Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Have a Nice Day by Julie Halpern

Fresh out of the hospital (3 weeks forced hospitalization for depression/anxiety), Anna's concerned about her reappearance at school: Will everyone look at her funny? Will they avoid her? How should she approach her absence? What will she wear? And how much homework has she missed? This kind of worry is no help to her irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety!

But Anna quickly finds that attention span in teenagers is short, and she doesn't really have anything to worry about. Plus, her newly-acquired coping skills may mean she's better-equipped to deal with common phenomena like crushes, parents, homework, and class projects.

Apparently, this is the sequel to "Get Well Soon" - that book deals with Anna's hospitalization - but I didn't know that until half-way through "Have a Nice Day." It didn't seem to matter that I hadn't read the first book; this one stood alone well without missing a beat.

Anna's a regular, likeable teen with the kind of concerns to which many will easily relate. Even if you haven't been hospitalized, most of us still worry about fitting in and sharing our personal struggles and triumphs. Anna was never an absolute nutcase - so, neither are we, right?

Monday, January 7, 2013

God Believes in Love by Gene Robinson

Subtitled "Straight Talk About Gay Marriage," this book was written by an openly gay, American Episcopalian bishop. Using personal stories and theological insights, Robinson attempts to answer the 10 most-commonly asked questions about homosexuality and Christianity.

His religious discussion is simply stated and well defined. Robinson analyzes the Bible verses most often quoted, then discusses their historical and theological influences. This type of biblical analysis was game-changing for me when I first encountered it in college, and is still fascinating and exciting to me 20 years later. It's really a way of looking at things that I'd never encountered at church.

While the book specifically addresses the religious opposition to gay marriage, there are larger political topics that cannot be ignored: civil rights, separation of church and state, and legal ethics to name a few. Robinson does a nice job drawing parallels from the 1960's civil rights movement, the 1970's women's liberation movement, and the 1980's disabilities movement.

I liked the book's format - laid out question by question - where each chapter could be a stand-alone essay addressing a specific topic of concern. Reading the book from start to finish, though, this style forces the repetition of some integral theory and verse. I didn't really mind that - the repetition sometimes allows a new facet to appear, and for me helped emphasize the most important elements - but it could be irritating.

I picked up the book and put it down again several times over the course of a couple weeks; it's a slim volume, but packs a lot into a small space. I found I needed time to step away and absorb before returning for more.