Stand up, Speak up

It is possible I was wrong. A woman does not “woman up.”

There is more required of womanhood than just being.

After I wrote this in response to Josh’s blog post here, I went to bed that night and thought of some women. I thought of my mother, who, after her divorce, put herself to bed and waited for someone to come take care of her. I thought of the woman who was raped by Brock Turner, left lying on the ground by a dumpster (I don’t even remember her name, but I surely remember his). I thought of a church homily preached by a bishop, extolling the virtue of the Virgin Mary who was silent and docile. I thought of Hillary Clinton and every other woman who was better qualified for a position that went to a man. I thought of those women our current president felt he could grab with impunity. And my blood started to boil.

Sure, be welcoming. Be beautiful. Know your worth. But that’s not enough. We are women, we cannot help but be women.

This morning I thought of my sister-in-law, who unfailingly stands up for the needs of the elderly and the disabled. I thought of a woman in Seattle who, when grabbed by the p****, took the guy’s picture with her cell phone and called him out loudly. I thought of St. Catherine of Sienna, who called out her bishops and the pope for their corrupt and unChristian behavior. I thought of the millions of women marching all over the world early this January.

The easiest thing for a woman to do is to fade into the background, to be silent in the face of wrong, to make no waves, to avoid hurting feelings, to stay out of conflict, to avoid shame. But this is a cop out as surely as it is a cop out for a man to avoid facing his realities and attending to his duty.

A woman does not “man up” because a woman is not a man. You see, a youth is told to “be a man” when his actions make him, in the eyes of the speaker, indistinguishable from the women and the boys, for whom allowance for weakness is made. It’s something of a pejorative, actually. A woman does not “woman up,” either. When one has historically been placed second in the human hierarchy, one has nothing to prove and the exhortation rings hollow.

The corresponding exhortation is: Woman, speak up. 

Don’t let anyone speak for you.

Don’t titter nervously on the sidelines when people say or do wrong, don’t try to smooth things over. Ask hard questions, assume what authority you have based upon your level of responsibility and tell people what is required of them. Assert your independence, make your ideas plain, bear witness to your own experience. Speak up for those who have no voice. Name your emotions, name the actions of others, use language as a force for good.

A stronger exhortation could be: Woman, stand up. Take your place among the others, stand up for what you believe, stand up to those who would devalue your contribution, stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. Get up out of your chair, get up out of bed. Take a stand, be visible. Do not be afraid.

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The Proverbs 31 woman rises before anyone in her household.

When Jesus brings a girl back from the dead, his first words to her are “get up.”

After Jesus returns from the dead, He first appears to his women disciples. When Mary Magdalene clings to him, He says, in effect, “Woman, get up. Don’t cling to me. Go and tell the men.”

By all four gospel accounts, the male disciples didn’t believe the women. I’m sure Jesus knew this would happen, but still he chose women to bear the news. If women are to take their place in the Church (as members of the diaconate, at least), if the feminine aspect of the divine is ever going to be valued as equal to the masculine, then women are going to have to stand up and remind the hierarchy that Jesus gave his commission to men and women both. I take that as a mission.

Woman, get up. Go and speak the truth.

 

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Be a Woman

Recently a teacher named Joshua Gibbs, writing for the Circe Institute blog, revived the classic exhortation “Be A Man” to his young students. Noting it applied primarily to the males in the room, he advised the young women to “eavesdrop.”

Today’s more egalitarian society looks upon such an exhortation as moderately sexist. Gibbs understands this when he suggests that we are more likely to be told, “Be a Christian,” which he correctly notes is far too open to interpretation. In secular society we expect our young people to “be the adult in the room.” This at least acknowledges that the crossing into adulthood of both men and women involves, at a minimum, developing courage, mastering emotion, and consideration of others, among other things.

The trouble is that there is no corresponding exhortation specifically for women. There is no classic sense that stepping from girlhood to womanhood involves developing the mature feminine character traits that both men and women would do well to emulate.

The reason for this is written in our history. In Western culture women were expected to keep their childlike attributes. They were allowed to be overcome by storms of emotion, they were allowed to leave difficult or risky tasks to men, and ignorance was mistaken for innocence. Women moved from dependency upon their father’s household to dependency upon their husbands. Single women, if they were lucky, were able to live with relatives. Only the poor were expected to live off of their own labor.

Further, becoming a woman did not occur by virtue of some great act of character, but rather via physical development. One became a woman at the point of maximum attractiveness to men, at which point one could expect to marry and secure one’s future. A less attractive woman may develop a charming personality, or perhaps enough household skill or money from her family that marriage was more or less a financial transaction.  Either way she was an object, not an agent. An entire industry is built upon the commodification of womanhood, and it endures.

I was educated by early feminists. I have believed that the differences between men and women are purely physical, that in this day and age women and men should be able to do whatever they choose. A woman should be able to serve in the military without losing her femininity, a man should not be thought of as unmanly because he sews beautiful clothing. Which is why I struggle to understand why there are men and women now asserting they are, in fact, the opposite sex “inside.” If gender is merely a social construct, this should not be happening. Perhaps there is something special about womanhood and manhood after all?

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Women and men face some unique challenges as they transition from childhood, but the resulting maturity is available to each of the sexes. Women can be brave, men can be beautiful. The uniqueness of womanhood doesn’t necessarily extend to something so trivial as occupational choice, and there is no real evidence to suggest that either sex is more capable of leadership. So can we say: “Buck up, be a woman” ? or is that somehow inadequate?

When I face a difficult situation, I often tell myself to “strap on the brass bra.” Every superwoman has a brass bra to protect those womanly organs so that she can be transformed back into that mild-mannered, nurturing paragon of femininity she hides behind. But that’s a tad vulgar for classical use, as is “put on the big girl panties.”

Perhaps we don’t need the exhortation to become women so much as the reminder that we are women. We need to seize our feminine inheritance and make it our own. There is agency in the recognition of our own worth and the worth of others. There is the agency of choice.

Wisdom, remember, is a woman.

You are a woman, I tell my daughter. A woman knows her worth. Do not sell your love cheaply, for trinkets or mere attention. The only proper coin for love is love. Do not give of yourself to depletion in order to please others, for, in the words of Charlotte Mason, “you are not your own to give without reserve.”

You are a woman when you know you are beautiful whether or not your outward appearance has a certain symmetry or fits conventional notions of perfection.  Do not become obsessed with beauty, either your own or that of others, and do not expect to always be surrounded by beauty. You are a woman. Make your world beautiful.

You are a woman when you are mistress of your emotions, and while living a rich emotional life you are not mastered by transient feeling. To name your emotion is to give you power over your feelings. You are a woman. Only when you can bear your own emotions can you be entrusted to hold the emotions of others as their confidant and friend.

You are a woman. The women in my life I admired most were welcoming. They invited people into their midst, they were inclusive. They constructed relationships as carpenters build houses. They made everyone feel valued and important, whether or not they were intimate friends. To a woman, power is not a zero-sum game. Esteem grows when it is shared. A man will want to know if the woman in his life will build him up, both to his face and behind his back, when speaking of him. A real woman will not choose the small power of gossip and slander, but the greater power of support and honor.

You are a woman. Your womb may, if you choose to keep it open, hold new life. Whether or not you chose this one particular life within you, you may not throw it away lightly, selfishly.  You are a woman, and the truth is your life is never entirely your own. This, too, is an act of courage – to give one’s own life to new life, whether 9 months or 19 years of it. Do not succumb to self pity or despair because you are called upon to nurture the life of another. Welcome life into the world.

You are a woman is both a reminder and a rallying cry. Be that woman.

Compassion, Choice and the Constitution

I have not been as active an educator as I’d like these days. My mother took a fall in November, and the time came for her to move into assisted living after several years of frequent ER visits and concern over her nutrition and other activities of daily living. Assisted living is something of a misnomer, I’ve discovered, because even with all of the assistance she has there I have needed to completely take over her finances, her home, her medical appointments, and advocacy with the staff.

I was treated well as a child – my parents took good care of me and ensured I would grow up to be an educated, responsible woman. My mom even sowed the seeds of feminism into my young soul. Yet I would not consider myself close to my mom, despite having weekly contact with her.

Legally, I could walk away from her. There are no filial laws in this state; I could leave her to deal all alone with the IRS, with her many pains, with people who would take advantage of her. As an adult she has the right to her own decisions and the right to the consequences of those decisions. She has no “right” to be cared for under the Constitution. Yet Mom would surely have died, at one point several years ago, had I not stepped in.  I care for her out of love and moral responsibility, what the old fashioned call “duty.”

Another group that has no “right” to care is the unborn up to 20 weeks of gestation, according to Roe v. Wade. Those who advocate for greater access to abortion say that the care of the preborn infant – the provision of life support, when you get right down to it – should be the choice of the woman in whose uterus the baby resides. These women want to be able to walk away. Those who advocate a right to life find that appalling. It is most certainly as morally wrong to abort your infant child as it is to abandon a parent. Yet many women do so because it’s easier to abdicate responsibility if no one knows you had it in the first place.

The third group that has few rights in this regard are immigrants. I hesitate to say they have no rights under the law, but the far right has a point when they say foreign nationals have no “right” to cross our borders. In fact, the Washington lawsuit against Mr. Trump’s executive order banning entry to nationals of 7 countries was successful because they argued that it is the businesses in our state that have the right to employ them once they become legal, and that to allow them entry and then capriciously deny it to them hurts these companys’ chances for success. It’s an impediment to commerce. The only “right” these immigrants have is spelled out in a 1965 law that states the U.S. must not discriminate in allowing entry based on religion or nation of origin. This is the law that prioritized familial relationships over national quotas. It kept us from preferring Northern Europeans above all others and has greatly improved the level of melanin in our national skin tone. Given that only 7 Muslim nations were named, however; it will be difficult to prove that the intent of the EO was to discriminate against Muslims.

What do these groups have in common? The elderly, the unborn, and the alien have no right to our care under the Constitution. We show who we are as a people by how we treat those who need us. We have a moral imperative to accompany the elderly on their final journey, to support new life until it can support itself, and to welcome the alien until they become one of us.

And yet, there is a difference. You see, even if no law protects the elderly and the unborn, we can choose as citizens to act according to our best instincts. No one can prevent me from caring for Mom. No one could have forced me to kill the child in my womb. In those situations it is good to have a choice. There are people who were abused or abandoned by their parents, surely we can’t force them to care, just as we can’t really force a woman to bear the child of rape or incest, or to bear a child that could destroy her health were it to come to full term. That’s why we have those choices, because we don’t know the particulars of everyone’s circumstances. We can still be a nation that does the right thing no matter what the law says.

Surely there are situations that would prevent us from welcoming everyone into our country, hence we give that choice to our executive. We, as individuals, cannot legally welcome the stranger without the permission of the government. We can be prevented from doing good by the stroke of a pen. Supported by people who, in their xenophobia, fear the stranger more than they fear drunken Axelrod with his massive gun collection, the president can shut down our boarders to people fleeing violence. In doing so, he’s ensured that only our own will kill us, that’s certain. But he has also shut out the doctor that could save us, the engineer who may fix the bug in your computer, the future teachers, restaurant owners, cleaners, farmers and everyone else who just needs a safe place to start over. By exercising his choice, he has taken away ours. We can’t do the right thing until he does.

The Year in Books 2016

A new year, a new look at the books of the past year!

In rereading my book blog of 2015, I discovered that while the sea beckoned me then, it would be the farm that captured my attention in 2016. This was the year my daughter and I discovered Wendell Berry, Willa Cather, Jane Smiley, and Stella Gibbons. I read two of Berry’s works set in rural Kentucky, in the fictional town of Port William: Jayber Crow tells the story of the town barber who is accepted into the Port William Membership as a young man and lives out his entire life there, never starting a family but intimately involved in the lives of others. Hannah Coulter is an honest, sensitive tale of womanhood told from the perspective of an aging, widowed grandmother who feels the loss of her children when their education takes them away from their roots. Willa Cather’s One of Ours  won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize: it tells the story of a young man who feels trapped in caring for the family farm, finding escape in his education and finally in war. I also read O Pioneers! about a Swedish immigrant family trying to successfully farm in Nebraska. Both Cather novels have dark endings, but I want to finish the trilogy that is started by O Pioneers! and I’m about a third of the way through Song of the Lark.

ccfStella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm is a hilarious novel about a farm family under the powerful but depressed misrule of an aunt/mother who had once been traumatized by “something nasty in the woodshed.” It had an oddly satisfying appeal to the side of me that just wants to fix people. The most modern novel I read was Some Luck by Jane Smiley. It, too, takes place on a farm, and covers two generations starting just after WWI. I found I better recognized the teenaged sons in this family than in Cather’s or Berry’s books, and I hope she writes another novel with these characters.

I think in these books my Lord was preparing me to deal with my uncle’s passing in June. He left me a sheaf of letters from my grandmother and great grandmother. It was out of such a life that my parents and grandparents came to the West Coast, from rural Iowa. Their letters were filled with the weather and the harvest, and family visits. With  the simultaneous longing for exotic places and pining for home.

ciagobI did have time to finish a few science books with my daughter. We read both Life Itself by Boyce Rensberger and A Meaningful World by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathon Witt. Life Itself covers cell biology, including embryology and biochemistry, while Meaningful World covers chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics and art to make the argument that our world is designed, not a happy accident. While I found their constant grinding on the ax of “materialist reductionism” a bit overworked, I did find that both books together provided a framework for me to consider if and how something as clearly tragic and immoral as abortion can still be a legal choice. Life Itself would not be an enjoyable book for someone who believes in 5 days of creation, or the literal hand of God in the forming of life, but it is nonetheless the most living book on the topic I have seen yet. We also checked out Clouds in a Glass of Beer by Craig Bohren, about atmospheric physics. It was much more challenging than I expected, and I was delighted when the author emailed me to answer our questions.

cbcMissT’s last year of school afforded me the chance to introduce her to my very favorite books from high school: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis’s retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, and Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton’s moving tale of South Africa. So of course I reread them and of course I recommend them. Also, her graduation gave me permission to indulge in a little fantasy, so I completed Brandon Sanderson’s first (and only) two Stormlight novels The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. Kings, magic armor and swords, ordinary people gaining magical powers, scary beasties, bad weather, prophecies. You know, everything you like from a fantasy novel. And 1300 pages each.

My two reading goals for 2017 are both books I’m reading with others: St. Augustine’s Confessions and David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility, a treatise on classical education. There has been something of a debate within the Charlotte Mason community as to whether Mason’s method could be considered to fall under the umbrella of a classical education. On one side there are those who see enough similarity, particularly in choice of reading and subject matter, to consider her grounded in classicism. On the other side are those who feel she had come up with something entirely new, with goals and intentions quite different from classical educationalists. This book influenced the creators of Ambleside Online, and I look forward to reading it with that group of women on the Ambleside forum.

Identity – the Other Side

Of course, there’s always the other side.

I thought of it reading the paper today. There is an editorial ripping into Initiative 1515, a proposal in Washington State to limit the liability of businesses that reserve their bathrooms for persons of one biological/genetic sex or the other and to require schools to deny permission to children who identify with the opposite sex to enter that bathroom, while making an attempt to provide them with suitable facilities.

You can read it here.

What gets me about the above article is this statement: “These laws (anti-discrimination laws from 2006) have functioned as intended, until socially conservative lawmakers this year ginned up absurd, fantastical scenarios about transgender people flashing their genitals at children in bathrooms and locker rooms.”

Um, that’s not quite right.

The scenarios don’t involve transgender people at all. They involve men, full men, men that identify entirely as men, using the law as a way to expose themselves to women and children, for whatever bizarre reason that men do this.

I’ve been flashed several times, and I still don’t understand why men do it. But I know that it makes women feel small and powerless, and a little bit afraid. It reminds us that it’s only a few steps up from a flash to a rape. So it’s illegal. How difficult would it be, honestly, for a man to flash a woman in a locker room, and then tell the authority that she imagined it, he was just minding his own business trying to get dressed. Behavior matters, like I said before, but it sometimes takes a while for certain behavior to be caught and punished. That’s how sexual harassment works: a woman has to endure it a long time, documenting it, before she can be believed.

I have known transgendered women, and one who was in the process. This guy, a coworker, told me that in order for him to be approved for the surgery, he had to live like a woman. He had to “live her truth” so to speak, and using the women’s bathroom was only one of the last stops in a long process. I am sure I’ve shared women’s bathrooms with a dozen men and have not noticed – because that’s the point. Behavior matters. If there’s no way to tell if your man is transitioning, if he/she makes no effort to “live their truth” and then exposes quite another truth to you, then how do you know? If you write the law and leave out protections that recognize this conundrum, then you’ve failed to protect at least 49% of the population from the kind of people who could use the law as a shield. That’s a real concern; it has nothing to do with hate. I have no interest in walking in on the full monty in the YMCA shower room and then trying to determine if it’s safe to take my clothes off.

Rather than accusing people who struggle with these issues of “hatred” we would do well to find a third way, one that does not involve entrenching ourselves in the purity of our positions. Those businesses working to improve the privacy of their bathrooms are to be commended. Schools can employ adult “bathroom monitors” to ensure that children are not violating one another’s privacy while allowing transgendered kids the freedom to use the restroom they need to. Whatever! Let’s just think practically and assume the best of those who care enough to argue about it.

Today I learned that the entire town of Fallujah, in Iraq, is starving to death. Literally starving to death, because two sides are entrenched in their positions and can’t agree long enough to get food to them.

We can do better.

Identity

I identify as a feminist.

Mostly, I am an old-school feminist from the 70’s and 80’s. Old school feminists tend to hold on to the notion that to be feminist means that you believe that women are capable of doing anything that men can. Radical old-school feminism believes that all gender difference, outside of reproductive equipment, is culturally defined, that there are no true differences between the sexes. Therefore, women should have the same opportunities as men, women should be paid the same as men for the same work, and women should not be relegated to a subservient role in the family – marriage is a pact between equals.

By the 90’s, this position softened a bit. Statistically, some tendencies were identified as feminine and others as masculine. The point then became to value that which is feminine and that which is masculine equally, and to accept that these characteristics can appear in either gender.

I will know that this attitude has taken hold when a man can dress in women’s clothes without social stigma, just as women can dress in men’s clothes. That hasn’t happened yet. We understand and applaud women who want to take on male characteristics and male occupations, but we’re not all there yet when it comes to men. While the growing number of men who put in equal time caring for their small children is heartening, the stay-at-home dad is still sometimes considered a freeloader.

Identity is tricky, because consistency is something we long for as human beings, yet the world is just not that consistent.

I was going to stay out of the bathroom debate, until I saw this video:

Because I find it vaguely annoying that someone would go to my alma mater to play “Gotcha” with young students who don’t have enough experience in the world to respond thoughtfully, I think someone needs to educate the Family Policy Institute on just what constitutes “identity.”

Family Policy Institute, like many Christian organizations, finds it necessary to remind people that yes, there is absolute, objective truth out there. They’ve reduced the truth about human identity to the following: Men are men because they have a penis, women are women because they have a vagina and mammaries. So the interviewer, Joseph Backholm, decided to drive this reductionist point home by taking on some other identities and seeing how UW students reacted. He asked them what they would say if he told them he was 7 years old. Or Chinese. Or 6’5″. All of which left the students uncomfortable, but standing their ground on his right to identify himself however he wished, physical evidence to the contrary. FPI takes this as evidence that today’s youth are doomed.

Obviously, Backholm isn’t 7 years old. Chronologically. Yet there’s a 29 year old woman at my church who has the mind and skill set of a 7 year old. She wears her hair in pigtails, plays with toys, watches cartoons, and in a sing-song voice reminds me about her birthday 2 months in advance. She requires care and supervision. While she is physically able to have children, I would not have put my children in her care because for all practical purposes, she is a child herself.

Backholm doesn’t look Chinese. However, I have a Filipina friend who looks African American. She was born and raised in the Philippines, however, so that makes her Filipina, does it not? My Mexican coworker’s father was Swedish. She doesn’t look Mexican, but she speaks Spanish and makes tamales and misses her country. There are people born and raised in China of British parentage. Backholm could very well be Chinese, and it’s certainly his prerogative to say he’s Chinese. What makes a person American? Can you tell by looking at them?

Backholm is not 6’5″. Ok, there you got me. I could get a ruler and measure him and say nope, you are only 5’10”. Or, 70″. Or 177.8 cm. But that isn’t identity, is it? That’s merely a physical characteristic. I thought we were getting away from basing identity on physical characteristics, such as the color of one’s skin, or height, or dress size.

The point is that sex and height are physical characteristics that are small parts of identity. Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct that is a result of two things: 1) statistical preferences and skill sets associated with a given sex, 2) social roles associated with, and sometimes assigned to, a person of a given sex. Because human society has spent hundreds of years determining the full meaning of gender, for better or worse, it’s not going away soon. People whose desires and preferences and skill sets match the opposite sex are in something of a social bind. Our human drive for consistency will lead us to try and make a match. Technology has made that possible for transgendered persons.

The reason those college students were uncomfortable was because Backholm’s behavior did not match his claims. He did not dress like a woman, he did not speak with a Chinese accent, and he was not carrying his toy truck with him. A transgendered person is in that bathroom to behave consistently with their gender, and their privacy needs are more like those of the opposite sex. Therefore, he will be dressed and shaved like a woman in the woman’s bathroom, and she will have her lady parts covered in the men’s bathroom. If this is not so then yes, you can be suspicious and uncomfortable. Behavior matters. A pair of size 12 pumps in the stall next to me worries me a lot less than the woman’s face peering in through a crack in the stall door (no doubt checking to be sure I don’t have a penis).

Take faith, for example. I identify as a Christian. We know there are Christians who look like they just stepped out of gangs, with piercings and tattoos and the like. We know Christians who swear and listen to rough music. We don’t judge Christians by their appearance, but by their beliefs and behavior. Gradually, we find that Christians adopt a “look” and a standard of behavior that is consistent with mature belief informed by the Bible, while at the same time we recognize the diversity of cultures that fit under the Christian umbrella.

Family Policy Institute would do well to concentrate on bathroom policy that truly helps families, such as baby changing tables in men’s bathrooms, than to try and convince people that adopting a simplistic view of the world is going to make abuse disappear. We’ve attached a lot of complicated baggage to the sexes, and it’s going to take a while before men can be comfortable as men in dresses, or women can likewise be themselves around other women.

 

The Year in Books 2015

Happy new year, dear friends! Following the lead of my other blogging friends, I think it’s time to start a tradition of posting the books I’ve read this past year (many alongside my daughter), and some of the books I hope to finish in 2016. I would love to hear your favorite books of 2015, if you can take the time to comment, or link to your own book posts!

Some of the books I/we read in 2015

Some of the books I/we read in 2015

It seems I read a lot of survival at sea books, an adventure genre that never gets old for me. I started with Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan and followed that by Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, in which Louis Zamperini follows being shot down and lost at sea with surviving a Japanese POW camp in the latter part of WWII. I then finished this genre streak with Endurance, about Ernest Shackleton’s ill fated trip to Antarctica.

Speaking of sea stories, I finally read Melville’s Moby Dick, a long time bucket list item, as it was on Miss T’s reading list as well. Other literature selections we made it through include Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Hugo’s Les Miserables (I freely admit to skimming through many of Hugo’s digressions – although his assessment of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo is not to be missed), To Kill a Mockingbird (I could read that one again and again), and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, about the emptiness of wealth in 1920’s America.

Along the lines of Gatsby, but written in 2011, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain tells the story of Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson from her point of view. It, too, comes across as a strong indictment of the Jazz Age, and perhaps the trauma of WWI, as gradually a loving couple is torn apart by the excesses of their lifestyle and the ghosts of war. In addition, Miss T and I together read another critical look at WWI from the perspective of a young life torn apart by it: A Testament of Youth, the memoir of feminist, pacifist author Vera Britten.

We finished Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People with The Great Democracies this year, covering the latter half of the 19th century. We also read material from that era in American history, in particular Arguing About Slavery by William Lee Miller. This book examines in excruciating detail the legislative battles over the issue of slavery, which Congress would gladly have avoided, even to the point of writing legislation to ignore any petitions relating to slavery, if not for the work of dedicated abolitionists and John Quincy Adams, who returned to the Senate after his term as POTUS. The parallel to the abortion debate today is unmistakeable: when does a government have the responsibility to make what is arguably immoral, illegal as well?

Science reading, of course, placed high on the list. We read the biography of Marie Curie by her daughter, Eva. We also read the second volume in Asimov’s Understanding Physics, as well as Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman and A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking. We finished The Microbe Hunters by de Kruif, and I detoured into reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which I have yet to finish. We enjoyed two science books that cover topics in biology with a touch of activism:  E.O. Wilson’s Diversity of Life and Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. In fact, Miss T has decided she will no longer eat beef that isn’t grass fed, and thanks to Wilson’s idea that our willingness to depart from a limited diet can do much to save plant diversity, she’s tried a couple of exotic fruits that she otherwise would not have allowed into her mouth. A win for bibliotherapy!

There were a number of books I started this year that I didn’t finish, I’m ashamed to admit, but in addition to the book on cancer I also hope to finish Alan Turing: The Enigma, which was a book group selection that has tested my faculties easily as much as the above physics books, and G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which describes how he came to accept the Christian faith in a way that is remarkable dense, but certainly interesting. Now that I’ve read Karen Glass’s book Consider This, which looks at the classical roots of a Charlotte Mason education, I hope to finish David Hicks’s book Norms and Nobility and possibly C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man. I intend, too, to give my Spanish a workout by finishing Doña Perfecta. That’s as close to a New Year’s reading resolution as I get, ladies and gents.

Three books that disappointed me were Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns (not bad, but perhaps I’m finding the theme of how women can be abused in patriarchal systems a bit tired?), Hardy’s Far from the Maddening Crowd (shudder, but perhaps I didn’t give it enough of a chance, as I had to return it to the library before finishing) and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (just bad, bad, bad – really not worth the time).

My favorite book of 2015? Hands down, it was West With the Night, by Beryl Markham. A contemporary of Ernest Hemingway’s, she grew up in Kenya, and would, as a child, join her native playmates hunting boar, among other adventures. She was by turns a racehorse trainer, a bush pilot, and the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic. Despite the fact that she had little, if any, formal education, the book is gloriously written. In fact, Hemingway himself had this to say about her:

She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers

If I could only aspire to such lofty heights as a writer.