My review for you is different than what I posted on Amazon. Mostly because this book brought up plenty of personal issues that wouldn’t be appropriate for a book review on their site. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Amazon gave me this book to review. However, they do not require me to write a kind review, nor do I feel obligated to do anything but give my honest thoughts.
First, let me say that I had high hopes for this book. I have not read anything by Carolyn Curtis James before, but loved the premise of the book. I was not prepared for the graphic stories in this book. This book tells stories in just about every chapter about atrocities done to women and girls around the world. Nothing in the description of the book prepared me for that possibility. I do not think such stories should be quieted, however, a warning to readers about such things would have been nice. Had I read this book 2 months ago while very pregnant and sensitive, it would have been the cause of a lot of emotional distress. (Seriously, I don’t allow the news to be on where I can hear it while pregnant because of the stress it causes me.)
After reading the book, it seems I should have read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage). Carolyn Curtis James seems to reference this book in almost every chapter, telling you something else she read in that book. It was quite annoying. It almost made the book feel like a very long book report or something. It’d be like me writing a book based on my reading of this book. Which, I know is what they did back in the day (like John Wesley), but it isn’t quite the same in this modern sense.
This book felt very disjointed to me. Carolyn doesn’t do a very good job of making clear, concise points. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out just what she was getting at constantly. I don’t think the book accomplished it’s purpose, which would be to “recapture God’s global vision for women.” There was nothing clear about what women should be doing that they are not currently. No insight into the cultural vs. Biblical tug of war we find ourselves in. Instead, the book mainly focuses on trying to get women to see their global calling to help other women who are oppressed. I get that is important and I agree that the church should be looking out for the widowed and ophaned. However, global women’s missions is not everyones calling. Nor is it a calling for women only.
What this book did do was start an internal dialogue for me. It started me toward thinking about where women are in my own church. It prompted me to begin thinking about how I am using my gifts for the Kingdom. It made me consider, “Are women’s roles in the church a Biblical issue or a cultural one?” It also made me think about my sometimes limited vision for my daughter. When each of my sons were born, I thought of them growing up and doing big things. Maybe they’d be theologians, missionaries, extreme sports enthusiasts, pastors, professors, doctors, engineers, etc. With Imogene, I didn’t think like that. I thought, I wonder if she’ll grow up and be happy with herself. My vision then was maybe she could be a teacher. Yep. Not a professor like the boys or a writer, but a teacher. (Not that there is anything wrong with teaching. I’m just saying my vision for her was clearly much more limited.) And why? I see women as being equal and strong. Why would I automatically limit her? (I really think it is not an intentional thing. I think I am just programmed to see women that way. I was raised to be subservient and check my brain at the door. I’d be a very rich woman if I have a dollar for every time I was told that I wasn’t “allowed” to have an opinion. Clearly, I am getting beyond that brainwashing, but I do think I need to be more intentional about it.) If you’ll also notice my list of things for my boys didn’t include anything like chef, fashion designer, florist, interior designer, stay-at-home-dad, etc. Why? I have no clue. It jut wasn’t the first thing I thought of. It isn’t that any of those things is lowly. They are all awesome things to do. I think I need to work on retraining my initial reaction to be what I know in my head. That I want my children to do something that they love, something that gives them a sense of fulfillment. I want them to be the people God created them to be, without being worried about gender lines and places. I want them to pursue what they are gifted toward and have a heart for, whatever that might be.
I do see that half the church is left out, or sold a smaller version of the gospel. I see that women are not given the ministry opportunities within the church. I do see how the church’s view of women can harm our evangelistic efforts. However, this book didn’t give me anything to rectify the situation in my life or in my circle of influence. It only gave me points to begin thinking on.
If we, the Body, are going to continue to reach people in our culture that is increasingly turning from Christianity, we are going to need everyone using their God given gifts to the fullest. That means we are going to have to check some of the patriarchy at the door.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. Honestly, the book itself probably only earned 2 out of 5 stars for me, but because of the various strands it started me thinking about, its value increased for me. It wasn’t entirely about what was written, but what it forced me to think about.