Fall semester classes start this week, so I thought I’d share the list of books that I’m teaching and using with you. They are all pictured here. I’m teaching three classes this fall, a normal load where I work, that include contributions to our college’s first year experience, gender and women’s studies program, and religion department.
My first year seminar is titled “Food, Faith & Justice in Autobiographies,” and part of the description could read like the opening of a bad joke: A Muslim, a Mormon, an Episcopalian, a Jew, and an Atheist walk into a bar …. Well, at least their religious memoirs will be walking into my students lives this semester. Acts of Faith, by Eboo Patel, is Illinois College’s common text for all first year students, and I decided to focus the whole semester on religious autobiographies that are united with some combination of food and faith. Food plays a prominent role in both Sara Miles’ Take This Bread and Elizabeth Ehrlich’s Miriam’s Kitchen, and surprisingly (or not?) shows up at key moments for both Patel and Joanna Brooks in her Book of Mormon Girl. Justice is a common concern for all of these authors, including Chris Stedman in Faitheist, and his involvement with Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core and Harvard’s humanist community brings him into conversations about how we might all work better together toward a common good. To that end, students in this seminar will engage in a service-learning project connected to a local agency focused on food justice, to connect what they read to the community in which they live.
I’m teaching “Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies” for the fifth time this fall, and use the combination textbook and anthology Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions, edited by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee. It’s an ever-changing collection of history, terminology, classic and contemporary readings and resources in this diverse interdisciplinary field. I also use in that class Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, as a way to focus student engagement with the complex intersection of race, gender, class, sexuality, spirituality, and other elements of human experience. I’ve written more about why I love parts of that classic novel here.
I’m also teaching my “Contemporary Religious Issues” seminar this fall with the focus topic “Sex & God.” As I like to point out on the first day of class, it’s not a lab course so don’t get too excited. It is, though, centered around several hot topics in religion today: women’s ordination (yes, still a contested topic) with John Wijngaards’ The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church and Sarah Sentilles’ A Church of Her Own, which examines issues for women who ARE ordained, and discover that sexism isn’t in fact defeated quite yet; then we talk about homosexuality with Daniel Helminiak’s What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality and Alex Sanchez’s young adult novel The God Box (along with several other online articles capturing some of the ongoing debate); and finally, we focus on contraception and abortion in several world religions via Daniel Maguire’s Sacred Rights. I also plan to have students read more contemporary articles about the most recent religious and political debates centered around faith and reproductive justice, something I’ve been thinking and writing much about in recent years.
I commend all of these texts to you, and invite you to read along with us this fall. I promise there’s much to learn and much to talk about!