SEX, MOM, AND GOD

HOW THE BIBLE'S STRANGE TAKE ON SEX LED TO CRAZY POLITICS--AND HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE WOMEN (AND JESUS) ANYWAY

In the third installment of the “God Trilogy,” prolific novelist and nonfiction author Schaeffer (Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism), 2009, etc.) tells “the truth” about his mother’s curious impartation of religion and sex.

The author’s mother Edith played as much a spiritual role as his father, the late Evangelist Francis Schaeffer, and continues to do so at 96, though her memory loss and sight deterioration defy them both. The book shines in sections centered on Edith, a “life-embracing free spirit” whose sexual education of her son began with a show-and-tell of her diaphragm to him at age eight while on a family vacation. This candid abandon extended to matters outside of sexuality as well. The author distinctly remembers Edith praising a God that foreknew and condoned the miscarriage of her first male child in favor of subsequently giving birth to Schaeffer. He attributes life growing up with three sisters as vital to his affinity for women in later years, though they usurped too much of his parents’ time and attention back then. As a woman who’d sacrificed a dancing career to become a religious juggernaut, Edith’s fiery personality and sexual extroversion were contradictory to the piousness that defined her, yet she managed to formulate extraordinary interpretations. From advising women to wear sheer, black lingerie to keep their husbands’ interest to confessing Francis’ sexual demands on her—all were justified with biblical significance. A consummate memoirist, Schaeffer fills the narrative with interesting anecdotes about his sex life, like a nervous first-time encounter with a French woman and the ice-girl he fashioned (and attempted to mate with) while growing up in the Swiss mission his parents founded. The author’s heated rejection of modern Evangelicalism and discussions of abortion, Reconstructionist movements and even Sarah Palin rob the memoir of the loving glow cast by Edith’s legacy, but the sage conversation on a New York–bound bus with a distraught Asian girl is warmly resonant and a befitting conclusion to an occasionally disjointed book of ruminations, memories and frustrated opinion. Sweet and savory familial adoration.

 

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-306-81928-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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