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RADICAL REINVENTION

AN UNLIKELY RETURN TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

A somewhat intriguing but mostly uneasy faith journey.

Oakes (Writing/Univ. of California; Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, 2009) chronicles her uneasy entry back into the Catholic Church, with plenty of F-bombs thrown in for good effect.

Proud of her bad-girl persona (perhaps more past than present) and of her liberal political activism, the author tries to convince both her readers and herself why she wanted to be a Catholic again. The result is readable and engaging but not necessarily convincing. Oakes grew up in a moderately Catholic family before rebelling. However, she could not rid herself of a belief in God, and eventually she was moved to try out church again. Unfulfilled with Protestant options, she went back to what she knew. At the beginning of her spiritual journey, she was uncomfortable with her choice: “I don’t want people to know I’m Catholic again because it still seems so oppositional to the rest of my life.” Indeed, Oakes’ main draw to Catholicism seems to be the challenge and the opportunity to be an agitator from within. She expresses feeling a lack of community until her searching led her to sympathetic priests, feminist nuns and activist laywomen. She found her place in Catholicism in such backdrops as a “pray-and-bitch” circle of women and a predominantly gay congregation. The author concludes with the story of her visit to Italy, where she found some moments of genuine religious feeling at places such as the tomb of St. Francis. Oakes’ writing flows well, but it sometimes feels almost lazy (e.g., describing Juan Diego, who encountered the Virgin of Guadalupe, as “the indigenous guy”) or overly caustic for the sake of her own self-image as a rebel. The author’s low self-esteem and the weight of her past drag her down throughout the book and are not alleviated by her spiritual quest, which seems, in the end, more a quest for community.

A somewhat intriguing but mostly uneasy faith journey.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59376-431-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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