Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit, by my friend Tricia Gates Brown. (For those of you to whom it's important, she also has strong ties with Friends.) This book tells her story in beautiful, vulnerable prose that draws the reader in. I found myself thinking about her story and wanting to get back to reading it in the many moments of my day when I couldn't just sit around reading! It hooked me just as much as a good novel, although I have to admit it was a little weird reading such personal information about the life of someone I know. Somehow it feels different when reading a novel, or even a memoir of someone unknown to me, but since I know her and many of the others in the book, it felt a little voyeuristic to be so captivated by reading it.
But really, that's my only criticism of this book. Tricia's style managed to be engaging, readable, profound, deep, centering, humorous, sad and meaningful all in one book.
I appreciated the theme of the book, which you can begin to pick up on in the title. This is a spiritual memoir, but for Tricia, spirit is so bound up with the physical experience of herself and the world that this "spiritual" memoir comes off much different from the contemplative work one might imagine. She tells of her upbringing in a Christian denomination that caused her to feel less-than-human as a woman, and to find shame in her physical being. This book tells her journey of discovery as she seeks and finds God in the world around her, in relationships, in love and in herself. Tricia has a PhD in New Testament Literature, and she manages to incorporate some excellent, well-researched thought into this book in a way that definitely doesn't sound preachy but is confident and insightful. She tells of the misconceptions of much of the present-day American church regarding Jesus' view of women, the body and the created world, and paints a breathtaking picture of true Life as an embodied spirit.
Tricia is a gifted writer--I've read her dissertation, enjoyed her music and the poetry therein, and appreciated other articles I've read by her. Her memoir is no different. She writes it almost as poetry, describing the scenes around her with words that bring each moment to life. The insights she shares are deep and worth listening to. I am grateful she had the courage to share her story with such vulnerability.
In some ways, this memoir reminds me of another favorite book of mine, Sue Monk Kidd's Dance of the Dissident Daughter. The power of Sue Monk Kidd's work is in her creativity as she forms new ways to worship; much of the power of Tricia Gates Brown's work is in her word crafting and ability to tell a story, and in her complete and utter honesty, even about her mistakes. She is gracious and forgiving to others and to herself.
In case you couldn't tell, I definitely recommend this book! You can order it here.