Jesus’ Radical Vision for Love with No Exceptions
Part memoir, part theological exploration, Jacqueline A. Bussie’s Love Without Limits examines what it means to love unconditionally in an increasingly divided world.
From a Christian perspective, Bussie employs personal anecdotes and biblical illustrations to discuss how Christians should follow the example of Jesus in loving even those who are different, perhaps especially those who are different. Chapters focus on topics including love for immigrants, love for LGBTQ+ people, love for Muslims, and love for self. Exhortations to individual Christians to widen their own circles are sprinkled throughout, as are raw accounts of how Bussie dealt with her mother’s death.
Bussie writes in an earnest, conversational style. Her passion is evident, particularly in regard to ensuring that there are diverse voices within the church—though the text’s insistence that women were not a factor in Christian theology until the 1960s minimizes the contributions of women, including saints and doctors of the church, throughout history.
Curious choices are sometimes made. The chapter on Muslims goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Muslims and Christians are more similar than most people think. The exercise is informative, but detracts from the book’s thesis that Christian love is powerful because it overcomes vast differences to embrace others.
A chapter on adoption quickly morphs into an admirable but misplaced attempt at a biblical defense of LGBTQ+ people, leaving behind all thought of adoption, physical or spiritual. And though proof-texting and lifting quotations out of context are rightly lambasted elsewhere, a few instances of out-of-context biblical and literary quotes do occur.
Love Without Limits is a call for Christians to look beyond what divides and isolates people, and to find the courage to reach out to others despite those divisions.
MEAGAN LOGSDON (August 7, 2018)
Davis has been through a great deal in his young life. He is a drug addict and, after being convicted of possession with intent to distribute, he has been sentenced to community service in the children’s cancer ward where he was once a patient.
Cason is a ballerina. She works professionally for the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory and dreams of moving to New York. She has been dancing through the pain of what she thinks is a strained thigh, but at an important audition, a snap and searing pain tell her that the injury is far more serious.
In Brave Enough by Kati Gardner, Davis and Cason are brought together at an incredibly difficult time in their lives. Davis is fighting to stay sober; Cason is fighting a new and horrifying illness and is terrified that she may never dance again. Though they are virtual strangers in the beginning of the book, it is the connection and support that they find in one another and in their shared community that allow them to face the most difficult realities of their lives.
The story is heartbreaking, beautiful, and ultimately hopeful. Many of the supporting characters are young cancer patients and survivors. These characters offer insight into what it is like to live with cancer, to be objectified by it, to be labeled as victim or survivor. Throughout the book, the hope of a summer camp for kids with cancer gives them something to look forward to; only there are they allowed to just be kids.
Though the story centers on illness and addiction, the lesson that it has to teach is applicable to each and every life. It is about possessing the will and the courage to face whatever challenges life offers—to be brave enough to hope, dream, and truly live.
CATHERINE THURESON (June 27, 2018)
Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century
Tey Meadow’s sympathetic sociological study Trans Kids explores the changing social dynamics for families of transgender children and other children who bend or break gender norms. Comprehensive in scope, its interviews and observations follow families like Claudia and Rick, who are deciding whether to help their child medically transition between genders before puberty, or Yvonne, whose extended family decided that poor parenting led to her child’s gender nonconformity and refused to support her choices.
To help trans children flourish, the book argues, society needs to do more than strive to be open and accepting; there are no such easy answers. Interviews reveal the varied effects of the parents’ approaches to allowing children to wear gender-nonconforming clothing, play with oppositely gendered games and toys, and call themselves by opposite-gender or nongendered pronouns.
Though the text is often technical, it remains accessible to those with limited prior knowledge. An appendix on gender terminology helps clarify new vocabulary. Narrative sections avoid judgment and prioritize describing people in their own terms.
The concluding chapter is an example of deep attention to detail, as Meadow reencounters a child from the study, who is now twenty-one. Details of the young adult’s comfort with her nonconforming gender identity, including using different names with different people, show how trans kids can grow into confident, self-assured adults without fitting into society’s narrow gender expectations.
Varied and precise language helps maintain a slow but steady pace through dense technical sections on historical trends in gender nonconformity. Sharp distinctions—“It may look like gender is becoming more fluid, but in fact it is becoming more highly differentiated”—refine and consolidate the book’s many anecdotes.
Trans Kids is excellent work that combines compelling narratives with extensive ethnographic descriptions of parents’ and children’s experiences.
LAURA LEAVITT (August 5, 2018)
Bill Morrison adapts the Beatles’ famous animated musical film for his graphic novel The Beatles Yellow Submarine.
Yellow Submarine, which debuted fifty years ago in 1968, was groundbreaking for its inventive psychedelic animation and colors; it was also an entertaining way for the Beatles to transfer their music into another medium. But Yellow Submarine had so much going for it visually that it was possible to forget the music and just enjoy the film as a fun, somewhat bizarre cartoon adventure.
That’s exactly the approach Morrison takes in this adaptation. Possibly due to issues with publishing rights, the film’s songs aren’t included in the book, so fans who remember a particular bit of dialogue leading in to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or “When I’m Sixty-Four” might be surprised at the absence of those lyrics. But otherwise, Morrison remains faithful to the movie, with the Blue Meanies who invade Pepperland trying to destroy the music, beauty, and joy therein, and the Fab Four answering a call for help.
Morrison’s art is often stunning—as he explains in the book’s foreword, he set out to make “each page look like a poster.” The graphic novel’s visuals don’t morph and move, of course, but they’re still quite impressive to gaze upon. Additionally, the graphic novel format allows one to linger on the clever script, especially the amusing utterings of Jeremy, the “Nowhere Man,” along with many successful one-liners by the Beatles themselves.
The Beatles Yellow Submarine is fun for readers of any age; for Beatles fans, it’s a no-brainer.
PETER DABBENE (June 27, 2018)
An intriguing journey spanning two countries and multiple centuries, Daniel Grenier’s The Longest Year is at once epic and intimate, heartwarming and grotesque.
This is a novel that defies easy categorization. Shades of the tall tale intertwine with brutally realistic depictions of war and the glimmerings of science fiction to chronicle the life of Aimé Bolduc, a man born on February 29, 1760. Aging only once every four years, he fights for the Union as William Van Ness in the Civil War and witnesses the transformation of the world through the twentieth century as Kenneth Simons. The stories of his descendants—Albert Langlois and his son, Thomas—are woven throughout in a chronologically shuffled puzzle that keeps its secrets hidden until the final section.
The scale is grand, but the true appeal of the novel is in its characters’ relationships with one another. Albert’s obsession with pursuing Aimé first estranges him from his own family and then strengthens his ties to Thomas. Though Albert and Thomas never meet Aimé directly, his influence on their lives, whether positive or negative, is palpable. This influence arches over the bonds between Thomas, his father, his mother, and his mother’s friend, Mary. Through the eyes of Aimé, Grenier skillfully paints the changing landscapes of society, particularly in regard to attitudes about race and the ways that new technologies can vastly alter means of living.
Copious research is evident without being intrusive. References to historical figures abound, but it is Aimé’s interaction with Stephen Crane, resulting in philosophical musings on war, that shines the brightest.
The Longest Year urges a deeper contemplation of time as currency, one that must be invested wisely in order to yield a profit greater than ordinary material wealth.
MEAGAN LOGSDON (August 7, 2018)