As I age, my reading seems to become more eclectic. I’m not just talking about flipping through 101 Scariest Animals before chasing it down with a shot of Dooby Dooby Moo or Parker Picks.
Somedays I read books that won literary prizes; other days I flip through fluff. I also read weird nonfiction, including books about obituaries (reading death notices is a macabre hobby of mine).
One of the weird nonfiction books I finished recently is A Year of Biblical Womanhood. The author, Rachel Held Evans, has been all over American media lately (The View, The Today Show) discussing her book and the controversy in the Christian bookstore community about whether or not to display a book that has the word vagina in it. Seriously.
The reason I classify A Year of Biblical Womanhood as “weird nonfiction” is that Evans, a feminist and a Christian who was raised in a fundamentalist household, dove headfirst into the Bible’s controversies and tried to live as a Biblical woman. Each month, she focused on a virtue and made a to-do list of how to live, what to wear, what to do. Perhaps the book’s subtitle describes it best: “How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master.” It’s a bit like A. A. Jacobs ran into Malcolm Gladwell in a seminary hallway and went for a coffee . . . or something stronger.
One of the best things about A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in my opinion, is that it’s funny. If you can make a book about the Bible and feminism (or any controversy) funny, you can make anything funny.
To show you how Rachel Held Evans does this, here are a few funny snippets from the chapter on Modesty, where Evans spends the month of March focusing on this virtue, which means dressing in peasant skirts, wearing no jewelry or makeup, and covering her head.
On wearing peasant skirts:
I love peasant skirts; they’re like wearing air. The only problem is that skirts are a bit cool for early March. [ . . . ] Also, someone who loves the Cracker Barrel as much as I do generally requires a more constrictive waistband material than elastic for the purposes of self-control in the face of breakfast-all-day specials. I must have gained five pounds during the month of March.
On going out dressed modestly:
“I look like a religious freak,” I wailed. “I can’t go out like this. People will think I’m—I don’t know—homeschooled.”
[My husband] sighed. (Have I mentioned that he was homeschooled until college?)
On Amish dressing:
Plump and grandmotherly, [Mary] spoke with a charming ‘Dutchy’ accent and wore all the traditional acoutrements of Amish life—a black apron pulled over a muted purple blouse, a simple black skirt, a heart-shaped bonnet, wool sweater, and black Crocs. (Yes, Crocs are all the rage in Amish country right now, along with Transitions lenses).
So, in addition to the controversial blog posts which bash the book (and Evans) for being too liberal, and in addition to the contemporary Christian blog posts which praise Evans for her stance, I wanted to offer another angle.
To conclude, Rachel Held Evans can write “the funny.”
Here’s to finding humor all around us . . . even when we’re covering our heads.
(Here’s one of my wedding photos…taken at the end of the night.)
What weird or funny books have you read lately?
Where do you find humor?
(Alternatively, feel free to caption the photo.)