Book Notes: Recent publications

Issue 2021, vol. 75

[Disclaimer: Not exhaustive]

Books are available from their respective publishers or through online book vendors.

Unpardonable Sins by David Saul Bergman (Wipf & Stock, 2021)

David Saul Bergman is the pen name for the late Dale Suderman and Daniel Born, who teaches literature at Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies.

This is arguably the first-ever Mennonite hard-boiled detective novel. John Reimer, middle-aged, semi-burned out and the pastor of a dwindling congregation, pursues a ruthless killer on the North Side of Chicago.

Tongue-Tied: Learning the Lost Art of Talking About Faith by Sara Wenger Shenk (Herald Press, 2021)

Sara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., has been a mission worker in the former Yugoslavia, a faculty member at Eastern Mennonite University and Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, 2010-19.

On his blog “Anabaptist Revisions,” David C. Cramer writes: “This isn’t a book about deconstruction, or a narrative of leaving the faith; rather, it is a clear-eyed, constructive proposal for a robust, non-fundamentalist approach to the faith that cuts through the culture wars to get at the heart of what makes Christian language Christian. … At a time when the language of faith is being replaced by, or pressed into the service of, Christian nationalism by many, Tongue-Tied is a much-needed intervention. It offers a way forward that is rooted in the Christian tradition yet open to the contemporary world.”

Trailing the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard by B. Lois Thieszen Preheim (Wipf & Stock, 2021)

Lois Preheim is a retired K-12 principal and teacher at all levels from kindergarten through college.

This is a story of the blizzard of Jan. 12, 1888, in the Great Plains of the United States, told through the eyes of people – mostly children and youth – who experienced the storm along its route: “Eddie from Edmonton [Alberta]” through “Austin from Austin [Texas].” The blizzard struck with no warning on an unseasonably warm day when children had gone to school, most of them walking a mile or more from their rural homes without their warm winter clothing.

One exception to the age of narrators is “Maria or Mariean from Freeman [South Dakota],” who tells about the loss of five boys – including two of her own sons – from the Mennonite community there, who froze to death in the storm. The book is generally aimed at younger readers, although the meteorological information in particular will be of interest to anyone.

Lent Then and Now (ImagoPoetica, 2021) and Advent Then and Now (Lulu, 2020) by Joseph Gascho

Joseph Gascho is a cardiologist and photographer, whose first book of poetry, Cornfields, Cotton, Seagulls, and Sermons, was reviewed in the 2020 issue of Mennonite Life.

Both books bear the subtitle “People, Poems and Portraits.” Gascho “envisions” Lent and Advent from a 21st-century point of view, with his own photographs and poems that often imagine familiar characters, like the owner of the colt Jesus rode into Jerusalem or members of the angel choir that sang to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, speaking from a perspective of today.

The Way of the Gospel in the World of Java: A History of the Muria Javanese Mennonite Church (GITJ) by Sigit Heru Sukoco and Lawrence M. Yoder (ISGA, 2021)

The Muria Javanese Mennonite Church, known in Indonesia as Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa (GITJ), is one of three denominations in Indonesia that participate in the Mennonite World Conference. The Way of the Gospel in the World of Java was originally published in Indonesian. The Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism at Goshen (Ind.) College enabled production of an English-language edition, timed to precede the Mennonite World Conference global assembly in Indonesia in 2021 (now postponed to 2022) to give English-language Anabaptists a resource for learning more about this Indonesian church before participating in the assembly.

Between the Heron and the Moss: Poems by Sarah M. Wells (DreamSeeker Poetry Series, Cascadia Publishing House, 2020)

Sarah M. Wells is a freelance writer from Ohio.

From the publisher: This collection of poems grapples with the collision between spirit and nature, violence and peace, memory and memory loss, and the legacy of mothers and grandmothers. What do we carry with us when we leave? What do we pass down to the next generation? How is spirit made incarnate in the broken world that surrounds us?

The Moon is Always Whole: Poems by Julia Baker Swann (DreamSeeker Poetry Series, Cascadia Publishing House, 2020)

Julia Baker Swann is a student in theopoetics and writing at Bethany Theological Seminary and poetry editor for Geez magazine.

From the publisher: Through lyric images, The Moon is Always Whole invites readers into the body’s rhythms of creation, love, and loss – affirming that even as we see only in part, “the moon is always whole” within and beyond chronic illness, ancestral trauma, silencing, betrayal.