All of which makes it odd that I'm so excited about two books, each coming out in the same month, each concerning religious topics and probably marketed to a fairly religious audience. They're also looking at some social inequalities (sexism for the first one, homophobia for the second) and how they play out in American evangelical Christianity.
One of those authors could use a bit of support just now. Rachel Held Evans, whose interview of a stay-at-home dad I recommended last night, tried to take all of the Bible's commandments for women (Old Testament and New) as literally as she could. Based on the sample bits I've read (I can't speak for the whole book yet), it seems to be more than straight memoir. It's more about her struggle on how to view herself as a woman, how her experiences changed how she understood "biblical womanhood." She's funny and humble and open-minded, and it makes for a good book, at least based on what I've seen. For the record, Rachel was an egalitarian going into this, and she's still one.
(Read about the project here, pre-order it at Amazon, and don't miss the reviews of it at NPR, Slate, and the Oprah blog.)
I don't want to get into a big debate over whether the Bible supports egalitarianism, or whether following the Bible literally is a good way to understand what it teaches, or any of that. I'm talking about Rachel's book because Vaginagate is rearing its ugly head again. Back when she was getting her book ready for publication, her publisher wanted her to take out the word "vagina." Christian bookstores are infamously persnickety, and there was a concern that if she included the word (which is appropriate in the context, btw) some Christian bookstores would refuse to carry it. Rachel was initially prepared to edit it out, but as she describes here eventually decided that was the wrong move:
In the wake of Lifeway’s highly-publicized ban of the movie “The Blind Side,” and after speaking with some industry insiders, I wrote a blog post in July about Lifeway’s influence on the Christian publishing industry, explaining how its standards not only affect the highly sanitized inventory we find on Christian bookstore shelves, but also which books are contracted by publishers, what content gets edited in the writing and editing process, and the degree of freedom authors feel they have to speak through their own platforms.
Whatever you think of Rachel's project or the Christian publishing industry, I hope we can all agree this is a trend worth fighting. And she's paying a price for it: the major Christian bookstore Lifeway isn't carrying the book. Other Christian bookstores are, and you can get it on Amazon + Barnes and Nobles, and certainly by request anywhere. Or you can take the rather hilarious approach suggested in the comments at Rachel's blog by several ex-Lifeway sales clerks: pre-order a few copies through Lifeway (they're doing special orders, not just stocking it normally), then only buy the one so they have to put the remainder on their shelves for other people to buy. They'll only charge you for the ones you actually buy.
Whether you buy it or not, and however you buy it, it might not be a bad idea to stop by her blog and show your support. Unlike most blogs and articles, I actually can recommend the comments at her site - I'd say they're the best part, but the main posts rock, too. And censorship always sucks, whatever its form. I'm sure she'd appreciate an encouraging note and/or a preorder, if you're so inclined.
The other book is Tim Kurek's The Cross and the Closet, which is available from the publisher, Amazon, B+N, and all the other usual places. It's coming out on I think the tenth. I've just finished the preprint Tim gave me and will be writing a review of it this weekend. Which will be positive, but I'll save the specifics for next week.
Which probably means I need two betas, or one person willing to do two projects. One to look over the review for grammar and writing style of the review, probably on Saturday or Sunday. (I'll need a quick turn-around there.) I also need someone besides Ann to look over a short Swordspoint ficlet. Let me know if you're game for either or both.