Biographies allow us little glimpses into lives and experiences, and several feature in this month’s latest arrivals – from Pope Francis to contrasting accounts of Muslim women.
Atiya’s journeys : a Muslim woman from colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain, [edited by] Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Sunil Sharma.
“This is the original English translation of the first Indian Muslim woman’s experiences in the ‘West’. Atiya Fyzee’s (1877-1967), travel diary was published in an Urdu Journal 1922 then as the book Zamana-i-Tahsil…. It places particular emphasis on ‘everyday’ activities of women…. Alongside lively accounts of local elites and prominent Indians abroad, Atiya provides descriptions of their clothing, meals, servants, homes, and mannerisms.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)
I am Malala : the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai.
At only age 11, Malala Yousafzai, using the pen name Gul Makai, wrote for the BBC living under the Taliban. Her mission was speaking about the right for girls to be educated in her community. Then she was shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus, but miraculously survived and continues to speak out with courage. She is the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. “Ms. Yousafzai’s stature as a symbol of peace and bravery has been established across the world…” (Salman Masood, The New York Times)
Do Muslim women need saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod.
Social Scientist Abu-Lughod focuses on the stories of individual women to separate the idea of ‘saving Muslim women’ from saving them from “honour crime,” discriminatory legal systems, poverty, and patriarchal family traditions. “The women presented here see their Islamic faith as a source of strength to fight injustice, not the cause of it.” (Publisher Weekly)
The witness wore red : the 19th wife who brought polygamous cult leaders to justice, by Rebecca Musser, M. Bridget Cook.
The author describes growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). She is ordered to be a prophet’s 19th wife – she is eighteen, he in his eighties. She escapes and assists law enforcement investigate, and prosecute the men for bigamy, underage marriage, and statutory rape. “The book speaks to the ways isolation, fear and secrecy can shelter insidious abuses until someone has the courage to step forward as a witness.” (Kirkus review).
Pope Francis, by Paul Vallely.
Draws on interviews with those who have known Pope Francis over the years. In his early career there was less evidence for his present concern for the poor and the laity. However, his experiences under the junta changed him and encouraged him towards a direction of liberation theology. This book “examines the criticisms that have been made of Pope Francis and puts them in context, clarifying, rather than denying.” (Library Journal)
On heaven and earth : Pope Francis on faith, family, and the church in the twenty-first century, by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka.
While Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Argentina he had a series of conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka. This book records those conversations. Each chapter covers a particular topic, such as guilt, euthanasia, women, abortion, science, the Holocaust, or God. This is a delightful peek into a close friendship and commitment to inter-faith dialogue.
On a Mission : men of Mount St. Mary’s tell their stories, by Shaun Davison.
“Shaun Davison and 21 of his fellow seminarians revisit their decision train as Marist Priests at Mount St Mary’s (commonly known as Greenmeadows) near Napier and talk about why they embarked on a religious path and discuss its impact on their lives and careers”–Publisher’s information.
Memoirs of a dervish, by Robert Irwin.
Robert Irwin, acclaimed novelist and Middle East editor of The Times Literary Supplement, describes his turbulent times in the sixties and seventies. His search for Sufi enlightenment took him to Algeria where he converted to Islam, and received an initiation as a faqir. But this is not a detailed account of Sufi doctrine. It is the author’s story of living through the sixties and drugs, satanism, Scientology, to name a few which contributed to his journey.
Darling : a spiritual autobiography, by Richard Rodriguez.
This book is the culmination of the author’s own faith struggle after 9/11. “His pilgrimage begins with “the realization that the God I worship is… the same desert God the terrorists prayed [to],”… Much like his writing, Rodriguez has been all over the place, traveling, thinking, observing … over the course of years, in seemingly disjointed stories that explain one writer’s journey to a God of many.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)
Jesus among friends and enemies : a historical and literary introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, edited by Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado.
As the title suggests, this book attempts to explore the life of Jesus through the eyes of those who knew him – his family, friends such as Mary Magdalene, the Bethany family, and the beloved disciple – but also his accusers, e.g. Jewish leaders and political authorities such as Pilate or Herod. Another contribution to the quest for the historical Jesus.
My God : a reluctant agnostic’s revelation, by Randy Kyle Hachtel.
“This idiosyncratic journey explores the author’s encounter with the feminine aspect of the deity, which Hachtel, as humble scribe, faithfully recorded in this book… The author explains how he learned to reach out and talk to God, and helps you answer many questions… In despair and hard hit by economic downturn, the author challenged God, who sent an amazing answer… God dragged the author, then a reluctant agnostic, willingly and unwillingly into becoming a believer and… a writer to transmit God’s modern message…”–p. 4 of cover.