's perspective, and then from a missionary's perspective. So moving and disturbing I had trouble sleeping and then bad dreams after reading it.  Always the sign of a good book, right?

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves
I had always thought first of God as Creator, but this book convinced me to see him first as Father, or as self-giving Love.  I read this with the Taylor freshman in Foundations of the Christian Liberal Arts, and it truly deepened my understanding of the Trinity's importance.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
This was the first of several of Sara Zarr's YA novels that I tore through this year. If you, like me, love good realistic YA with strong female characters and spiritual themes, you need to check her out.  Beautifully written.

The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling or whatever her pen-name was
I'm a sucker for a good British mystery novel, and this was certainly that.

Booked to Die by John Dunning
The other best mystery novel I read this year.  A former cop turns used-bookseller but still gets embroiled in murder investigations.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
Doubtless this book would not have affected me so much if I hadn't been house-hunting while reading it.  Some lovely thoughts about the ways that architecture can shape our identities. (I wrote quite a bit about it here.)

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee
Regardless of which side of this debate you find yourself on, you should read this book.   It clears up a lot of misconceptions about homosexuality that are common in Christian circles, and does so winsomely, with grace.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene
I think everybody already knows about this book, which is being made into a movie, but if you don't, you should read it!  Unless you don't like to read about kids and cancer. Then maybe skip it.

Previously: my favorite movies of 2013 
and my favorite albums of 2013 
and my favorite tv shows of 2013

The Girl Got Up

I'm working on a round-up review of recent spiritual memoirs by women for The Living Church, and revisiting the quietly astounding The Girl Got Up by Rachel Srubas. Understated and meditative, the author reflects on her life and scripture in deep ways. I want to share a bit:

One her need in her preaching to remind congregants of their instrinsic worth:

Because we assume little of value can be found within us, few of us bother to look.  We fear we'll find in ourselves something so shameful or painful we decide it's better to keep busy than to be still and know God is God.  It seems more prudent to make coffee than to reckon with a feeling.  My task when I preach is to speak messages that mean, Reckon with it. Look deeper into your life. Rummage around in the stuff you cast off.  Read the book you closed long ago.  In that old Bible story you doubt can tell you anything new, in that memory you have no further use for, God may be found. God will help you live your life with love, and God will help you die your death in peace.

On why she writes:

A writer of faith may face the vexing problem of making yet one more "unnecessary" contribution to an overloaded literary market, in the service of a dying religion. Why bother?

I bother because I notice myself turning toward what is more wonderful than me.  I need to tell the story. A girl as good as dead somehow notices a healer's hand laid on her and gets up. A woman wan from blood loss who notices the fringe of the healer's garment musters just enough nerve to graspp it and be made well.  A psalmist, depressive perhaps, insomniac maybe, notices daybreak purshing darkness away and calls the light "my Lord." A moralist noticing the difference between foolishness and wisdom characterizes both of them as women. A woman notices the forturne she stores in an alabaster jar will be worthless until she spills it on one who affirms her humanity. God notices prostitutes, rape victims, infertile and repeatedly married women still bearing in their weary beings the holy love knit into them when they were formed in their mothers' wombs. The world notices when a woman gives birth to its Messiah. The seas swell, the trees burst into green applause. The mountains aspire to lift up all creatures. Among them it's the humans who were fashioned to tell stories. People notice in ourselves the signature of life's Author. In Scripture we discover God and our own precious, numbered days. The urge to recount them, to write our sacred lives, becomes too great to resist.  It is necessary.

And it is hazardous.

a few things at the end of spring

Yesterday, I finished grading all the essays. The chickens are pecking at the remains of dandelions across the yard, and the grass needs to be mowed again every time I turn around.   Lilac branches spill out of a silver pitcher on the dining room table, and we cooked outside this week, sipping cold whiskey-gingers.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that summer is here.  The seniors graduated and we said goodbye to our Korean and Chinese friends - goodbye for the summer, to most of them, and goodbye indefinitely for a few favorites who are going back to finish university in Korea now.
Rosie and Owen dressed up for graduation, too.


 In just seventeen days we'll be moving into our new house. In the meantime, the chickens (whose story you can read at the Renew and Sustain blog) are free-ranging in the backyard, with a portion of the storage shed cordoned off as shelter for them.


We've been very into fairy princess ballerinas around here - but the kind who dig for worms, make mud pies, climb fences, and chase chickens. (I'm a sucker for old-fashioned fairies and bought this book for Rosie and me to share.)

We are journeying into Narnia, too - Rosie and I have read the first three books, and are currently in the middle of Prince Caspian. She can't follow the stories too well, but doesn't care at all, and refuses to let me switch to Betsy-Tacy.

At Christ and Pop Culture I've been reflecting on books and television and music and theology - you can click through if you want to read -

"The Office" Ends, but Love Never Fails  (my take on the "The Office" - which had a really surprisingly great run of episodes at the end!)
Denison Witmer- Songs to Grow Up To (a new album from one of my favorite songwriters - this is on repeat at my house)
A New Wave of Complementarianism (a round-up of other people's posts)
Where'd You Go, Bernadette (a review of a really fun novel - especially for anyone who has ever lived in Seattle)
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Lesson in Community (a review of conservative columnist Rod Dreher's memoir)

Incidentally, Christ and Pop Culture has launched a new magazine for the iPad and iPhone - you can get a free trial subscription and check it out.  It's a well-designed, curated collection of perspectives on pop culture.


For a few months now, this essay's been bouncing around in my head about buying our first house and reading Alain de Botton's Architecture of Happiness.  Maybe now that it's summer I'll finally get to writing it. Or maybe I'll just go make some popsicles.

Cassie & Caleb (a critical review)


Moody offered me two copies of Cassie and Caleb Discover God’s Wonderful Design to give away on my blog.  You can enter to win one here, where I summarized the book earlier today.  

I have a few reservations about using this book with my family in our context.  Many of its lessons are good - the idea that obedience should be instant and thorough, for example, is a lesson my children and I need to learn again and again. And I love the idea of helping children understand that all of Scripture fits together as a grand story.  I have to admit, though, that some things about this book left me feeling uncomfortable.  While I do believe in gender distinctiveness - that is to say, I believe that God created men and women “equal but different,” as the authors put it - I also believe that there is very little we ought to say about those differences.  

In Karl Barth’s “Man and Woman,” he argued that though God made man and woman different, like the letters A and B, we ought not to subscribe to any particular human definitions of femininity and masculinity.  Rather than trying to systemize gender differences, we are to learn them through relationships with specific men and women.

“It is not for us to write the text [of man and woman] itself with the help of any such system. It is not for us to write the text at all. For the texts which we write, the definitions and descriptions of male and female being which we might derive from others or attempt ourselves, do not attain what is meant by the command when it requires of [human beings] that here, too, [they]should accept [their] being as[human], as male or female, as it is seen by God.” (“Man and Woman,” 151)

This makes beautiful sense to me.  So many of the things I was taught about “men” and “women” have failed to be true in my personal experience.  Harmful gender stereotypes have at times hindered me from seeing men and women as fully human, unique individuals.

In some ways, Cassie & Caleb Discover God’s Wonderful Design is careful not to be overly prescriptive about gender roles.  On the very first page, we are introduced to Cassie’s group of friends - Kate, who “loves frilly clothes,” Abby, who “never wears pink and loves soccer,” Heather, who is “crazy about books and animals,” etc.  They are “all very different, but...they are all girls.”  In another chapter, Caleb and his father do the dishes while they talk about what it means to be a man, concluding that “being a man or a woman is much bigger than a list of things we do.”

However, there are a few things the book does teach about what it means to be a man or a woman.  Men are to be leaders, protectors, and providers who work outside the home, and women are to be helpers (ezer is given its full, gorgeous meaning) and life-givers.  I don’t fully agree with these teachings (particularly the bit about men working outside the home) or the way Scripture is used to support them.

What worries me more, though, are the descriptive depictions throughout the book of what Cassie and Caleb like, think, and do, and the ways that adults respond.  These seem to follow our culturally instated gender stereotypes quite closely.  Girls make cards and decorate cupcakes, and it is “a very girly afternoon.”  Girls talk a lot, and boys don’t.   Before explaining to Caleb that men and women are equal, his father and grandfather joke that women are “loud” and that men are “better.”  Cassie buys a doll, and Caleb goes to a muscle-car show. When Granny Grace’s laundry room floods, Cassie is in tears because “they don’t have a dad to fix all that stuff.” Boys play baseball, go fishing, and see movies.  Girls shop.  Cassie can hardly wait for her dad to walk her down the aisle because she’ll look like a princess and everyone will be watching her.

Maybe most disturbing is the story where Caleb and his friend, bored, surprise their sisters with buckets of mud.  Wise old Granny Grace laughs it off, explaining to Cassie and Caleb’s mom, “I raised three boys and never did understand what makes them tick, but I know God made males and females to be different so I finally decided the best thing to do is laugh at their adventures -- and make them clean up their mess.”   While I’m all in favor of using humor to disarm, and while I don’t think a mud-attack is a horrible offense, I am concerned by the “boys will be boys” defense of behavior which bothers girls. It’s this very kind of defense that can lead to the kind of rape culture we live in today.

All in all, there is a lot of good theology here and some of the lessons in this book are helpful. For some families, this book will be perfect. But for me, the stereotyped descriptions of boys’ and girls’ behavior is not something I’d prefer to expose my children to in family devotions. If you feel - like the authors - that you live in a culture where gender distinctions have been minimized, then you might appreciate this book.  I, however, feel like the gendered stereotypes offered by Cassie and Caleb are already firmly ingrained in our culture through media representations of masculinity and femininity, so I’ll probably choose other ways of teaching theology to my children.

(Go here to enter the giveaway for this book. Giveaway closes at noon on Friday, May 3.)

a few (more) things in January

I have the February cranks. The winter grumpies. The pre-spring meanies.


What I am really into right now is sun.  Sun on my skin.  

Instead, the world is grey and white, and I'm trying my best to stay happy. Staying happy includes sneaking bites of frozen chocolate cake and having an afternoon french press of coffee; but also starting a pilates class with friends this week. 

(I'm getting dangerously close, still, to putting blond highlights in my hair and getting a tanning bed membership.  Sun. Warmth. Skin.)

I'm only teaching one class this semester, and it started last week.  I've got double the enrollment I had last semester, which will make for some long nights of grading, but I'm glad to be teaching.

Here are a few other things I've been enjoying lately:





Books:

Still by Lauren Winner. I read Winner's other books 6-8 years ago, when they came out, and loved them.  One of my happiest memories is sitting in a gazebo in Thailand at sunset, reading parts of Mudhouse Sabbath out loud with my girlfriends.  But I have mixed feelings about Still. It just didn't sit quite right with me.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This is a YA novel about teens with cancer.  Still with me?  Good.  This made me laugh, cry, and stop and think.  It's lovely. (And the author lives in Indianapolis! Go Indiana.)

Currently Reading: The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace; The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House; Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson


Movies

Pitch Perfect - I watched this fun teenybopper comedy about a college show choir one blue afternoon after seeing some twitter friends chirp about it.  
To Rome With Love - this newest Woody Allen movie wasn't worth finishing, for us :-(
The Dark Knight Rises - enjoyable, if not as good as Nolan's first two Batman movies.

TV

I have to admit that I love Nashville.  I just do.  I love the music, and I want Connie Britton's hair. Other than that, we are staying current on: Downton Abbey, Suburgatory (really the funniest sitcom that no one is watching), Parks and Rec, The Mindy Project, New Girl, Bunheads, and sometimes The Colbert Report. We're on season four of Foyle's War (on Amazon Prime), which I love, and I also love falling asleep to.  Is that a lot?  Yeah, that's a lot.  

Music

Since Iron and Wine announced  their new album coming this April, we've been obsessively listening to old Iron and Wine stuff. I also find Bon Iver pretty perfect for dark winter days.  For the kids, I love turning on the Elizabeth Mitchell Pandora Station (stream it through the tv via Roku), and Rosie has been falling asleep every night listening to Lullabies by Page CXVI.

Internets

I've started writing a few times a week for Christ and Pop Culture.  So far I've written about reviving the tradition of the boarding house and about abortion, feminism, and feelings.  I won't link to all my pieces here, so if you're interested in keeping up with them, you can follow me on twitter, or subscribe to their blog.

I'm also going to contribute occasionally to a lovely new website called Renew and Sustain.  Today I'm sharing my homemade deodorant recipe over there!

I've read some truly wonderful things online recently.  Check these out:

  • Prizes and Consumables: The Superbowl as a Theology of Women by Matthew Voss
    " The way we consume iconic national events like the Super Bowl better depicts what we really believe about women and their so-called roles than do our formal theological statements, denominational position papers, teachings about the spiritual disciplines, and admonitions toward modesty and fidelity. For in the invisibility of normality, there we find our idolatry."
  • Educated Beyond My Level of Obedience by Danielle Vermeer
    "The speaker started confidently, explaining how “females are always a sellable commodity because…,” before pausing to think how to word his response, “because of the depravity of man.” From a Christian perspective, yes, sinfulness is the root of this evil. But saying that human trafficking exists because of our sinful nature is not the most precise answer, nor it is the most actionable."
  • War Photographer: How Free Do I Have the Right To Be? by JR Goudeau
    "Any act of simplification is also an act of violence.  The expectations of the audience who is reading these representations, whether it be Hill Tribers’ customers or mission-board members or Facebook friends, affect the way we portray people. It is something I constantly resist—the desire to play up my friends’ poverty and their gratefulness and downplay the difficulties we have in relating to each other. I have to recognize the conversation I’m entering and my own position of power within it...It’s hard. And yet, translation is important. The representation of poverty is important. The telling of these stories is important. This struggle to be an effective, ethical, aesthetically-pleasing, economically-helpful translator war photographer is important.

In My Kitchen

Successfully made yogurt for the first time, thanks to a hand-me-down yogurt maker.  It's delicious.  Jack's on a gluten-free kick, which I did for two weeks and then quit.  But I'm still cooking gluten-free dinners.

In My Life...

We've been renting our current home for two and a half years, and we just found out that we will have to move out by May 31.  So we will be jumping back into the (sort of deplorable) house hunt quite quickly here.  Prayers gratefully accepted.

(I'm linking this up with What I'm Into at Hopeful Leigh... I've been doing these posts for a while and never been on the right schedule to join the link up, but here goes!)

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

a few things in January

Late December to early January is one of my best chances in the year to read.  (I love working on an academic calendar!) Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying:

The Stages by Thom Satterlee - Thom is a friend, poet and writer in residence at Taylor, and fellow member of Gethsemane Episcopal. It's always nerve-wracking to begin a book written by someone you know, because what if it's awful. This book, though, was truly excellent. Here's the review I left at goodreads: "An intelligently written literary mystery, The Stages tells the story of Dan Peters, an American translator (and Aspie) living in Copenhagen. When his colleague and best friend dies mysteriously and a Kierkegaard manuscript goes missing, Peters seeks to clear his own name in the murder investigation.
With a strong setting, well-developed characters, surprising plot twists, and a solid grounding in philosophy, theology, and language, this book is heads and shoulders above most murder mysteries. Highly recommended. (Currently only available on kindle- and a steal at 2.99!)"


Torn by Justin Lee I basically want to recommend this to every Christian I know. Whether or not I agree with every conclusion Lee comes to, his poignant, vulnerable story is one that Christians - especially those who have never had a gay friend - need to hear. This book is not primarily an argument for gay rights or gay marriage, although Lee does take a little time to explain how his mind changed on those topics. It is primarily a story, one that you need to read with an open heart, ready to learn from it without simply jumping to find things you agree or disagree with.
Not Your Mother’s Morals by Jonathan Fitzgerald ebook available here - full review coming soon.

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter I read this because it's free on Kindle, and because I rememberd my mom recommending it to me like 10 years ago.  I absolutely loved it.  Set in Indiana (!) in the early 1900s, it's a beautiful coming of age story that demonstrates so many American cultural values - self-reliance, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, the value of hard work and education. It also has a unique naturalist perspective, and it made me think a lot about humanity, the natural world, and technology. 





As for movies, we really liked Safety Not Guaranteed. Josh Radnor's newest offering, Liberal Arts, was ok, a bit predictable, and really! he's playing the same Ted Mosby role again and again! Jack and I both sobbed through Les Miserables in the theater (and it totally changed his mind about Anne Hathaway - from contempt to admiration), and on Amazon Prime we're watching Foyle's War, which his parents recommended. It's a classic British detective show set in the south coast of England during World War II.