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Head Librarian & Professor
The Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary, recommends the following books as part of the Bishop Payne Library’s monthly series highlighting a faculty member’s “picks”:
Peter Hawkins and Lesleigh Cushing Stableberg, editors: Scrolls of Love: Ruth and the Song of Songs (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006)
Scrolls of Love, is an edited volume that focuses on Ruth and the Song of Songs. The essays engage these books from a variety of perspectives including art, literature, history of interpretation, biblical studies and theology. The book has two sections: section one focuses on “Reading Ruth,” “Reading Ruth’s Readers” and “Re-imagining Ruth.” The same format, which is followed for the second section on the Song of Songs, invites readers to think about the books systematically and contextually. Thus one of the benefits of reading this book is the methodology that comes from the structure of the book itself. Editors Peter Hawkins and Lesleigh Cushing Stableberg are Christian and Jewish, respectively, and describe their work as a “book of unions.” Their shared love of the Bible and literary approach attracted like-minded contributors, like Chana Bloch, Marc Brettler, Ellen Davis, and Andre LaCocque, who offered enlightening and engaging essays on these exquisite scrolls of love.
Jerome Creach: Violence in Scripture (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013)
Jerome Creach’s book is part of the “Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church series” by Westminster John Knox Press. Violence on the part of God and the characters in the Bible is a tremendous stumbling block to people of faith. Creach’s systematic and scholarly treatment is directed towards this audience. I find the volume particularly helpful because of the way it is organized. He identifies and then treats the different types of violence we encounter in scripture, which invites the reader to think about violence in the Bible not just as a category, but also as events in the biblical narrative, each with its own context and literary function. He does not gloss over the difficulties presented by Joshua and Judges, or the problem with the “ban” in the OT. Rather, Creach’s treatment is sensitive to the literary elements of scripture, inviting a consideration of genre into the discussion around violence. In chapter one, he describes God’s work in creation as decidedly non-violent in a culture where warfare was the standard way that worlds came into being. Using this as the first lens, he addresses the different types of violence encountered in scripture, including the violence in the Exodus, the Psalms and the prophetic tradition. I found the chapter on violence in Judges particularly useful because of the attention to literary genres in the book and the relationship between women and violence. The final chapter addresses the New Testament and Old Testament treatments of violence. Creach’s goal in this chapter is an ambitious one: to offer a viable and dynamic alternative to the over-simplified OT=bad, NT=good approach. He concludes with his argument for a unified, biblical response to violence.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)
The critically acclaimed novel, Americanah is a beautifully written love story that delves into issues of identity, race, culture, immigration and gender with an honesty that is breathtaking. The story follows Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who leaves her homeland for the United States, and Obinze, her childhood love who is prevented from coming to America and takes another path. Adichie has a way of holding the complexity of her characters in tension with their complicated contexts and each other. This book is humorous, painful, sarcastic and candid. It is the kind of fiction that informs my work as a teacher and preacher as it inspires us to be our authentic selves. It is a lovely example of fiction speaking truth.
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Just a reminder that Alums retain borrowing privileges with the Bishop Payne Library and can request these as well others in the catalog be sent at no cost. Alums do pay the shipping costs for the books’ return.