If You Are New To This Blog…

Amy Julia Becker asked me to write a little introduction to what my blog is about (it appeared on hers yesterday) but it occurred to me that it is a good introduction to those of you who may be new to the blog.

Plus, here’s a new picture of me that I haven’t yet uploaded to my “About Me” page:

Stone-Headshot

When I started my blog (almost exactly!) two years ago, it was called Eat With Joy, which became the title of my book. The blog started out as being mostly about issues related to food and body image from a Christian perspective, and I usually have posts related to some aspect of these at least once a week.

One of the most popular posts from the early days of my blog is called “My Audrey Hepburn Problem.” In it I discuss my youthful admiration of the film star, and how I (very unfortunately) conflated her reputed kindness and philanthropy with her (very unusual) good looks.

Another post that gives a good sense of the kind of writing I do on the blog is “The Cultural Evolution of Candy Land.” It all began when I laid out my old Candy Land game (circa 1980s) next to the 2010, and was shocked by how thin–and sexualized–the characters had become. It grew into a series including My Little Ponies and Polly Pockets as I noticed the trend in other toys, more or less concluding with a post on why it matters whether a toy is thin and sexy (or not.)

I write about the books I’m reading at least once a week (Mondays often feature book reviews) and sometimes post simple, family-friendly recipes.

And because I’ve been living and working in Malawi, Africa–where my husband and I teach at a Christian seminary, and where I occasionally volunteer as a labor doula–there are occasional posts about the state of maternal health globally, pictures of animals seen on our travels, and thoughts on wealth, poverty, and gratitude for all of God’s gifts: not just the edible, but the beautiful, the hilarious, and the eminently re-readable.

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?