Shunned: How I Lost my Religion and Found Myself by Linda A. Curtis @shewritespress

shunned

Linda Curtis was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and everyone she loved—her friends, her family—shared her faith, as did the man she eventually married. She belief was strong until she was in her early thirties, when doubts crept in and she begins to question everything she’d ever believed to be true. Over time, Linda’s questions grew, and her faith in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses faded. Much to the dismay of her husband, friends, and family Linda chose to leave the religion, as well as her marriage—which resulted with her being shunned by everyone she cared about. Despite the pain of her severed relationships, Linda stayed firm in her decision, and set out to discover life anew, free of the limitations imposed by her former religion.

I’ve read a few books on this subject, but the religion in question has always been the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). I have others that focus on different religions, but I haven’t read them yet, so Shunned marks the first time I read something different on this subject.

I briefly studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and attended the Kingdom Hall a few times when I was younger. I ultimately gave it up when I realized I strongly disagreed with certain tenets and practices of the faith. One of the things that bothered me is the practice of shunning, so when I saw this book I immediately wanted to read it.

It was heartbreaking to read how Curtis’ family caught off all but the most necessary contact with her, when they were previously a close and loving family. It took a lot of courage and immeasurable inner strength for her to follow her heart in the face of the psychological bullying she endured.

As I read this book, I felt three emotions more than any others: Anger at the callous way her family treated her. Heavy sadness over the pain she was feeling at the loss of her friends and family. Last, but not least, an overall sense of awe and admiration over the way she stayed true to herself, no matter the personal cost.

If you’re interested in memoirs written by people who left their religion, then you’ll probably want to add this one to your reading list.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of She Writes Press via Edelweiss.

 

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Author: Linda A. Curtis

Title: Shunned: How I Lost my Religion and Found Myself

Genre: Memoir

To-Be-Published: April 17th, 2018 by She Writes Press

 Rating: 3 stars

About the Book

Linda Curtis was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and is an unquestioning true believer who has knocked on doors from the time she was nine years old. Like other Witnesses, she has been discouraged from pursuing a career, higher education, or even voting, and her friendships are limited to the Witness community.

Then one day, at age thirty-three, she knocks on a door—and a coworker she deeply respects answers the door. To their mutual consternation she launches into her usual spiel, but this time, for the first time ever, the message sounds hollow. In the months that follow, Curtis tries hard to overcome the doubts that spring from that doorstep encounter, knowing they could upend her “safe” existence. But ultimately, unable to reconcile her incredulity, she leaves her religion and divorces her Witness husband—a choice for which she is shunned by the entire community, including all members of her immediate family.

Shunned follows Linda as she steps into a world she was taught to fear and discovers what is possible when we stay true to our hearts, even when it means disappointing those we love.

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When They Call You a Terrorist: A #BlackLivesMatter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & asha bandele #Review @OsopePatrisse @ashabandele @StMartinsPress

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir cover

When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Like so many others, I have often watched the news in horror when yet another African-American man or woman (or worse, a child) has been killed without provocation, when they were doing nothing wrong. It was horrible enough when the killer was just a regular citizen, but the horror I felt increased ten-fold when their deaths came at the hands of police officers—someone who is meant to serve and protect all of us, regardless of race. (I guess I’m a bit naive, because I always expect justice to be served, punishment meted out for the guilty party—and I’m stunned when it doesn’t happen.)

I remember suddenly hearing “Black Lives Matter” being talked about on the news, seeing the hashtag on social media, and—almost as quickly—seeing negative opinions about it on Facebook. I wanted to know what Black Lives Matter was about, and—rather than take some random naysayer’s opinion as fact—I looked it up. Their mission statement begins:

The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.

The entirety of the mission statement can be read on the Black Lives Matter website.

I won’t pretend to have a deep understanding of what African-American’s daily lives are like when it comes to racism and all that it encompasses. I don’t, and as a white woman,  I can’t—but I am aware of it. And while I will never understand how people can feel that way about someone of a different race, I do want to understand how it impacts the lives of the people targeted by that hatred. I want to understand the anger, the fear, that they feel as a result of being treated in unacceptable—and often terrible—ways.

When They Call You a Terrorist is more than just the story of how Black Lives Matter began. It tells the story of Patrisse Khan-Cullors, sharing significant events that happened throughout her childhood—either to herself or a loved one—that shaped her into the community organizer and social activist she would become.  There are many things she shares about her life, but one part that left me feeling especially heartbroken and outraged was reading about how her mentally ill brother, Monte, was abused while in jail. I won’t go into the details in this review, but suffice to say it’s something I doubt I’ll ever be able to forget.

As I always do when reading a book for review, I wondered what words I would use to describe the book. All the way through, I kept coming back to three words:

Raw.

Emotional.

Powerful.

You can’t help but feel the undercurrents of anger and pain as you read this book. There are many passages where I had to take a moment, stop reading, and reflect on what I’d just read. I wanted to deeply consider the the events that were described. How might I have felt, if the police came to my door—without a warrant, without a reason—and made me stand in my yard, with multiple guns pointed at me and my loved ones, while they spent three or four hours searching my house? Afraid to so much as gesture with my hand as I spoke, for fear they might shoot me? How might I feel, if that happened to me, with a child present who was treated with the same cold disregard as I?

I would feel terrorized. I would feel that they didn’t think my life mattered.

The rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter” will not go down in history as words spoken by terrorists, but rather words spoken by a people who have been made to feel that their lives don’t matter at all—who had the courage to do something about it.

The year has barely begun, but I have a feeling When They Call You a Terrorist will be one of the most important books published in 2018.

If you read only one nonfiction book this year, I urge you to read this book, particularly if you don’t understand what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about. It will open your eyes to a lot of things that—like me—you probably didn’t know about.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of St. Martin’s Press.

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Authors: Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Title: When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

Genre: Memoir, Social Activism, Social Justice

Published: January 16th, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

book worth reading

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

About the Book

The emotional and powerful story of one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter and how the movement was born.

From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

About the Authors

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS is an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter from Los Angeles, CA. Co-founder of Black Lives Matter, she is also a performance artist, Fulbright scholar, popular public speaker, and an NAACP History Maker.

ASHA BANDELE is an award-winning author and journalist. A former features editor for Essence magazine, asha is the author of two collections of poems, the award-winning memoir The Prisoner’s Wife and its follow-up Something Like Beautiful, and the novel Daughter. She lives in Brooklyn with her daughter.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson #Review

Just Mercy cover

Through the years, I’ve seen several news reports of imprisoned men and women being released after they were proven to be wrongly convicted of various crimes. I was left with two strong feelings: relief that their innocence had been proven, and angry that they had spent years (even decades, in some cases) of their lives behind bars when they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I would only know the little that was reported about their wrongful convictions—usually that their conviction was overturned by DNA evidence or whatever—without knowing how they came to be tried and convicted in the first place. After reading this book, I’m certain that knowing those details would like have left me feeling horrified, as well.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is a memoir about Bryan Stevenson’s work in the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization he founded in 1994.

The Equal Justice Initiative (or EJI) is a non-profit organization, based in Montgomery, Alabama, that provides legal representation to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes, poor prisoners without effective representation, and others who may have been denied a fair trial. It guarantees the defense of anyone in Alabama in a death penalty case.

Source: Wikipedia

Several cases are discussed in the book, such as the case of an African-American man named Walter McMillian. Accused of murdering a white woman, Walter was held on death row PRIOR to being tried and convicted in a trial that lasted less than two days, despite having a solid alibi during the time of the murder—a fact ignored by the jury, who imposed a sentence of life in prison. The Alabama judge disagreed and sentenced Mr. McMillian to death instead. It took six long years of dedicated work for the EJI to prove McMillian’s innocence.

In another case, Marsha Colbey was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment after giving birth to a stillborn child. She spent 5 years in an Alabama prison before her conviction was overturned and she was released.

Several other cases are discussed in the book and, unfortunately, not all of them had successful outcomes.

After I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but wonder how many more innocent men and women are in our prisons. However many there are, I can only hope they find someone like Mr. Stevenson who is willing to fight for them.

I highly recommend reading this one. It’s definitely a Book Worth Reading.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Spiegal & Grau via Blogging for Books.

atg

Author: Bryan Stevenson

Title: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Genre: Memoir, Social Justice, Nonfiction

Published: August 18th, 2015 by Spiegel & Grau

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

book worth reading

 About the Book

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time
 
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

New York Times Bestseller | Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction | Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction | Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award | Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize | Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize | An American Library Association Notable Book

About the Author

Author Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson

BRYAN STEVENSON is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.