Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

Reviewed by: Emily
Title: The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba
Author: Margarita Engle
Primary Audience/age group: 10+
Genre: historical fiction, poetry
# Of pages: 151
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Year of Release: 2010
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: A historical novel written in poetry rather than prose, The Firefly Letters tells the stories of three women who call Cuba their home. Cecilia is a young African girl, sold into slavery by her father. Elena is Cecilia’s mistress, the daughter of a wealthy Cuban. Despite cultural and social barriers, their lives are irrevocably drawn together with the visit of Fredrika, a progressive Swedish noblewoman. Fredrika, in turn becomes attached to the girls, as well as the beautiful land they call their home. However, Fredrika soon finds that underneath its lush scenery, Cuba is also a land of great cruelty and oppression. Aided by Cecilia and Elena, Fredrika endeavors to fight against the injustice of slavery.

Review: Told with simplicity yet infused with passion and meaning, Engle’s novel proves that one does not need many words to present a rich, complicated story. Switching perspectives throughout the book, the personalities and lives of each of the three main characters shine through. A few chapters are told from the perspective of Cecilia’s husband, providing a male voice to balance the otherwise female dominated story. While the spare poetry requires the reader to use some imagination to fill in the blanks, The Firefly Letters is both refreshing and engaging, skillfully aligning discussion of atrocity with lighthearted descriptions of everyday pleasures and creating a group of likable characters. This brief, unique novel provides a glimpse into 19th century life that will be enjoyed by both the young and the old.

Rating: 4, for maturity of the subject matter

Positive: The three female narrators exhibit great courage and compassion. The forward thinking Fredrika champions freedom and equality for all, not allowing worry of public opinion to stand in the way of doing what she believes is right. Although Elena is initially narrow minded and selfish, she is changed by her interaction with Cecilia and Fredrika. As the book progresses, both Fredrika and Elena use their resources to help address the issue of slavery.

Spiritual Elements: None.

Violence: Violence associated with slavery such as whipping occurs, but it is not described with graphic detail.

Language: No inappropriate language.

Sexual Content: Cecilia is with child–the product of a marriage arranged by her master.

Recommendation: Normally, I find novels written entirely in poetry difficult to get interested in. However, this book quickly grabbed my attention and held it. While at some points I did miss the fuller story telling of prose, over all it was simply beautiful. I would recommend this unique little book to readers 10 and up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Are You Waiting For? The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: What Are You Waiting For?: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex
Author: Dannah Gresh
Primary Audience/age group: 15+, College Age Women
Genre: Christian Purity, Non-fiction
# of pages 178
Publisher: WaterBrook
Year of Release: 2011
Part of a series No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: I’m sure as a teen you’ve been told again and again to wait for marriage to have sex. But, sometimes the “why” gets left out of those conversations. Today especially, teens are seeking straightforward answers to their hard questions about sex and waiting. Dannah Gresh has made it her life’s mission to instruct young women in the ways of purity and her newest book, “What Are You Waiting For? The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex” has her going deeper and talking franker about what God’s word says about sex, m*sturbation, same-sex attraction, and more. This book is for those who have waited and need encouragement to remain pure and for those who need sexual healing from their past.

Review: “Purity is not about not having sex. It’s about waiting to have it right,” as Dannah Gresh explains in her book “What Are You Waiting For? The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex” Her candid discourse on the many areas involving sexual relationships is a much needed resource for young women today. Living in a world that promotes sexuality at a young age has created such a confusion about sex among the younger population: “What’s right and what isn’t?” and “What is too far and what isn’t?” The book is saturated in a refreshing truth from God’s word that will answer these questions frankly among many others and also shares new insights into the emotional and physiological sides of sex. If you have a teenage or college-aged daughter, buy this book for her. Neither she nor you will regret it. And if you as a mom are still struggling with choices you made as a teen and are in need of some sexual healing yourself, this book has the answers for you as well. Gresh’s insights and instruction on healing sexual prayer was much needed in my life, and I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 3 for mature themes

Positive: One of the main themes of the book is that waiting to have sex is a good thing but there is hope for healing for those who haven’t waited. Gresh describes the exclusive love of marriage and explains how God gave us this romantic expression as an example to show God’s love for us. We all may know of that one rare couple that continues to show their commitment and passion to each other after many years of marriage. This is the picture God wants to use to reveal the mystery of Christ and his committed love for us.

Gresh also uses Biblical truths to answer questions like “How far is too far?” She takes the next step to explain how those who chose not to wait can have healing from past sexual relationships.

Spiritual Elements: Gresh explains that God created sex. The Hebrew word for sex is yada and means explicitly “to know and be known.” Surprisingly, yada in the Bible is the same word used for committed sex (instead of a “one-night-stand”) as it is for the relationship of how God knows his creation. This may sound strange but obviously our relationship with God is not a sexual one. This is not what God’s word is implying but the fact that sex touches us in a much more meaningful way than just physical gratification. Sex has many aspects, emotional, physiological, spiritual, and physical, and can only be enjoyed to the fullest extent in a committed sexual relationship (marriage). As Gresh states in her book, “Yada is a picture of a relationship with God. It can be experienced only in the context of a male/female relationship.” She goes on to explain this more fully.

Violence: none

Language: Org*sm, m*sturbation

Sexual Content: Gresh discusses sex frankly, not the physical mechanics as much, but the emotional and physiological aspects. She does use some candid words like org*sm and m*turbation. She also discusses same-sex attraction and truths to questions about that from God’s word. She goes into the dangers of pornography and is clear about one thing: sexual activity creates a soul tie between you and the person you have sex with. So, if you have a sexual relationship before you marry and then marry someone else, you will still be “tied” to the other person. This tie can only be broken by God’s intervention, which she explains how to do.

Other: none

Recommendation: Since the book deals with mature topics, I think it’s a good choice for teenage girls age 15 and up. I also recommend that moms read it along side their daughters.