Leaving Addis, Losing DC: Dinaw Mengestu’s “Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”

I can't remember the last time I read a novel where I was the villain.The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a novel about the thwarted romance between a failing shopkeeper from Ethiopia and a white divorcee whose mixed-race daughter comes into the convenience store after elementary school to read The Brothers Karamazov. Two people who have fled their past lives come into D.C. right at the moment that the money started to pour in; before they can get their bearings, the tidal wave of … [Read more...]

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Penitence in Easter: Great Post by an Anglican Bishop

...The New Testament suggests that there is nothing more paschal in character, nothing more closely aligned with the great transitus of Jesus’ death and resurrection, than the transitional moment represented by our repentance and God’s forgiveness, which brings new life out of the death we’ve constructed for ourselves.Rowan Williams noted in his book Resurrection that the disciples’ experience of resurrection was inextricably linked to their own desertion of him and their failure as his frien … [Read more...]

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Mother, Church: A Gay Catholic Life

This is an interview I did with my friend Peter. I wanted to talk to him because he's lived through a tumultuous period in Church and American history and come through with his faith and sunny disposition basically intact. How does somebody end up as a faithful, practicing, openly gay Catholic in his 50s? (Warning: The answer is pretty long! This is a super-long post really.)I met with Peter in his apartment. The background for our conversation was the sound of opera arias and Cole Porter … [Read more...]

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Neighbors and Strangers: Edward P. Jones’s Tales of Black Catholic D.C.

The title of All Aunt Hagar's Children gives you an idea of one of the strengths of this short-story collection: Edward P. Jones has woven a tapestry portrait of a community. Or, to switch metaphors, he has laid a table where everyone in the family can come, get their due, and have their say.The stories aren't linked by anything other than their setting: black D.C., mostly black Catholic D.C., from the late 19th century to the latter half of the 20th. These people are farmers and porters … [Read more...]

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From Edward P. Jones, “Root Worker”

Long before they reached 1st St., N.E., Glynnis found that so much had changed, disappeared, but everything that was important to white people remained. (from the collection All Aunt Hagar's Children) … [Read more...]

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When Inmates Write the History of Their Own Prison: Slate

reports: Recently, a group of women currently incarcerated at the 142-year-old institution (now called the Indiana Women’s Prison) began to pore over documents from the prison’s first 10 years. They had set out on an ambitious project: to write a history of the institution’s founding decade, one that tells quite a different story from the official narrative. What happens when inmates write a history of their own prison? In this case, the perspective that the group brought to the project took wha … [Read more...]

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Voices from the Fire: Medieval Jewish Martyr Laments

Part of my Lenten reading was Susan L. Einbinder's Beautiful Death: Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France. It's a very readable adapted thesis which makes a few arguments--for example, that Jewish martyr laments shifted over time from proclaiming God's covenant with the community, to depicting individual transformation of the martyrs; that the laments shift from emphasizing demographic diversity to exalting scholars as a sort of martyr elite; and that the laments show the degree to … [Read more...]

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