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what I’ve been into: spring 2016 edition

I’m coming down with some sort of stomach bug today, so I’m doing a fluffy post. Back on Defeating the Dragons, I used a few WordPress plugin features that let me feature blogs and articles I found interesting, but I don’t have access to those plugins anymore and I haven’t found a replacement I like yet. So I’ll hit you up with some of the things I’ve found interesting and helpful recently — and, importantly, if you could let me know if you’ve seen most or all of it already. That way I know whether linking y’all to things is helpful or just a waste of time.



I haven’t been doing that much fiction reading lately, but I wanted to talk about one I just finished. I’ve been reading through the Honor Harrington series –there’s a huge galaxy of characters, so Weber has written a few spin-offs from the main series, and Crown of Slaves is, so far, the best of those that I’ve read.

One thing about Crown of Slaves: I wasn’t initially interested in reading it because my favorite thing about the Honor Harrington books is that they’re about an amazing woman. The back cover for Crown of Slaves only mentions three men, leading one to think those are the main characters. They’re not. Zilwicki’s character disappears a few chapters in, Victor Cachet’s storyline is really about his love interest, not him (and it’s told largely through her POV), and Jeremy X (yes, a reference to Malcolm X) doesn’t even show up until the last few pages.

The book is really about Berry Zilwicki, Ruth Winton, and Thandi Palane– all women. There’s so many women in this book it’s amazing. Berry’s character is especially interesting because it takes things that are stereotypically feminine and makes them incredibly powerful for the plot of the book. The one downside is that Crown of Slaves introduces the first LGBT character I’ve seen in the Honorverse– a bisexual woman– and she’s … ugh. She’s awful. Shallow and manipulative and greedy and and blah. Not the villain, thank God, but still.


I’ve mentioned this a few times, but my small group is reading Mark, and the parables have been giving us some trouble. Not reading them the same way we’ve always read them and interpreting the same way … well, it’s like being in a rut. So, of course, my solution was books.

Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi is written by Amy-Jill Levine, who is a Jewish woman and an expert scholar in New Testament studies. I cannot overstate how important a Judaic understanding of the Bible has helped me immensely in my faith– both in trying to understand the culture biblical writers were speaking from, and in seeing this sacred book as something human as well as divine.

Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary by Marcus Borg. Apparently Borg is a big name in progressive Christianity, but I’m actually fairly new to that sphere so this is the first book I’ve read by him. Bart Ehrman in Jesus, Interrupted challenged me quite a bit by asking me to see Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet which … both reframes and recolors the way you read Jesus’ teachings. I’d never thought of Jesus as a political figure until I encountered Ehrman and Borg, and that’s been an interesting journey.


What I Learned From Dating Women Who Have Been Raped” by Emma Lindsay is an excellent discussion of sexual coercion. Best quote:

A man wants gratification at my expense, but he tries to convince me that he cares about me so I won’t bail. He sees that I am suffering, I know he sees that I am suffering, but if we talk about it he will pretend he didn’t know. He will keep up the pretense that I matter to him so I will not cut off his access to my body.

The Sugar Sphinx” by Hilton Als. I read this when it came out two years ago, but I return to it occasionally because it is just such a good examination of the continued oppression black people face.

Do Multicultural Churches Reinforce Racism?” by Daniel José Camacho. Salient quote:

Astonishingly, multicultural churches have been better at making people of color approximate white attitudes and perspectives on race than challenging Whiteness itself … Like popular reconciliation paradigms, multicultural paradigms mistake racial separation and lack of diversity as the heart of racism when these, in fact, are symptoms.

Against Humanism” by Megan Garber, is the best breakdown I’ve read of why using “humanist” or “egalitarian” instead of Feminist is a problem.

Against Selflessness” by Ozy at Thing of Things. This post was the background to my thinking on abnegation in my review of I Kissed Dating Goodbye on Monday. Also, Thing of Things is a really, really interesting blog.

Trump is Gaslighting America” by Nicole Hemmer. I read this piece the day after I’d argued that Trump’s behavior is a lot like an abuser’s and got called “ridiculous” and told I was “over-reacting.” So, that was very validating.

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem” at Latining. She is specifically a tabletop gamer, but I think this discussion can (and should) be more broadly applied to geek and gaming cultures in general.

I’m Not Your Token” by Toni Bell. Salient quote:

As I’ve worked to dismantle my own internalized racism and the ways that I privilege whiteness, I’ve learned to resist being “othered” through the use of language. So when someone says, “Oh, they did that to you because you’re black,” I quickly correct them with, “No, they did that because they are bigots.” This often shocks people. I can see the panic in their eyes. Sometimes, their eyes dart about. If there are lot of people, they may get quiet.


The second season of Daredevil was utterly magnificent. The combination of gothic elements, religious imagery and themes, and comic book superheroes is my jam. It was more gruesome than the first season, but not too much so– and unlike most gratuitous violence, the violence in Daredevil absolutely served the story’s purpose.

We’re also re-watching The West Wing, because politics this year suck. I’ve always been heavily invested in the political process– one of the things that hasn’t changed at all since becoming progressive/liberal– and this electoral cycle is driving me batty. I’ve been a voting adult for three presidential elections now and I know, factually, that it’s been at least as bad, perhaps worse, in our history– even recent history … but that doesn’t help. Because Trump. And Cruz. Ugh.

Anyway, Handsome termed The West Wing my “happy Democrat show” the first time we watched it, and I’m enjoying it even more the second time around. The first time, I identified strongly with Sam. This time, though … I’m totally Josh. So, if you’ve seen The West Wing, who do you think you’d be? If you haven’t seen The West Wing— what have you been doing with your life?


So, that’s me. What have you been watching and reading?

Photo by Brian Donovan
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  • All of those non-fiction books sound wonderful. Maybe something to guide some Bible reading. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Grasshopper

    I have seen some of those articles recently, but probably still from you because you tweeted them? (I still don’t have a twitter account so my way of doing twitter is going to the website every so often.) Are you still doing that food blog? I tried to find it again recently and I couldn’t. I also remember you doing a post about fiction you’d been reading lately. I meant to write down those books and now can’t locate the post again your archives!

  • Kevin

    I think I’m gonna get Short Stories by Jesus. I, too have found a Judaic perspective helpful. Unfortunately I’m such a bookworm that I tend to start another book before finishing previous ones. For nonfiction I just finished Elizabeth Esther’s Girl at the End of the World; I’m reading Torn by Justin Lee(reconmended by a commentator on love, joy, feminism), Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland(recommended by a Twitter follower). For fiction I recently read The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Şafak(trigger warning for rape and genocide); a while back I read her Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi and Sarabeth Caplin’s A Stunning Accusation(trigger warning for rape). I also started Camus’s L’Étranger(French edition to practice my French, probably will take a while

  • I just realized you might be younger than me; this is my fourth presidential cycle as a voting adult (I turned 18 the February before the 2004 elections). Silly and doesn’t matter, it just surprised me.

    I’m 12 weeks pregnant, and apparently LOST is my Netflix binge obsession this time around; it was Grey’s Anatomy with my daughter, four years ago. I’m currently wading through an Amish romance for some reason, and enjoying it even less than I usually do this genre. I’m honestly not sure why I’m torturing myself! #lol

  • I’m 2/3 of the way through my M.Div. (or at least I will be once I write this last essay that I should be working on tonight instead of reading blog posts) so most of my reading these days is school-related. I just wanted to jump in to say that I’m excited to hear about the book on the parables by Amy-Jill Levine – she is one of my favourite contemporary feminist theologians. Next year, I’m going to be taking a course on the Parables that will be taught by a feminist nun scholar and I’ll be interested to see if this book appears in the syllabus. If not, I’ll probably hunt it up anyways.

    Fun story about aforementioned professor – she also taught a course on Matthew that I took last year but she didn’t get to choose the primary textbook which was not particularly feminist friendly – there might as well have been no women in Matthew’s gospel if this text was your only source. Sr. Joan’s way of dealing with the issue was to have all of us write our first paper as an analysis of how the author of the textbook dealt with the role women in Matthew’s gospel, at which point all of us went, “wait a minute…”

  • Beroli

    Most of those are new (or I read them previously, but that was because you mentioned them elsewhere) to me. So yes, definitely worth linking.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    • Kevin

      Same here

  • rumpledtulip

    I am still reading…your blog. I can’t remember when I started–Wednesday morning? I’m saving up a big long fangirl e-mail to send you but I’ll briefly say you and your commentariat have done me a huge service this week as I’ve been working through a hurtful church situation.

    I have Short Stories By Jesus on my GoodReads “to read” list, just haven’t gotten to it yet. Ms. Levine also edited The Jewish New Testament, which has been in my Amazon cart for ages. Studying Jesus’ identity as a Jew is incredibly enriching.

  • Jackalope

    I’ve seen a few of these but not all, so… share away! It’s always fun to get reading reviews (both books and online) from someone that I already enjoy reading. (Although it may take me awhile to get to any of them since I’ve got a huge stack of reading already… just went to the library a couple of days ago, and somehow all of these books came home with me.)

  • Gloria

    I added the “Short Stories” to my Goodreads to-read list. After college, I still love Jewish perspectives on the parables and teachings.

    I’m trying to watch things on my Hulu Watchlist before they expire……Things like The 100, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham, Shadowhunters, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nashville and Scandal.

    I’m reading through Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series (as defined by Goodreads) and while waiting for books to come in through the library I have a pile….. I got Searching for Sunday as a gift on Thursday, then Orthodoxy, Ragamuffin Gospel and Mere Churchianity before starting on the Christmas present of The Forgotten Way meditations (which I’m not sure if I’ll do with my parents/siblings or not). And then finishing the King Raven series – which, I thought would be more interesting than it is in actuality….. 🙁 I guess that happens sometimes.

    • I actually did not enjoy Ragamuffin Gospel. I think it could be helpful for people first leaving behind a horrible religious environment and don’t yet understand the concept of Grace … but if you’re already there, it might feel redundant.

      • Jackalope

        That’s kind of my feeling with some of Brennan Manning’s other stuff too. I appreciate his perspective, but some of it is like Christianity 101, and… this is not my first rodeo.

  • DAREDEVIL. I’m 2/3 of the way through season 2 and kind of obsessed with the characters. I’ve heard, er, rumors about one death that I’m hoping aren’t true, but sadly expecting. :O

  • Agreed on West Wing being awesome, and my spouse is watching through it now. If Jed Bartlet were running for president this election, I think he could win it. But I think CJ is the character I most identify with.

    Right now my daughter and I are Netflix binge-watching two different series with similar themes: Breaking Bad and the anime Death Note. Both have protagonists who initially mean well, but enter a downward spiral and gradual loss of their moral compass. Interesting comparisons.

  • Sofia

    Question about Daredevil (no spoilers, please): my husband and I got about halfway through, but haven’t been watching for a couple weeks because uuuuggggghhhhh Elektra. I hate her so much. She’s ruining the show for me. So to anyone who has watched it all the way through: Does she get better? Or at least less annoying? Or is the second half of the season just so good that she couldn’t possibly ruin it? I really love this show and want to continue, but she’s just pissing me off so much.

  • “The gaming community is far too tolerant of monsters.”

    Oh dear God, the truth in that sentence. Even guys I know, friends of mine, guys who would NEVER abuse or hurt a woman, will turn their heads and not speak up and pretend they didn’t see it going on under their very damn noses. My husband is one of the few gamer guys I have seen stand up to a guy making a woman feel uncomfortable and singled out, and he had to shout down a bunch of assholes throwing out that “she’s just being oversensitive” argument to do it. Then they asked him if this is “what being married does to guys.” His reply was, “What, makes us see women as human beings?”

    Gaming has such a huge huge huge huge sleazy-douchebag problem, and it scares so many women away. Jason (aforementioned husband, haha) used to run games when we were in college, and they invariably were 70 to 80 percent women, because he was running one of the few gaming groups in which women were free to create the character they wanted to play and know that she would be treated like every other character and every other play.

    I know so so so so many women who have had their drinks drugged or been backed into a corner or had guys just. start. touching. them. at conventions. It’s insane, how terrifying the statistics are to look at when you think about it. And it just sucks to realize that we don’t have access to some of the coolest larger gaming conventions by default, because we’re not safe there.

  • Sarah S

    Thank you for these 🙂 I had not seen the articles yet. I’m just getting into the Honor Harrington books, started the second one a few days ago. I love her so far!