“I Have Not Read This Book Before.”

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Katherine Willis Pershey, the (very talented) author of Any Day a Beautiful Change, has written a lovely review of my book in the Englewood Review of Books. I loved that she began by saying that she’s read most of the locavore/foodie books, and dreaded that my book might be a sort of “Pollan-lite” for Christians, but found herself saying “I have not read this book before.” And one of her favorite parts of the book was one of my favorite parts–a story about Jack and Edie.

Alas, her review is not readable online, but you can find subscription information for the (truly excellent) Englewood Review of Books here.

And (shameless plug) if you want to buy my book you can do so at Hearts & Minds Books, the IVP website, or Amazon.com.

 

 

No Bitterness Or Guilt-Tripping (A Review of Eat With Joy + a Reading List)

I’d like to point you to this lovely review of my book, Eat With Joy, by blogger Cara Strickland.

Here’s a taste:

“This book is layered and diverse […] and the scope was part of why I was so excited to read it. But Rachel is more than her topics, and she approaches all of them with care. She writes about eating disorders with grace and compassion (convincing me that we all have them in one way or another). She writes about sustainable and examined eating with no bitterness or guilt-tripping. She writes about eating with friends, family, and the Body of Christ with such fluid, passionate words, that I couldn’t help thinking about the countless hours of true communion I’ve experienced while breaking bread with people I love, and people I grew to love as a result.”

and another:

“She made me think about my busy, single life which doesn’t have much real food in it. Certainly not much cooking. She made me think that cooking is a form of rebellion because I am refusing to buy into the culture that tells me that real food and real connections are not worth as much as convenience and speed. Even if I’m not cooking every day, even if my starts are shaky, and my food doesn’t turn out, it is still meaningful to spend time putting real food together, to share.”

{You can read it all here, and do check out the rest of her blog, too.}

Also, I’m thankful that Eat with Joy was included on Today’s Christian Woman‘s summer reading list, which you can find here.

And here is an awesome drawing by one of my sons, just for fun. (It’s the Water Witch from Beowulf)

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We Can Be Critical and Christian and Female All At The Same Time

I love reviewing books. I remember the first time I ever reviewed a book, and I was thrilled and happy beyond measure. Because when you review books, publishers send you review copies! And for someone like me, free books are almost always an unqualified GOOD.

I will allow as how it is sometimes fun to skewer a book, to make like the movie critics at the New Yorker magazine and just slam bad writing and sloppy thinking. That can definitely be a bit of guilty fun, but it’s like chewing bubblegum, whereas reading and reviewing really good books are like eating an excellent meal.

Sometimes, though, for various boring reasons, it ends up that you pretty much have to review a book that you didn’t think was great. And then here is how that goes:

ReviewStrip1At this point you sometimes don’t review the book. But if a book has been particularly important in a given segment of culture, or if you have already made an agreement that this book SHALL be reviewed, it has to happen:

reviewstrip2At this point you might feel awkward, but also hopeful because perhaps by filing your minority report about the book that’s already so popular and such a hot topic, you will spark a whole new conversation about a side of things no one has brought up before!

But then, this:

ReviewStrip3And this:

ReviewStrip4Well,  that last cell is a bit of hyperbole. I certainly have (and have had) many perfectly lovely and thoughtful conversations online. But for some reason, it’s exceptionally difficult to offer a critical perspective on books (or articles, or blog posts)–even in careful, guarded language–without being branded bitter, jealous, mean, angry, harsh, or, even worse, unChristian.

The less-than-sensational truth is that many people, me included, just like to think and write about books (and other things) and critique is just part of the deal. It certainly does not imply any sort of animus.

I suspect that it is harder for women than for men–we are accused of being ‘shrill,’ or called the word that should refer exclusively to female dogs, wolves, foxes, or otters (yes, foxes and otters too!), but, not being a man, I’m not certain on that it is in fact harder for us, though since I read about the fact that female movie critics hardly exist (sad, because splitting my time between reviewing books and movies would pretty much be my dream job) I’ve been wondering if it’s just harder for women to voice critique without getting slapped down with spiritual platitudes or accusations of bad motives.

What has your experience been like?

Expansive, holistic, humble, humane…

Karen Swallow Prior has a review of my book up at Flourish, an online magazine that I began writing for ‘way back when, edited by Rusty Pritchard, who edited my first-ever published piece in Creation Care magazine. My most recent contribution to Flourish (which, gee, is no longer very ‘recent’) is a piece on goats giving birth.

Here’s a bit of Karen’s review:

I don’t read a lot of “how-to” books. I read even fewer “foodie” books. Too formulaic, too tunnel-visioned, too promissory, too pedantic.

Not so Rachel Stone’s newly-released Eat With Joy. Stone’s approach to “how to” eat joyfully is expansive, holistic, humble, and humane.  It’s not about food rules, but about food freedom.

And it’s no mere feel-good fluff.  Stone has experienced for herself the rule-bound approach to eating, having been, like far too many in our food-sick society, imprisoned once by the shackles of an eating disorder. But now Stone approaches matters of food with the experience that comes with feeding a young family, the wisdom found in well-examined scriptures, and the joy that flows from redemptive eating. While Stone’s writing style is conversational and engaging, her exhortations and insights are substantive, bolstered by biblical teaching, sound theology, and authoritative sources (who include Richard Bauckham, Marilynne Robinson, and Michael Pollan)—interwoven with illustrative examples from popular culture.

{Read the rest here.}

Wait, Why Is Canning Your Own Jam Suddenly ‘Cool’?

I have a review of Emily Matchar’s new book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity up at Christianity Today.

If you’ve ever wondered how and why knitting, canning, and quilting are ‘cool’ again, even–especially?–among urban twentysomethings, you’ll want to check it out.

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My mother doesn’t knit or sew (much) and her mother didn’t either. My grandmother Charlotte was an editorial assistant in New York City in the 1960s and a self-described feminist; she owned a first-edition copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Boiling frozen Green Giant vegetables and broiling steaks were about the extent of her domestic work, and she reveled in fashionable clothes and in knowing at least a little something about the books “everyone” was talking about. When I was in second grade, we guffawed together over an illustration of a grandmother in a picture book I’d taken home from school. The grandmother was white-haired (my grandmother dyed hers until she died) and sitting in a recliner with a cat in her lap (my grandmother was violently allergic) while knitting something from garish colors of yarn (my grandmother never picked up a needle in her life unless she’d been forced to). “You’re not that kind of grandma, are you, Grandma?” I’d asked. “No, dearie. I’m not.”

If you think it strange that the granddaughter of a 60s urban feminist and anti-domestic relishes home cooking and sewing quilts and knitting sweaters for new babies, and, yes, gardening and preserving my own foods, think again. Americans are increasingly turning toward what writer Emily Matchar, in her new book Homeward Bound, calls the “New Domesticity.” It’s marked by an almost militant commitment to all things DIY (do-it-yourself); by a resurgence in interest in handcrafts like knitting, sewing, and embroidery; concern about food safety and environmental sustainability that expresses itself in a mania for home-grown, home-preserved, from-scratch cooking; a distrust of government and corporations that leads to things like homebirth, vaccine refusal, and homeschooling; and a disillusionment and dissatisfaction with contemporary work culture that leads people to “opt out,” filling their days instead with the kinds of homesteading work I’ve described along with a demanding style of parenting known as “attachment” parenting.

{Continue reading…}