This is my next batch of books for donation, lucky #13. As always, lots of fond memories. I hope these guys find happy homes.
The Stuff: The memoir/autobiography is relatively short. Loftus describes himself as one to throw himself into things wholeheartedly. He got into trouble as a teenager but found God and later became a preacher, teaching apologetics. Unfortunately, he had an affair. The fallout from the affair increased his already growing doubts about Christianity.
This story occupies about fifteen pages. The rest of the book is spent on anti-apologetics, examining biblical texts and philosophical arguments about Christianity. He doesn’t ridicule so much as expose. Nevertheless, this makes for thick, heavy reading.
Bio John Wayne Loftus (b. 1954) is an American atheist author and former ordained minister. He’s written at least thirteen books on atheism and Christian philosophy. One of his books, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True (2013), recommends approaching religion as an outsider to evaluate its merit. That is, apply the same degree of skepticism to your own religion as you would to the other guy’s.
Title: Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity
Author: John W. Loftus (b. 1954)
First published: 2008
The Stuff: Despite being fascinated with history for as long as I can remember, I was bored to tears with the subject in high school. I think this book explains my boredom in part. Loewen is right when he talks about history textbooks dwelling on the dramatic and the superficial and the need for heroes and villains. The problem is reality is more nuanced. Facts don’t lend themselves to such schemes.
Loewen looks at the “real” importance of Columbus, the treatment of natives by Europeans, and the experience of black in the United States as opposed to what the textbooks tell students, the Civil War and Reconstruction. It is sad and eye-opening.
He also frankly states textbooks “make students stupid.” Given how little many people seem to understand our history, he may have a point. However, textbooks have improved over the 50s and 60s.
The book was reissued in 2005, 2008, and 2018, so my 1995 copy is way behind the times but still a worthy read.
Bio: James William Loewen (1942-2021) was an American sociologist, historian, author, and racial justice activist. He taught history at Tougaloo College, a historically black liberal arts school in Mississippi, and later taught sociology at the University of Vermont. This is his best-known work. He also co-wrote a Mississippi state history textbook, Mississippi: Conflict and Change (1974), which the Mississippi Textbook Purchasing Board rejected even though the book won the Lillian Smith Book Award for Best Southern Nonfiction in 1975. Loewen filed suit and prevailed.
Title: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Author: James W. Loewen (1946-2021)
First published: 1995
The Stuff: This is a slim chapbook of poetry and a few black-and-white photos used as a textbook in one of the author’s course with a limited press run of 500. Most of the poems are short, one-page free verse affairs, often written in second person. A recurring person talked to and about is the Lady in Red.
Bio: Lee Mallory (b. 1946) is an American poet, editor, and academic. His father and stepfather were both in the military, so he grew up abroad. He himself served in the Army. Long ago, but not so far away, I took a course or two he taught at Santa Ana College. He is now retired. He hosted poetry readings for students and others. Oddly enough, the Orange County Register had a write-up this morning about his current poetry reading: Meet Lee Mallory, O.C.’s poetry man – Orange County Register (ocregister.com)
Title: I Write Your Name
Author: Lee Mallory (b. 1946)
First published: 1990
The Stuff: Taken from articles written in the 1990s while the author was living in Tel Aviv and covering the Arab-Israeli conflict for the Wall Street Journal, this reexamines the biblical narrative from Genesis and compares it to what modern archaeology has been uncovering. The strength of the book lies not in its discussion of how current archaeology does not support the old Bible stories. Rather, the picture of history emerging from archaeology is fascinating and worthy of study by itself.
To offer one easy example, the Bible teaches the children of Israel were long held as slaves in Egypt. Because of this, a tradition arose that the pyramids were built by Hebrew slaves. This was dubious all along. The pyramid-building continued for centuries. As it turns out, the builders were craftsmen, not slaves.
Bio: Amy Dockser Marcus (b. 1965) is a health and science reporter for the Wall Street Journal based in Boston. She has spent time in Tel Aviv covering the Arab-Israeli conflict and worked for Money magazine. In 2005, she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting for a series of articles about cancer survivors and the health care system. Her two books are based on articles from her reporting in the Middle East.
Title: The View from Nebo: How Archaeology is Changing the Bible and Reshaping the Middle East
Author: Amy Dockser Marcus (b. 1965)
First published: 2000
The Stuff: Masson acknowledges what most of us who have been around animals know: animals experience emotions. He is careful to explain that they are not humans but animals. For example, he tells a story that could have ended badly for him through his own poor judgment. In his conclusion, he asks, What are the implications for living with beings who feel?
I confess this was a little hard to reread. After having just put a cat down, I have to wonder—as Masson does about his aging dog—do they feel nostalgic? I know my cat didn’t remember being a kitten, but did he, as he aged, remember happier times? Being able to jump the block wall and sit atop it, washing his paws and driving the neighbors’ dog crazy? Or was it enough that he could sleep on the sofa between me and my husband? Impossible to know.
Title: When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals
Authors: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (b. 1941) holds a Ph.D. from Harvard in Sanskrit and trained as a psychoanalyst. After studying Freud’s papers, he rejected much of what Freud had written, and oh, my, the fuss that did kick up. He is a vegan and an animal rights activist.
Susan McCarthy holds degrees in biology and journalism, writes regularly for Salon.com, and has contributed to Best American Science Writing, Parade, The Guardian, WIRED, Smithsonian magazine, and Outside. She lives in San Francisco.
First published: 1995