Books in Brief

February 2021

 

Earth Keeper

“This is a declaration of belonging,” writes Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday at the start of Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land. Equal parts memoir, folklore, and poetry, Earth Keeper is above all a work of great reverence, an appreciation for the earth and the relationship we cultivate with it. Confronted by today’s rampant environmental destruction, it’s common to indulge in a kind of helpless declaration of complicity, as though internalizing guilt is the only response. While recognizing our complicity is important, Momaday writes, “the earth does not want shame. It wants love.” It wants us to engage, to marvel at its ineffable beauty—and above all, to “strive with all [our] strength to give that sense of wonder to those who will come after.”

Earth Keeper
Reflections on the American Land

N. Scott Momaday
Harper
$17.99 | 80 pp

 

Muhammad Reconsidered

Can Christians consider Muhammad a prophet? What would it mean for them to do so? Theologian Anna Bonta Moreland invites us to explore that possibility in Muhammad Reconsidered. Analyzing documents from the Second Vatican Council about the “overlapping web of beliefs” between Christians and Muslims, as well as Thomas Aquinas’s writings on prophecy and revelation, Moreland demonstrates that it is at least possible, in principle, for Muhammad to be considered a prophet. The book seeks to avoid two extremes: a univocal position that demands other traditions conform to Christian terms, and an equivocal position that erases vital differences without reckoning with them. In doing so, it suggests an analogical understanding of prophecy. As Moreland writes, “Listening to the seeds of the Word in other faith traditions means we are listening more—not less—attentively, to the words of the Gospel.”

Muhammad Reconsidered
A Christian Perspective on Islamic Prophecy

Anna Bonta Moreland
University of Notre Dame Press
$45 | 192 pp.

 

The Undocumented Americans

“If you’re going to write a book about undocumented immigrants in America,” writes Karla Cornejo Villavicencio in her National Book Award–nominated memoir, The Undocumented Americans, “you have to be a little bit crazy.” What Cornejo Villavicencio, a DACA recipient with degrees from Harvard and Yale, is too modest to say is that you also have to be a really good writer. What begins as an exercise in compassionate listening and rigorous reporting on the lives of undocumented immigrants across the country—from the street corners of Staten Island to the botanicas of Miami—is artfully woven into a beautiful autobiographical portrait of vulnerability. There’s no “happy ending” here for the author or her subjects, no easy resilience from the myriad traumas wrought by the U.S. government. If Cornejo Villavicencio can’t exactly provide hope, she gives us something just as important: honesty, and an invitation to communion with those whose unspeakable suffering continues.

The Undocumented Americans
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
One World
$26 | 208 pp.

Published in the February 2021 issue: 

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