This past weekend I took a class called “Exploring Social Issues Through Drama.” As part of the class, we each chose a social issue to explore. I chose objectification of women, inspired by a female friend who told me about harassment she’d experienced that week. While on a packed train, a man took advantage of the situation and aggressively pressed himself against her. She didn’t say anything, just moved away, frightened she would only escalate the situation. No one on the train did or said anything. With her story heavy on my heart, I used the class time to explore this topic and how it affects all women, whether we realize it or not.
Ironically, this is the week that the photo of Kim Kardashian’s bare butt debuted, displaying quite clearly to the world that controversy is deeply imbedded in this issue. It should come as no surprise that women (and men) everywhere feel the need to address the photo shoot. And while talking about it is of course exactly what Kardashian intended, the issue has to be discussed. We are, as a culture, silent bystanders, watching a metaphorical (and all too real) sexual assault on the subway. It’s time to talk about it.
The facets of the issue are endless. Leaving aside for now the question of photoshop (related to objectification) and the disturbing connections to racism and sexism in photographer Jean-Paul Goode’s work and personal life, the question of objectification of the female body rises up front and center. What should be quite obvious is that Kardashian herself is the one doing the objectifying. Yes, she is part of a culture that puts immense pressure on women to buy into the role of sexual plaything, and yes she is responding to societal demand. But when it comes down to it, she is the one that took off her clothes.
I’ve realized recently that one of the biggest problems with the feminist movement is that it means so many different things to different people. There are many tenets of feminism that I identify with, and simply because I am a woman and care about women’s issues, I recognize that I can and should call myself a feminist. But there are also feminists who bare their butts on the covers of magazines, and pass it off as a step toward less body-shaming or toward sexual freedom. While I’ve never heard Kardashian explicitly call herself a feminist, women like Scout Willis and Chelsea Handler seem to be constantly on Instagram crusades to allow topless photos, and Beyonce has certainly identified quite strongly with the movement. (Though it gets sticky talking about Queen Bey, because that conversation tends to get intermixed with discussions of race and cultural expectations.)
The issue became crystal clear to me while talking with my brother, who I called during a break from my social issues class. I asked him what his response was to the feminist movement, and he replied, “Well, it depends on what you mean by that.” As we talked he expressed confusion about the stances of women; he felt he supported many of the arguments, but was unsure about many of the intentions and affiliations within the idea of feminism. Because there were so many voices with such divergent views, he was hesitant to claim the banner of feminism as something he could completely stand under.
In talking with my roommate, the matter became even more tricky. As a woman who works at a pub in midtown Manhattan, she is constantly being objectified, being told: “Come over here baby so I can grab that ass.” But her words gave me pause when she began to talk about how women treat themselves. She described the outfits girls wear on Halloween, and how they’re clearly expecting men to look at them in a sexual way on that night. “Girls want to be cute and sexy on Halloween, but then they want to walk down the street the next day and not get any comments. It’s like they want to be selectively objectified,” my roommate said.
I want to tread lightly here, because I do not mean to suggest that women should feel obliged to hide their bodies, or that they bear the responsibility of keeping men in line. And I certainly don’t want anyone to think a woman is ever “asking for it,” or any of the other justifications used for objectification, sexism and violence. But both my brother’s and my roommate’s comments have something pertinent to offer this messy business of Kim Kardashian’s butt (and boobs, apparently. If you buy the magazine and flip to the inside.)
How seriously would you take a man who exposed himself on the cover of a magazine?* I think this is an important thing to think about. I believe that bodies are beautiful and we should be proud of them, but there’s a cultural precedent built into society that indicates that it’s okay to display the female body for the delight of men. Kardashian’s photos support this flawed view, to say nothing of the dangers of the photoshopping involved in the photo.
As much as I hate to say it, those who desire change have to—at least somewhat—play by the rules of the dominant culture. There is a balance to be struck between stirring the pot and allowing people time and incentive to change their minds, and that change has to come from the heart. Just as guilt and shame are horrible motivators, rage and defiance don’t work either. If we are to build a culture in which men stop making comments about my “titties” on the street, and in which women feel their voices are heard and respected, women have got to stop playing into the stereotypes.
Kim Kardashian is not desperate—she’s not trying to make a living or a name for herself and being forced to use whatever means she can. She has an incredible amount of money and power, and a platform to say whatever she wants. Until women like her stop objectifying themselves, we are going to keep having these same conversations, over and over.
*Which, by the way, has happened—as is evident from articles such as this one. I need to note here that this isn’t exclusive to women, and men are playing into their stereotypes as well. It’s just far more common for women.
Nicholas Nixon began taking photos of his wife and her three sisters in 1975, and has taken a photo every year since. The result is incredible.
"Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience. While many of us can, when pressed, name things we are grateful to Time for bestowing upon us, the lines bracketing our mouths and the loosening of our skin are not among them. So while a part of the spirit sinks at the slow appearance of these women’s jowls, another part is lifted: They are not undone by it." -Susan Minot, writing for the New York Times
This photography project is one of the simplest and most beautiful I have seen in a long time. As we click through these photos, we see, gently and gradually, what it means to be a woman, a sister, a human. As the lines on these women's faces slowly deepen, it's tempting to read into them--to wonder what experiences have shaped them, how each sister differs from the others, and the story of each photograph. But while the four women have allowed us a glimpse of their faces each year, that is all they have allowed us. Their openness--close bed-fellows with their privacy--makes this project remarkable, poignant, and beautiful.
Check out the photos and New York Times article here.
This is the kind of post that is addressed explicitly to Christians, and will be confusing and strange for many of my friends who are not Christians. So, secular friends, if you keep reading, you are about to get an intimate glimpse into one aspect of Christianity. And Christian friends: grace. Grace all around.
I was having drinks with a friend of mine the other night, and she shared with me that when she was growing up, her mom never once talked about sex with her. The extent of their conversation about the topic came down to her mother saying, “I hope you’ll stay pure until marriage.” My friend, who is a mature, grown woman, laughed. “What does that even mean?” she said.
But I sensed her frustration, and our conversation turned to the topic of the sex-talk--or lack thereof--in Christian families. Most people don’t spend a lot of time discussing sex with their parents, Christian or not. But as we talked I felt my own frustration growing at the lack of guidance and information provided to most Christian children. Girls in particular.
On this site, my sister and I post about issues relating to women, and one very important issue is sexuality, sex, and the body. This huge topic, this intimate topic, is one that many Christians don’t want to talk about. But that does not mean it is not important, and it does not mean it will just go away.
Christian women grow up with a lot of myths. Many of them are not told explicitly to us, but are prevalent nonetheless. I think there is none more insidious than the myth of purity, that is often barely explained but strongly upheld. Girls are taught that they are the boundary-setters, that they are princesses, that they don’t need sexual brokenness counseling. They are taught to automatically associate the word “masturbation” with “male,” because it is assumed that Christian women are never interested in exploring their own bodies. Like Edith Wharton, confused and scared on her wedding night, Christian women don’t often get a clear picture of what sex should be, and are taught not to ask questions.
None of these myths are spoken outright, because it’s tough to speak about sex. Here, I want to extend some grace. I doubt that most Christian parents want their daughters to imbibe these ideas. I am sure that many parents have their own sexual brokenness, and find it difficult to discuss these things with their children. But I know for sure that not talking about these issues will not keep a girl “pure.” It will only cause her to seek out answers elsewhere, to grow confused about the difference between what her body and Christian culture are telling her, and to be deeply ashamed when she realizes she cannot measure up to these standards of purity.
There are many Christian writers who urge parents to talk about sex with their children, but their tone often takes this quality: “If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, someone else will!” Which is essentially saying that parents are responsible for getting inside their children’s heads before they become polluted by the outside culture. But I would flip that on its head. If you don’t talk about sex with your kids, you won’t get to. You’ll miss out on the conversations you could be having. You’ll completely ignore a fundamental part of who your child is, and how she was created. You don’t have to have conversations about sex with your daughter. You get to.
We are, whether we like it or not, sexual beings. We live in a culture that has taken this beautiful part of ourselves and stretched it as far as it can go and reveled in it, and this has led to brokenness and subjugation and pain. But Christians are responsible for walking the middle road--for not running to extremes--and as difficult and uncomfortable as that is, we are charged not to be lazy. We have a responsibility to uphold the blend of spirit and body and not give into the oftentimes very gnostic ideas of sexuality that dominate western Christianity. We are a community of people who are all on different trajectories, but one of the things that unites us is that we have all been created with beautiful bodies.
Refusing to talk about sex with our children means that, yes, they will go find out about it elsewhere--but it also means that we are missing the opportunity to delight in the messiness and the fearfulness of our created beings. Like any truth in the Bible, we can’t just point to a verse and charge each other to obey it. We have the responsibility of tracking it throughout the scriptures and understanding what God is saying in the entirety of his Word. The story of sexuality is an especially beautiful one. God has so much to say about the proper place for sex and the amazing expression our bodies have, and if we don’t take the time to understand this for ourselves and to share it with those we love most, we are denying a fundamentally beautiful truth.
There is no blueprint for how this can be done. Every parent has a history, every child responds differently, every situation is unique. And there is absolutely a proper place for sexual discussion, and an acknowledgment that it is only a part of who we are as humans. But I know too many women who have been sexually broken and had no one to turn to, because Christian women are supposed to be the pure ones. We are none of us pure. We are every bit as gritty and vulnerable as men. Until the church, and Christian families, can lift the taboo off the sex-talk and truly embrace both the beauty and the brokenness, girls and boys will continue to grow into themselves piece-meal, without truly understanding the purpose, danger and beauty of their sexuality.
Whatever your stance on the issue, this post by my friend Courtney is worth reading. She's not interested in yelling or arguing. She just shares her honest, beautiful story of anorexia, pregnancy, and, ultimately, love.
Take a look at Courtney's eloquent words.
Each of us, in our own way, lives in brokenness. Some people display it much more than others. But as I walk through my own season of pain, I am realizing more and more just how beautifully important brokenness can be.
All of our bodies are broken. Some are extremely broken; some are mostly healthy. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve been hugely blessed. I do not live with a debilitating disease, or a life-altering injury. And yet my body is imperfect. I have had depression; I have had eczema. And the older I get, the more I realize that my body is irreparably wrong.
The catalyst for these recent thoughts has been my problem with OCD tendencies. I do not have OCD--it takes quite a lot to be diagnosed as OCD, and to have it affect your lifestyle. But lots of people have tendencies, which manifest in various ways. Some people obsessively check outlets before leaving their house. Some people hum or clear their throats. I often find myself with ticks--feeling the need to take deep breaths, or touch the door handle on my way out of a room. These have always been things that I can control. Recently, I have been compelled to constantly twitch my back. This is annoying. This is wrong. This is out of my control. This is broken.
This is not uncommon, as I said. These tendencies come and go, and I’m not worried about my health. But what I have been realizing, as I struggle daily to turn off the part of my mind that’s telling me to twitch, is that I do not control my body. I do not have the ability to clamp down and force myself to be “normal.” Deep inside, there is something in me that’s broken. If I’m honest with myself, that thought is terrifying. And I’m sure that everyone else, if they’re honest, is terrified as well. At some point, we realize that we do not control our own selves. We realize that there is something within each of us that is broken and bent. Something we can’t fix. Paul speaks to this rather ugly truth quite eloquently in Romans chapter 8, when he says:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (22-23)
And yet, this is where beauty comes. When I struggled with depression, I had to come to the world-grinding realization that I do not control my own mind. There are things I cannot fix. Through this process of facing my OCD tendencies, I have come to the same realization about my body. It, too, is wrong. It, too, is broken. And yet one step beyond that devastating realization is life. Because once I realized, in my depression, that I did not control my mind, I found myself resting on the promise that there is one who does. Likewise, though I cannot control my body, I know that it is under control. Broken and painful, it is not abandoned.
God uses many means to teach us about himself, but for me, the most consistent and effective way has always been to reveal my weakness to me. Just as I was called back by the pain of depression in my mind, I am called back by the pain of this (granted, pretty light) physical problem. As C.S. Lewis said in The Problem of Pain, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It may take months, or years, but I am continually surprised at the beauty that comes through our broken and wasted bodies and minds. And, like the state of my soul, the state of my body actually gives me hope. Right now, my soul is filled with bitterness and anger and pride and many other sins. But one day, my journey of sanctification will be over, and my soul will be free. Likewise, one day this broken, aching body will be new, and will be strong, and will be so beautiful. (And, because I’m not a gnostic, I know that the process is somehow interwoven and mingled together. And that makes this broken body even more essential.)
It’s important for us to know that we’re not alone. First, in the sense that we are not the only ones with strange ticks and problems and afflictions, or whatever your brand of brokenness may be. Humanity as a whole is dealing with a world full of crushed souls and bodies all wrapped up together and slowly dying. It is wrong to think that we are alone in the terror of living in bodies and minds that we don’t understand. And it is also important that we understand how truly understood we are. Not by ourselves, or by other humans. But by the God who created us, and feels our pain, and our ticks, and our addictions and compulsions. By the God who provides peace enough to bring us to the point of total fear and helplessness, and then remind us that he does not leave, or abandon. He knows every broken bit of us, more than we know ourselves, and he is faithful to preserve us, and promises to make us whole. Paul, continuing in Romans 8, provides us with a powerful assurance and beautiful promise:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (26-27)
If there is a more powerful hope than that, I have never encountered it. We are held in the palm of God, prayed for by the Spirit, and rest in the advocation of Jesus. Even in the power of our awful broken minds and bodies and souls, we are known thoroughly and loved completely. Right now, I am thankful for a body that reminds me of my weakness, if only so that it can continually bring me back to reliance on Jesus, and I eagerly await a body that is strong and perfect.
How blessed we are.
Thank you for the curve of my legs--
I like them.
Also thank you for my ingrown hairs,
even though they’re gross.
Thank you for fingers that have wrinkles on them--
nobody else’s wrinkles,
and I can slap and eat and touch with them.
Thank you for my round eyes
and my achy inner ears,
and the bump on my nose.
Thank you for my hair,
because it’s beautiful--
and even when it’s not,
Thank you for the jagged, fisted cramps
that keep me awake once a month,
not just because they remind me
how good notpain is,
but because they are mine,
and only mine,
and this whole body is mine alone:
Given to me mine,
mine as a mystery:
body, mind, soul.
And when I’m gasping or retching or bitching
Here I am
in the body, and the mind, and the soul
that was created as me.
We are a society of all types of women. We are old and we are young, we are short and we are tall, we are big and we are small. Supposedly, we are all beautiful. But as I think more about older women, and the way we live in relation to one another--and particularly as I live my American media and culture infused life--I know, as we all know, that this message is not the one we believe. And our fixation on beauty (or our lack of beauty) often results in the fact that we don’t realize how influential our own actions are. Especially as we relate to each other. So what I want to say is this:
Mothers should tell their daughters that they--the mothers--think they themselves are beautiful.
This might be a shocking idea, especially in the Christian subculture where modesty is a hot topic and false modesty abounds. Plus, beauty itself is a tricky subject, because the question, “What is beauty,” is so slippery. No one denies that most of us have built in triggers that go off when certain physical characteristics appear. However, there’s also no denying that love transforms the beauty of the beloved--and not just in the way of forgetting physical flaws. As love deepens, a lover often begins to truly see their beloved as physically beautiful, even if he or she is not a great beauty. The same goes for familial love. Beauty, I believe, is a combination of body and soul. But back to the issue at hand.
My own mother, like every woman, has her own insecurities. But I have no memory of her discussing her personal appearance as I grew up. I never heard her complain about her weight, or wish for a different hair color, or talk about another woman’s beauty relative to her own. It’s only now that I am an adult myself that she has started sharing her insecurities with me. I am only just beginning to understand how priceless a gift she gave me. Until I reached high school I had a minimal amount of body-related angst. I wanted to look pretty, and I coveted and longed for my friends’ clothing and accessories. But the thought that my body might not be good enough did not occur to me until I was well into puberty.
I’ve never really thanked my mother for this. I’m not even sure she did it intentionally. But I know that it was huge. And I believe that as women, and as Christians, we can take this one step further. We can tell our daughters that they are beautiful, surely. But we can also tell them that we are beautiful.
As with everything, this requires thought and wisdom. A longing for and appreciation of beauty can easily become vanity. This was a timeless moral until the 20th century, when the pop world went crazy and we all became inundated with hundreds of images a day. So something that would have perhaps seemed incredibly selfish a hundred years ago--proclaiming one’s own beauty--has become a matter of importance. Let me explain.
When I was a little girl, I believed that my mother was beautiful. Truly, absolutely beautiful. She was strong and protective and wise, and to me, she was perfect. She was my mother. If she had told me she was not beautiful--if she had complained about her body, and had let me see that her imperfections were unacceptable--I would have been devastated. And then I would have had to ask, “Well, who is beautiful, then?”
When little girls aren’t allowed to believe that their mother is beautiful, the search leads them to the unreal expectations we all face as teenagers and grown women. But if, instead, mothers decided to put aside the disappointment of extra weight and sagging skin, and instead told their daughters, “Yes, it’s true--I am beautiful,” those little girls might have an extra couple of years to soak up the idea that beauty is more than just what they see on a magazine cover. And by the time they entered middle school and high school, maybe they would have at least this one thought in the backs of their minds: “My mother thinks she’s beautiful. And so do I. And if she truly thinks that, maybe beauty isn’t what I’m being told. Maybe it means something much deeper and wider.”
Of course, this presupposes that mothers are discussing beauty with their daughters in all of its fullness--that our beauty is riddled with imperfections and yet we are grateful for the bodies that give breath to our spirits. Perhaps real beauty lies in this idea: that though our bodies are so imperfect, they are our bodies. And because we are not just given bodies to wait out the time until we can fly off and become disembodied souls (thank you Wheaton for helping me understand the heresy of Gnosticism...) we should rejoice in the bodies God has given us. Be they broken, or whole. This doesn’t mean physical beauty is all equal. We have eyes. But physical beauty is much more than our culture leads us to believe. Especially when we look at our bodies through the lens of people who are whole, and not just souls trapped inside flesh. I may not have my neighbor’s hair, but it is my hair. And there is so much beauty in it. These are the kinds of thoughts mothers (and all women) should be examining, and should be unafraid to discuss with their daughters.
But surely, there is room for error here. By telling our daughters that we’re beautiful, they might tend toward believing that physical beauty is more important than it really is. But we all hunger for beauty, even if the topic is taboo. And it’s not taboo...every little girl encounters discussion of beauty, from her first Disney princess movie to her first peek at a magazine in the grocery store aisle. It is better for a mother to claim her own beauty, in a thoughtful and careful way, than for a little girl to encounter it and have no one who is safe to attribute the characteristic to.
Instead of believing that they do not possess beauty and it doesn’t matter, girls should believe that they do possess beauty, and it does matter. Just not in the same way our culture constantly tells us. Beauty as it should be is quiet, and is real, and sometimes carries a few extra pounds around the middle. And daughters need to know that. And another thing: most mothers tell their daughters that they--the daughters--are beautiful. And yet what daughter doesn’t believe her mother is blinded by her motherly love? But if a mother claims her own beauty, and explains how beauty is a mixture of body and soul, healthy and full, perhaps the daughter will begin to believe it when her mother insists that she is beautiful.
None of us thinks we’re beautiful every day. Even the ones who are beautiful by the magazine covers’ standards have bad days. But if we make a point of telling our daughters about true beauty (both the inside and the outside kind) I think we ourselves will have to question if what we say is true or not. There will always be pretty people. But beauty, more often than not, is something we can choose.
With Hannah's previous post on my mind, I was startled to come across this in the New York Times:
It's rather long, but it's interesting, horrifying, and so worth reading. This is a very sensitive issue, especially since there are a lot of people my age who are alive today because of fertilization and in vitro treatments. But it's worth taking into account the fact that by opening ourselves up to the world of "choices" as this article calls it, we open ourselves up to the possibility of incredibly great harm. As is obvious from this article, these decisions are being made every day right here...not just in China, or elsewhere.
You should just read the article, but here are a couple key sentences that really struck me: "We've come to believe that the improvements are not only our due, but also our responsibility...limitless choice is a particularly American ideal;" and "...choices are not always as liberating and empowering as we hope they will be."
Everything has consequences. It is important to realize that even things that seem good, like fertilization treatments, can open a can of worms from which there is no coming back.
A woman I know has started this project, and it’s really interesting to me. Some of my female friends who have seen the video love it. Some think it’s really inappropriate. Most of the men who’ve seen it just think it’s weird.
My thoughts are a little bit conflicted. I think women should be able to feed their babies when they need to, and I have known women who were told not to feed their babies in public. I think mothers deserve some support when it comes to the huge job of taking care of their children. I think people should be okay with the natural, needed act of breastfeeding a baby. But I also acknowledge that women can be discreet about breastfeeding, and try to cause the least amount of disturbance to people when in public.
I support Jill, assuming that the women she is being an activist for are not obnoxious breast feeders. Breastfeeding is a natural part of life, and we should support the women who do it. And activism is always a little bit ridiculous in its extremeness. :)
What are your thoughts?
This past Father’s Day my family went to my grandparents’ house. After watching the US Open and America’s Got Talent, the Miss USA Pageant came on and we watched as each state’s representative came out and was judged and eliminated. I sort of felt like I was watching a helicopter crash…it was terrifying, yet I couldn’t look away. But what really interested me was my cousins’ responses. Alethea and Charis are ten and seven, and they were both fascinated by the show. As they were leaving (their dad good-naturedly joking about how he didn’t think they needed to watch any more of the show) Charis kept asking what channel it was on, presumably so she could continue watching when she got home (chances of that = not good…)
Her response to the show reminded me of a quote from That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis, in which he discussed female beauty. He writes:
Did men and women both feel interested in the female body and even, though it sounded ridiculous, in almost the same way? A sentence rose to her memory. "The beauty of the female is the root of joy to the female as well as to the male, and it is no accident that the goddess of Love is older and stronger than the god." (60)
Charis was obviously thrilled by the beautiful women parading across the screen, and I realized that Lewis was right—beauty is just as, if not more, alluring to women as it is to men. A woman takes just as much joy in the female body as the man does, and it is no perversion that leads women to admire the beauty of other women.
But there is definitely perversion of some kind involved in the hunger for beauty that fuels things such as the Miss USA Pageant. Otherwise why would there be such a culture of youth worship, eating disorders, consumerism and all the other stuff that eats away at women? Like Hannah said in her last post, we live in community, and what other people think matters to us. And since being thought beautiful by both men and women is important to girls, there is ample opportunity for perversions of both the standard of beauty and the means to achieving that standard.
But does that mean that competitions like Miss USA are wrong? Should beauty be something that women are allowed to be good or bad at? Beauty—as our culture perceives it—has always been something you have or you don’t, but that is changing. If you aren’t educated, you can become educated. If you aren’t funny, or graceful, or musical, or talented you can work toward becoming more so. And now, if you aren’t beautiful, you can get plastic surgery or implants or botox. Is there a difference?
I guess my real question is whether it’s okay to view beauty as something to be cultivated and judged, like anything else. In a culture of extremes, it’s probably safer to say it’s not okay. We’ve gone beyond viewing beauty as something you have or you don’t, and begun to go to whatever extremes possible to attain it. So does this mean we have to throw out the entire concept of beauty as pleasing? We can’t deny that every one of us has a built-in preference that tends toward beauty.
Maybe the problem is that our perception of beauty has grown too narrow. We have turned into the shade in another work of CS Lewis, The Great Divorce, who runs and hides from the angels sent to escort her to heaven. Like her, our perception of beauty is too narrow to believe that we are capable of giving and taking joy in the way we were created, and we are left either flaunting our bodies, or hiding and saying, like her:
"Can't you understand anything? Do you really suppose I'm going out there among all those people, like this? …How can I go out like this among a lot of people with real solid bodies? …Have everyone staring through me." (59-60)
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with Charis admiring the women onscreen—there is certainly nothing unnatural about it. But there is so much more to be said and thought about when it comes to beauty and the way we treat it, that I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. There is so much pain involved in the concept of beauty and how to use and appreciate it that instead of the joy that should come naturally when we’re confronted with beauty, envy, pride and bitterness very often obscure it. And that is definitely not how it should be.
~ He Held Radical Light, Christian Wiman
~ An American Childhood, Annie Dillard