Saturday, January 7, 2012

Review: Raised Right by Alisa Harris

I was raised in the country. Not the coastal country of large houses, servants and sailing. I was raised in the truck-driving, hunting and fishing, surrounded by fields and forest that John (sometimes Cougar) Mellencamp sings about kind of country. I was raised in a warm, loving, caring home by parents who loved their family, their friends and their God. That love rubbed off on their kids. I was raised just a short drive from the town where my father was raised and where my grandfather served as mayor for 12 years.

Though they never instructed us on how we should vote, we were clearly a Republican family (despite the fact that Gramps ran as a democrat every time). I knew what box I was expected to check once I was old enough to vote. It wasn’t until after my first four years of college (yes, I said first four years), that I even got to know a Democrat well enough to listen (actually listen) to the reasons why they believe as they do (Well, at least someone that I KNEW was a democrat.) As I continued in college these conversations occurred more and more often and I began to see the world differently.

I like the way that Ruth Arnell put it,
But then I … met people and lived through situations that forced apart my faith life and my political life, all the while speckling my black-and-white understanding of the world with flecks of moderate gray. Again and again I faced people I loved in situations that caused them pain, and there I was with a political map that didn’t feature the roads they were walking, let alone viable exits or much needed rest points to serve their needs along the way. [behnnie]
The Twitter² Summary:
Alisa Harris spent her home-schooled formative years picketing abortion clinics and volunteering for Republican campaigns. After spending time with people she respected who didn't share her beliefs she realized that faith and politics could interact in a different way.

The Low-down:
Harris describes an upbringing that is familiar to some and frightening to others. From being carted along by her parents to anti-abortion protests to rallying for conservative candidates, she grew up feeling that conservative republican politics and political figures were pretty much on the same level as scripture and prophets.

It took her graduating college and actually spending time with people who believed different than her before she found that they weren't all that bad, maybe that they might actually be good people (sounds familiar to me, minus the graduating part). Harris deftly relates her changing understanding of the relationship between faith and politics.

Harris points out that though today's Christians might say the Bible endorses capitalism; Christians two hundred years ago said it endorsed the divine right of kings. Her conclusion is that both missed the point, which is that the Bible is neither an eighteenth- nor a twenty-first-century policy textbook.

Ultimately, Raised Right was constructed well and not the bitter/angry rant I feared it might be.

The Rating:
4 of 5 Stars (An interesting book that kept me turning the pages)

The Links:
Download the first chapter free here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Mummy, I Have To Go Potty by Wilma Shine

With the Little One showing a passing interest in learning how to use the restroom on his own, I thought maybe this might be a good choice to assist our efforts to encourage him in this new endeavor. I expected an informed history of the toilet with supporting facts, some evidence to support the author's conclusions or maybe a citation here and there. That is not what I found.

The Twitter² Summary:
In author Wilma Shine’s overview of toilets around the world, she informs the reader what
they’re called, what they look like and how to find them. She also discusses
the special language used for toilets and their contents across the globe and
through the ages.

The Low-down:
Shine's book could've been a cute coffee table book. It could've been the kind of book that would go great sticking out of this magazine rack in a guest restroom with these outhouse pictures on the wall.

You see where I'm going with this?

This could've been a book like that, but it just isn't. It falls short in a couple areas.

First, it falls a bit short in content. Though the majority of the book is on target, the occasional off-topic tangents disrupt the flow. (The one on cats is particularly unnecessary). In addition, the tone of the book is almost tongue-in-cheek in the right way, but off just a bit.
No matter whether you are poor or rich, sophisticated or illiterate - no difference between races - you are bound to this relationship for a lifetime. You simply cannot avoid it.
What goes in "upstairs" must come out "downstairs."
Every meal means a walk to a facility later. Whatever delicious, tasty thing goes in on top must come out in
a smelly substance at the bottom.
Other sections of the book ramble in such a way that the author's intent is unclear.
Public facilities may be a meeting place for homosexuals or homeless people. Graffiti may offer an insight to social behaviour.
Have you ever looked at restrooms in universities? You sometimes wonder how educated people express their feelings.
I'm not sure what my response should be to this. Is this observation? Is it critique? I honestly don't know. And finally, we have the seemingly ever-present stereotypical comment about men.
And why do men always have the lid of the commode up?
When you enter a toilet and the lid is up you immediately know the former customer was a man.
The other aspect that distracts from the reader's experience is the design and layout. The picture quality varies widely from sharp and focused on one page to blurry on the next. It could have also used a book-wide color balance to bring all the pictures in line with each other to look like they are each part of a whole.

I'll probably still stick it in the restroom, but it might be behind a magazine or two.

The Rating:
2 of 5 Stars (A book I had to force myself to finish)

The Link: 
The Publisher's Book Page

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received this book free from Dorrance Publishing Company. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”