Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017.07.30 Book Review Heaven: God Is Not a Boy's Name...

Jesus’s parables tell us that the reign of heaven on earth is like a pinch of leaven, a tiny mustard seed, a pearl lost in a great field. They challenge us to be pearl, seed, leaven—remembering that our presence, no matter how small, can enhance the reign of divine Love.

As any writer knows, waiting around like some kind of salivating lap dog for someone to feed your hungry soul with a review of your book, can be torturous.

Book reviews are what you want—and don’t. I hope my writings are like the parabolic pearl or leaven or seed. Humble and grateful, the few reviews I’ve received are positive. Here are snippets.
Karen Erlichman, DMin, LCSW, a faculty mentor in a Jewish spiritual direction training program, wrote a review, published in the September, 2017, issue of Presence, International Journal of Spiritual Direction. I love that she refers to other faith traditions.

“As a spiritual director I am a curator of personal stories. Memoir is a unique genre that requires a skillful writer to create a personal story that is compelling, but not too dramatic, touching without being cloying, and historically relevant but not overly academic. These nuanced writing skills are particularly important for a spiritual memoir. Episcopal priest, spiritual director, and pastoral counselor Lyn Brakeman has written a stunningly poetic, hilarious, unapologetically feminist, heart-opening memoir that hits the mark beautifully on all of the above facets. God Is Not a Boy’s Name: Becoming Woman, Becoming Priest is a compelling, juicy, passionate, and gracefully narrated account of Brakeman’s life as a child of god, servant of God, and lover of God. She invites us to walk with her  . . .”  

The review goes on to elaborate structure and some details, concluding with the acknowledgment that my memoir will “touch the heart and minds of readers in many faith traditions.” That to me is the highest compliment, because I think such connections can mend a broken world.

Dr. Allan G. Hunter, professor of literature at Curry College, one of my writing teachers and a published author himself wrote on FaceBook. Praise from a teacher is the best.

“I loved every bit of your memoir, Lyn. What a great read, and what important points, social and doctrinal, you make. I found myself writing extensive notes about the ways patriarchy had squeezed the real energy out of so much religion, and in the process killed so much of the humanity in it. Impressive work, dear soul!” 

Jennifer (Jinks) Hoffmann, spiritual director, poetry editor for Presence and author of "It’s All God Anyway. Poetry for the Everyday."  Jinks gets the patriarchal language issue!

Lyn Brakeman's memoir, God is not a Boy's Name, is simply fabulous! Read it, if you want to laugh and cry, and mostly cheer, for this inspiring, wild, gutsy, and determined woman who decides to become an Episcopalian priest. She will not take no for several answers, and spends 14 years persuading the powers that be to ordain her.

Lyn is blindingly honest, so you will learn a great deal about her childhood, her family of origin and her nuclear family, about addiction, adultery, life and death. . . . and her passion for a religion that is free of male pronouns and bias against women. But mostly you will meet God. If you join her on her journey, the odds are 2 to 1 that your God will show up more in your own life." 

Susan Oleksiw, author of mystery novels and a skilled writer herself. It means a lot that my book passes muster with a “secular” who is sick of spiritual pablum and acknowledges my understanding of rejecting bishops.

“I rarely read books about spiritual awakenings or anything else about one person’s religious life, but the author of this memoir is a friend and I was curious about how she handled topics that could easily ring false. I needn’t have worried. The author’s voice is authentic on every page—funny, wry, self-deprecating, revealing, light-hearted, determined, frustrated, irked, and all the rest that makes us human. This is an honest story of one woman’s struggle to become an episcopal priest, made less than easy by a resistant hierarchy, a deteriorating marriage, and a fear of alcoholism. And the path to priesthood begins and ends, apparently, with Ritz crackers.

One of the more rewarding aspects of this memoir is the deepening understanding of the bishops who rejected her.

This is a delightful, well paced story of one woman’s life that is lived on the path to priesthood.”

The Rt. Rev. Audrey Scanlan, bishop of Central Pennsylvania and former Christian formation director at Trinity Church in Collinsville, Connecticut, my sponsoring parish for ordination, and the parish where my second husband was rector and Audrey’s supervisor and “boss.” Love that she read it in one sitting.

“I spent last night’s insomnia reading God is Not a Boy’s Name. Got through it in one sitting. Me and my Kindle in the dark of the night. It was a wonderfully affirming feminist viewpoint on the Church that we love; it was a stark reminder of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.  I also loved the real analysis and coming to terms with the complexities of your relationship with your mom. Your relationship with your dad seemed pretty clear, all along, but it was wonderful to see the depth of discovery of your relationship with your mother. So- thanks.”

Thomas Tufts, mentor for the Education for Ministry (EfM) program of  Christian formation. Tom writes from his perspective as a mentor in a program in which the process of Theological Reflection (TR) on lived experience is as central to one’s self-awareness as a minister as is any academic knowledge of the religious tradition.Theological reflection is so integrated into my life I didn’t see it in my memoir! Great advertisement for the formation value of EfM.

“I’ve known Lyn as EfM Co-coordinator for the Diocese of Massachusetts for six years and recently read her book God is Not a Boy’s Name.

My first reaction was that I wished I had read this book six years ago when I was starting EfM and learning what Theological Reflection was from teaching about the 4-step, 4-source model. For me it  is a perfect example of several themes of EfM: wrestling with our faith, deepening our relationship with God, and opening our hearts and minds to others.  I plan to offer it optionally as suggested reading to the members our group, #6069,  in August as an experiment to see if it helps people in September as we practice listening, spiritual autobiography, and theological reflection.  I felt that it took my appreciation of theological reflection to a whole new level in terms of the challenges, rethinking , coherence and integrity these practices can bring to my life not just once, but progressively and repeatedly as I constantly perceive and confront what is new and different in my life.”

All I need is a few more non-Amazon reviews from a Christian or two, maybe an Episcopalian?