Tag Archive: non fiction


unorthodox  Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

Published: January 1st, 2012

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Books a Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

The instant New York Times bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author. As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. It was stolen moments spent with the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realized that, for the sake of herself and her son, she had to escape.

 

Rating: 4 star

 

Review:

I’ve been a bad bad reviewer. I haven’t managed to read more than a single book this entire year. Okay, one and a half if I’m being honest…I am halfway through another. But, in my defense I did give birth and now have a 5 month old daughter. So I’ve been a teensy bit busy. But I found time to read! While I’m at work pumping milk for my baby, that’s a whole half hour that could be spent reading instead of browsing Facebook or playing Candy Crush.

This was a quick read but a good one. Feldman paints a vivid picture with her words and transports you directly to her world. I was engrossed in the story. One would like to think that things like this don’t happen in a free country, but alas it does. I lived through a similar religious experience (with a different religion of course) and was interested to see how much these experiences overlap. Not surprisingly, the answer is quite a lot. Religious abuse is a real thing.

While I am aware of the accusations of exaggeration and lying by the author, I personally choose to give the benefit of the doubt. People do behave this way. People in such strict religions do these kinds of things. And when someone dares to leave the flock, their former community throws mud all day long to try and discredit them. I can’t say for sure that is what is happening in this case, but it seems logical.

As a woman and a mother, I found the book infuriating. I can sympathize with how utterly out of the place the author felt in the world that she had been born into. Her yearnings for more were palpable. I found myself rooting for her to succeed and break free from what felt like such a confining life. I can’t say much more about this book except that I found it very compelling.

And now I hear someone yelling at daddy for a nursing, so I will wrap up. Hopefully I can make at least one more review this year…we’ll see lol.

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religionWhat You Don’t Know About Religion (But Should) by Ryan T. Cragun

Published March 15th 2013 by Pitchstone Publishing

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon / B&N

Synopsis:

What is a religion? Why are people religious? Are religious people more educated than nonreligious people? Are religious people more moral, more humble, or happier? Are religious people more or less prejudiced than nonreligious people? Is religion good for your health? Are people becoming more or less religious? Studying religion as a social phenomenon, Ryan T. Cragun follows the scientific data to provide answers to these and other questions. At times irreverent, but always engaging and illuminating, What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) is for all those who have ever wondered whether religion helps or hurts society—or questioned what the future holds for religion.

Rating: 1 star

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

There are really only a few things you need to know about this book:

“I could have approached this book that way (highly scientific and detailed), But had I done that my audience would have dropped considerable. So I did simplify things.”

No, I swear to God that particular misspelling actually is in the book. But just remember, this book was written for dummies, that will be important later.

“Our new world needs tolerance.”

“When I was religious, I was very arrogant.”

“If you’re on the fundamentalist bandwagon, it’s time to get off……We nonreligious will inhereit the earth, but we won’t share it with fundamentalists.”

“What I hope to have done with this book, however, is undermine and destroy the appeal of religious fundamentalism.”

“To my mind the scientific research suggested to me a logical path – to reject religion. You need not do that. You could choose the best religious alternative to that: liberal religion. I can respect that choice.”

“After people read this book, they should view religious fundamentalists with sympathy and a bit of scorn.”

“Religious fundamentalists are detriments to society and they should be treated as such. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we round them up and lock them away – that would be awful and is unethical. I’m suggesting that you should think about religious fundamentalists as though they are misogynistic, racist, homophobic Luddites, because they are.”

“…but you can pity then, and frankly, I think it is perfectly fine to tell then that you do. Tell them that you feel sorry for their choice to oppose the qualities of a progressive, modernized, advanced, democratic society. It’s time that religious fundamentalists were considered socially deviant.”

So, am I the only disturbed by these quotes? Tolerance huh? Yes, this is a very tolerant book! It will tell you for 250 pages that the highly religious are dumber, less well off, less educated, more prejudiced, more violent, misogynistic, homophobic, hypocritical, arrogant racists. I wanted to give this book a fair shot, I really did. The author is a former Mormon, and so am I. I was a fourth generation Mormon, born into the faith and I stayed long past the time I started to have doubts. I finally left the religion and frankly it left a bad taste in my mouth. So I wanted to agree with this author! And I couldn’t! Because I have never read a more prejudiced and hateful book by a more arrogant author in all my life.

This book was purported to be about the social science of how and why people are religious, and whether or not religion is really such a benefit to people’s lives as it claims to be. This intrigued me. But what I got was “look at this graph, this is what that graph tells us. now look at this graph, this is what it tells us. shit, religious people suck!” And rinse and repeat for 200 something pages. I learned nothing about religion and everything I ever needed to know about the author’s character.

Now, by this point the author will probably tell you one of two things about me (and he admits it in his book). If I don’t agree with his points then:

A. I am a religious fundamentalist who just is socially deviant and can’t understand simple logic, even though the book was written for dummies. Everyone should point and laugh at the idiot with a God.

B. I didn’t read the book all the way through and so therefore I failed to grasp it.

Let’s address this. First, I did read this pile of garbage until the very last sentence. And I learned nothing and have thoroughly wasted my time. Also I am one of the people who would be classed as “non religious” in his book. I am now a Pagan and have been since a few years after I left the Mormon church. I have faith in many things and I practice my faith in private, but I do not participate in a religion with others.

Save yourself the time and find an actual book about the science of religion, because this one is just thinly veiled hateful spew about religious people and religion in general. Oh, who am I kidding, there is no veil!

sex workers uniteSex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk by Melinda Chateauvert

Expected publication January 7th, 2014 by Beacon Press

Pre-order this book at: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository / Books A Million

Synopsis:

A provocative history that reveals how sex workers have been at the vanguard of social justice movements for the past fifty years while building a movement of their own that challenges our ideas about labor, sexuality, feminism, and freedom

Fifty countries treat sex work as a legitimate job, and it has been legalized (with restrictions) in eleven others. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that continues to criminalize prostitution and, as Melinda Chateauvert reveals, these laws have put sex workers at risk. Documenting five decades of sex-worker activism, Sex Workers Unite puts prostitutes, hustlers, call girls, strippers, and porn stars in the center of civil rights struggles. Although their presence has largely been ignored, sex workers have here been recast as key activists in struggles for gay liberation, women’s rights, reproductive justice, union organizing, and prison abolition. By foregrounding labor, Chateauvert reframes sex work as work and argues that sex-worker rights are ultimately human rights.

Rating: 2 star

Review:

I gave this book my very best, I went into it with the most open of open minds, and I just didn’t like it at all. Now, let me explain a little about myself here. I believe that prostitution and sex trade work will exist no matter how illegal we try and make it. It always has existed and it always will as long as there are people willing to pay for sex. I believe that a lot would be accomplished by legalizing prostitution. It would allow workers to be law abiding citizens again, taxes would be collected for the work, mandatory STD testing and condom use can be enforced, and prostitutes can work in safe environments with pre-screen clients and panic buttons and security on site. These are all great things that I think would be accomplished by legalizing prostitution.  So with that in mind, this book should have been right up my alley.

The material in this book wasn’t necessarily bad. In fact i found a lot of what was presented interesting. I just couldn’t stand how it was presented. It felt like I was reading a dissertation about the tax code. It was so bland and dry and boring. Nothing about the writing captured my attention. It was fact, explanation, opinion, fact, fact, fact, explanation, opinion. There was nothing to make me want to keep reading no matter how interesting the actual material was. I nearly fell asleep and drooled on my Nook a few times during this book!

The book came across as preachy and prejudiced. Very early in the book I ran across this ‘….exploited by savage (read: black) pimps’  Um, so you as the author assume that I assumed savage pimps meant they were black. Nice job assuming that your audience and society at large is racist. And this didn’t just happen once, it happened at least once every 3 pages. It annoyed me a lot. The writer used the word “queer” more times that I cared to count. Supposedly this was being written with the mind of being an advocate for the sex worker’s community, which means a decent percentage of them are part of the LGBTQ community. I’m fairly certain that using the term “queer” is offensive, so stop using it. I can sum up this book in one sentence….”blah blah blah, prostitutes are great, blah blah blah, everyone is a bigot, blah blah blah, you bigot!, blah blah blah, everyone is a hooker, blah blah blah, you bigots!” That’s how I felt when reading this.

I also fell off course with the author on several other points. 1. The author states several times that all woman are prostitutes, some are just smart enough to hook for money instead of a ring, love, marriage, or whatever else. Yeah, that’s not offensive and off-putting at all. 2. The author doesn’t seem to believe that it’s possible for people to be trafficked into the sex trade or people cannot be coerced into prostitution. That bothers me for way more reasons than I care to enumerate. But I’ll leave you with this quote: “the FBI arrests sex workers as trafficked and claim their associates held them in sexual slavery.”

Also, I sincerely hope this gets a really good editing before it’s released. The grammar and spelling were absolutely atrocious. The punctuation was worse. I could barely understand what the book was trying to say. So if this get a good editing it will be fine, but if it’s released as is then dear God.

 

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher, no guarantees or promises were made in exchange.

daysatancalledThe Day Satan Called by Bill Scott

Published October 11th, 2011 by FaithWords

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Books A Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

THE DAY SATAN CALLED is Bill Scott’s account of an excruciating 18-month period in his life. Out of Christian love he and his wife invited a young lady who was demon possessed and the member of an active satanic network into their home. They prayed the sinner’s prayer with her and believed that they could help redeem someone who had witnessed and experienced unimaginable rituals and abuses.
What happened instead were death threats and the loss of their home as a sanctuary. Voices. Threats. Objects falling and moving. Strange visitors and callers. A loving church falling into turmoil. And yes the voice of Satan. Every day was filled with the dread of nightfall. Once you’ve invited someone filled with demons that aren’t leaving her into your home what do you next? Where do you send her? How do you protect yourself and your family? What do you do after she’s finally gone but the demons haven’t left?
This is the account of a terrifying and incredible phenomenon. But ultimately, it is a testament to the power of God’s love, even over evil spirits.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Ask anyone who knows me (including my husband) and they will tell you that I am an incredibly open minded person when it comes to the paranormal and supernatural.  I’ve always been that way but it really came home when I became a practicing Pagan over 10 years ago. But there is just one thing that I didn’t believe in as a practicing Christian or as a Pagan, Satan and demons. To me, it makes no sense in the context of Christian beliefs. God is perfect, therefore God cannot contradict himself/herself/itself. God is also all-loving and all-forgiving…but is ready to condemn billions of souls to eternal torment at the hands of Satan and his minions for not following the rules. Is it just me or does that sound like a contradiction? So, one of those things cannot be true. Either God is not perfect, not all-loving and forgiving, or there is no devil. Can’t have it both ways. I have always viewed Satan and demons as convenient inventions of the Christian establishment to scare people into behaving themselves. Yet, in spite of this belief, I was willing to be open minded about this book. And good heavens was it painful!

This book just wasn’t very good. It centers around Christian radio host Bill Scott, telling a story that happened over 20 years ago in the mid 80’s. A week before Halloween he received a phone call from a 16 year old girl named Lacey who claimed to be a prisoner of a Satanic coven and was going to be sacrificed on Halloween. She also claimed to be demon possessed. Bill talks to her for two days and then she asks him to meet her at this church in person and thus begins a year and a half long saga of trying to help this girl, who actually is a 30 something year old woman named Roxanne, apparently Lacey is one of her demons.  Let’s break this book down by good points and bad points.

Good:

1. For once the demons aren’t possessing good, faithful Christian folks. I have always posed this question to Christians who believe in demon possession, why do demons only seem interested in faithful Christians?  Surely there must be easier targets! The only answer I’ve ever gotten was that non Christians were already going to hell and so their soul was already in jeopardy, okay then whatever. But here we have a natural target for a demon, a Satanic witch who willingly invited the demons to possess her. Great!

2. Three words: Demon of Nicotine. No I’m not kidding. This made me laugh so hard! And guess what accompanies his arrival….the smell of cigarette smoke. Oh no, the giggles are coming back. This alone made me give this 2 stars instead of 1 because it was just so funny. Too bad he was trying to be serious, this would have been a great comedy.

 

Bad:

1. Signals that what you’re hearing is a bullshit story: 16 year old claims to be part of a Satanic coven and has no birth certificate to prove she ever existed. Somehow she is being held prisoner against her will but has constant access to a phone for over 48 hours and can leave the coven at any time to meet you. Another “witch” shows up to tell you that she’s been sent there to kill the 16 year old girl except…she is the same person as the 16 year old girl who never existed.

2. The author actually used this sentence, “taking home a member of the opposite sex was threatening to my wife”. Uh, I think I have a clue why your marriage didn’t go so great Bill. Maybe because you announced to your wife that without discussing it with her you were bringing home a woman who claimed to be possessed by demons, a high priestess of Satan, has participated in human sacrifice…and you insist that she’s threatening because it’s a woman. God, how condescending.

3. The book also says of itself, “The lines seemed to be coming from a bad script or a bad movie”. Yes, I agree, a very bad movie indeed.

4. There is absolutely no logic in this book at all. He invites a demon possessed woman into his house then seems stunned when a demon tells him that he was invited into his house. Um, duh! He believes that the key to defeating the demons is destroying Roxanne’s old Satanic items, commands a demon to bring the jewelry to him, is stunned to find it in his garage when he gets home.  But then he’s also equally stunned that destroying it doesn’t get rid of the demons. WHY WOULD THE DEMONS BRING YOU THE KEY TO THEIR DESTRUCTION!?

5. The author is clearly trying to convert people to Christianity, despite the fact that he claims Roxanna was a catalyst in dozens of divorces, churches falling apart, and didn’t actually manage to cure her of her demon affliction. There’s a whole chapter at the end about how to keep yourself rid of demons and living a God centered life.

6.  Everything goes Bill’s way as soon as he prays to God or Jesus. He claims that this whole period was horrific for him, but in every example in the book he prays and gets what he’s asking for. Doesn’t seem so hard to me.

7. Any and all evidence or supporting statements that Bill might have had to prove he’s not full of shit don’t exist anymore. He had recordings of the phone calls from the demons, he destroyed them. Roxanne must exist because she was able to get an apartment and numerous other people were in contact with her…all of them have been silent thus far.

8. Bill admits several times that he thinks Roxanne is mentally ill yet never once does he go to a psychiatrist or doctor for help. He self diagnoses her as Multiple Personalities and uses that as his reasoning for why the demons don’t go away, one or more of her personalities must be allowing the demons back in. The only time a mental health professional gets involved they are too scared to continue working with her….yeah because that happens all the time. Mental health professionals aren’t accustomed at all to dealing with unstable people. *insert massive eye roll here*

9. The book shows absolutely zero understanding whatsoever about what witchcraft or Satanism are. Witches do not believe in Satan, they do not believe in demons, they do not believe in hell. The first tenet of witchcraft is “and if it harm none, do what ye will.” So this rules out that witches are killing and eating babies or asking demons to possess them. I should know, I’ve been a practicing witch for over a decade. And I’m not one of those “new age, Wiccans” unlike what Bill Scott believes. Satanism is the same, I’ve never ascribed to Satanism but I’ve known a lot of people who do. Satanists don’t believe that Satan or demons exist either. They view Satan as symbolic for self indulgence, living in the now, absolute truth not filtered through dogma, kindness to deserving people not all mankind, vengeance not turning the other cheek, and that man is just an animal like any other. So Satanists do not worship Satan, they live the tenets of what Satan represents. And so a Satanist would not be harmed or frightened by Christian symbols because they view the Christian church as ridiculous nonsense that inhibits one’s life for no reason. Even the littlest understanding of witchcraft or Satanism immediately turns this book into nothing but fiction.

Okay, I’ve ranted and raved about this enough here. End note this book was laughable in its ignorance. But ultimately I was amused by how utterly cliche it was.