An useful, interesting book for students of modern Chinese history and of missionary Christianity.

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SHANGHAI FAITHFUL

BETRAYAL AND FORGIVENESS IN A CHINESE CHRISTIAN FAMILY

A Christian odyssey through three centuries of Chinese history.

Family stories have a way of unfolding gradually, in bits and pieces, and former longtime Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent Lin’s is no exception. The author grew up hearing occasional stories from her Shanghainese father, a preoccupied neurosurgeon, about his father, a minister, along with another relative, an uncle “with the curious name of Watchman Nee” who was China’s version of Billy Graham. Only after the post–Cultural Revolution détente were she and her family permitted to visit, and only then did the official repression of Chinese Christians begin to lift somewhat. Lin recounts the origins of the faith there with the arrival of European missionaries, their proselytizing coming at about the time that true opium, and not just that of the masses, was being imported in quantity—and often leading to a view among Chinese that there should be “no distinction between missionary and merchant.” In later years, writes the author, the communist state attempted to co-opt Christian churches with state-appointed clerics, when it wasn’t outright persecuting Christians to begin with. Lin traces the story of her family’s increasing involvement with organized Christianity over the years, finally leading to Watchman Nee, who early on in the communist era was accused of espionage and being an “economic criminal” because of his family’s bourgeois pharmaceutical business. By Lin’s account, he did what he could to work within the boundaries of the state’s evolving religious policy, sometimes, Lin reports, “coyly.” The author’s portraits of family members and other Shanghainese and their many difficulties during the worst years of the repression are affecting. As for the state of Christianity in China now, she expresses guarded optimism; though Watchman Nee’s works are still banned, she writes that one pastor told her the old repression would be “impossible” because “there are too many believers.”

An useful, interesting book for students of modern Chinese history and of missionary Christianity.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4422-5693-4

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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