flaws of that position, and finally provides a
more moderate solution. Some of the letters
are more personal and draw from particular
life experiences. The argumentative style en-
courages one to challenge one’s beliefs and
examine one’s faith more closely. Individual
life—no matter which human life—is val-
ued, reason and dialogue (rather than dogma
and violence) are encouraged, and differ-
ences in opinion (and religious beliefs) are
tolerated; humans are regarded as fellow hu-
mans. Readers who embrace Western values
and Muslim ideals will likely find the ideas
presented in this work to be resonant. Espe-
cially recommended for those interested in
justifying a moderate Muslim stance within
the context of traditional Muslim culture
and beliefs. —Muhammed Hassanali
Muslims and the Making of America.
By Amir Hussain.
2016. 150p. Baylor Univ., $24.95 (9781481306225). 297.
Recently, Muslim beliefs have been viewed
as being incompatible with American ideals.
This book shows that Muslims were part of
American society before the time of the Revolutionary War. Muslim contributions are so
enmeshed into the American fabric, Hussain
argues, that it would be impossible to think
about contemporary America without the
contribution of Muslim Americans. The first
chapter provides a somewhat discontinuous
litany of the presence and contributions made
by Muslim Americans, from pre-Columbian
to contemporary times. It also touches on
Islam’s influence on the American landscape
and political thought. Subsequently, the book
focuses on Muslim contributions in American
music and in sports. The writing is conversational, blending personal narrative and
historical details, and the examples given are
relatable. This is a useful and good choice for
those who want to show that Muslims (and
Islam) are part-and-parcel of American life.
My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir.
By Macy Halford.
Feb. 2017. 368p. Knopf, $25.95 (9780307957986).
Despite its reliance on word-of-mouth ad-
Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope
vertising, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for
His Highest is one of the best-known devo-
tionals among evangelical readers. Written
by a Scottish preacher in the early twentieth
century, this sometimes obtuse collection
of daily readings has captured the hearts
of thousands of readers. Utmost, as it is of-
ten called, is the narrative fulcrum of this
spiritual autobiography. Halford describes
growing up in Texas, going to church, and
her faith journey as she moves from Texas
to New York, and the unsurprising spiritual
doubts along the way, but with Utmost as her
constant companion. The centrality of the
book to her life and her understanding lead
her to Paris, to get to know both Oswald and
herself better. Throughout her own story, the
author deftly adds interesting and relevant
historical information about Oswald himself
and the broader history of evangelicalism.
Self-aware but never self-indulgent, the book
provides an edifying look at one person’s
spiritual journey and the impact an obscure
Scottish preacher’s musings can have years
later. —Christine Engel
By Mark K. Shriver.
Nov. 2016. Random, $28 (9780812998023). 282.092.
Shriver, son of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, writes in his introduction that
following the deaths of his parents and others close to him, he fell into a spiritual crisis,
manifested as a “yearning for a church he
could believe in again.” Then Pope Francis
came on the scene, and a hopeful Shriver
wanted to know more. So began a personal
and literal journey as Shriver went to Argentina and beyond to trace the life of Jorge
Mario Bergoglio. The premise, that one could
learn about the man through the environment from which he sprang and the people
who nourished him, is ably born out here.
Playmates, friends, teachers, and many of the
Jesuits (and a rabbi) who walked beside Bergoglio on his spiritual path are interviewed.
There is also solid background about the
political upheaval in Argentina during Bergoglio’s time there. There’s no interview with
the pope, though Shriver tried to get one.
The non-interview, as it turned out, affected
the author profoundly. Both a fascinating
portrait of a man and a nourishing account
of spiritual yearning. —Ilene Cooper
A Radical Faith: The Assassination of
By Eileen Markey.
Nov. 2016. 336p. Nation, $26.99 (9781568585734).
The assassination of an American nun in
El Salvador in December 1980 shocked the
world and caused vehement questioning of
American policies in Latin America. Sister
Maura has since become a symbol, but it’s
the real woman behind the headlines the
author wants readers to know. Drawing on
extensive interviews with the sister’s family
and friends as well as her own letters, Markey offers a richly detailed, loving portrait of
a daughter of Irish immigrants plagued by
doubt but committed to the poor with whom
she lived. Markey follows Maura’s journey to
becoming a nun and her eventual conviction
that serving God meant identifying with the
poor and oppressed. Although sometimes
bordering on hagiography, the book provides
a portrayal of a woman totally committed to
the call of God, alongside a thorough presentation of the politically tumultuous world
the sister inhabited. Although Sister Maura
might be surprised that her humble life merited a whole book, readers will be galvanized
and moved by her story. —Christine Engel
Religion and Politics in America: An
Encyclopedia of Church and State in
Ed. by Frank J. Smith.
2v. 2016. 899p. illus. ABC-CLIO, $189 (9781598844351).
Societal laws and government policy ultimately derive from beliefs on how we ought
to live. In premodern times, organized societies turned primarily to religion as a source for
governance and, in some cases, as a justification for ruling. Religious diversity in America
has been increasing over the past half-century,
thus creating a greater need to reconcile religiously motivated political actions within
a pluralistic society. This work’s objective is
to focus on the political impact of religious
movements and uncover the religious bases
for political action. Neither task is easy. Religious movements typically cite the higher
goals of salvation and morality; political action is typically grounded in secular notions
of the common good.
Most entries explore their subjects in
enough depth to draw out the salient political and religious facets, whether those facets
intersect or are deliberately kept apart. Unfortunately, some essays that develop the
political aspect leave the religious side too
opaque. Entries are heavily cross-referenced
and list links for further research. Sidebars
scattered throughout are extracts from primary sources and generally serve to enhance
related entries. The language and writing
style are better suited to the college level.
Recommended as a reference to survey and
introductory courses on religion and politics
in America and to general readers interested
in how religious and civic groups engage in
political activity. —Muhammed Hassanali
We Were the Future: A Memoir of the
By Yael Neeman.
Nov. 2016. 256p. Overlook, $26.95 (9781468313567).
Readers curious about life on a kibbutz in
the 1960s will love this poetic autobiography.
Readers who have never wondered about life
on a kibbutz should read this book anyway,
as they will be well rewarded. In beautiful
prose, the author describes her childhood
and adolescence as part of an amazing ex-
periment in truly socialist living in Israel in
the 1960s. Using the pronoun we through-
out, she captures the determined uniformity
of her and her classmates’ experience. She
shows an excellent understanding of the ide-
als of the system and the shape it gave their
lives, interspersing childhood stories with
quietly stunning observations that will hit
the reader like a jolt to the stomach. The his-
tory of the movement and her own kibbutz
are deftly woven together, and readers come
away with a sense of this not as merely an au-
tobiography of an individual woman but as
the story of the hopes, dreams, and struggles
of an entire movement. A spare, and startling
book. —Christine Engel
Continued from p. 17