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God with the refugees

They Come Back Singing

“Every night around eleven o’clock, after four hours of more or less continual operation, the power goes out in Adjumani and the night becomes black, dotted with a kerosene lamp here and there and maybe a rare solar-powered lamp.” So writes Gary Smith, S.J. ’60 in They Come Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees (Loyola Press, 2008, $14.95), his moving and sometimes frightening account of his six years working with Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. “At a late hour on one of those nights, a dozen armed members of the Lord’s Resistance Army entered Adjumani from the surrounding tall grass and trees of the bush and moved silently through the eastern part of town toward Holy Redeemer Orphanage.” Smith’s book captures the ghastly conditions and ongoing violence of the place; the passage above is from a chapter titled “A Noise in the Night,” which recounts a raid by soldiers who kidnap orphaned boys and girls, whom they plan to turn into killers or sex slaves. But the pages of this book are also illuminated by the spiritual strength that sustains the refugees. Vivid, humbling, and inspiring, Smith’s writing is infused with the anger he feels for the injustices he witnesses as well as the intense love he comes to feel for these people.

Read an excerpt from They Come Back singing.

The good, the bad, and the global

The Postcolonial and the Global

The word globalization promises greater accessibility to goods and cultural influences. But its cousin postcoloniality warns that former colonies are still taken advantage of by the world’s economic powerhouses. What happens when the two collide? Co-edited by SCU Professor of English John C. Hawley, The Postcolonial and the Global (University of Minnesota Press, 2007, $25) brings together essays by social scientists (including Center for Science, Technology, and Society head Geoffrey C. Bowker) and literary scholars—two groups that normally have little to do with each other—to consider the ethics of the transnational marketplace of ideas, goods, and services. Among the questions contributors tackle: Is the nation a thing of the past? Are the arts relevant to matters of justice? Does an individual in a sweatshop have a voice? Does the reader of this book, for that matter?

Inflation, trade, and witchcraft

Folded Selves

Puritans may have set out to found a City on a Hill in the 17th century, but underwriting colonial development was a mercantile system with a global reach. And as Associate Professor of English Michelle Burnham argues in Folded Selves: Colonial New England Writing in the World System (Dartmouth College Press, 2007, $30 paper, $65 cloth), the language of investment and credit profoundly shaped the writing of that time and place as well. The book offers a rethinking of early American literary history—with interest.

Meet the Man from Nazareth

The Historical Jesus for Dummies

Early on in The Historical Jesus for Dummies (Wiley, 2007, $16.99), author Catherine M. Murphy ’83, M.A. ’87 offers, “This book about Jesus won’t just fill you in on the Jewish carpenter, but also on who he’s become since.” In the grand tradition of the Dummies series, the writing is entertaining and informative, with chapters ranging from “Pursuing Jesus in the Gospels” and “Scouting the Competition: Jesus’s Opponents” to “A Western Savior Goes Global” and “The Reel Jesus.” Not to be missed: “The Top 10 Historical Controversies about Jesus.” A member of the SCU faculty since 1998, Murphy is an associate professor in the department of religious studies.

Listen up! Hear Catherine Murphy read from The Historical Jesus for Dummies.

And read an excerpt.

Were women ordained?

Were women ordained?

Have women always been excluded from ordination as priests in the Church? John S. Nobili Professor of Religious Studies Gary Macy has a startling answer. In The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West (Oxford University Press, 2008, $25), a work aimed at clarifying historical background—and explicitly not engaging in advocacy—Macy examines theological and episcopal documents and shows that, during the formative centuries of Christianity, women were frequently ordained into ministries of the Church. The study is massively footnoted and reveals that in the 11th and 12th centuries, the definition of ordination itself began to change. Along with that came efforts to erase earlier ordinations of women from the historical record.

Find your calling

Your Personal Renaissance

You know those questions that keep you awake at 3 a.m.: “What should I do with my life?” “Where am I going?” “Is this what I really want?” Diane Dreher doesn’t purport to answer those—but she has staked out what she calls “renaissance keys” that might help, whether you’re graduating, changing careers, getting divorced, retiring, or just confused about what’s next. Your Personal Renaissance and How to Achieve It: 12 Steps for Finding Your Life’s True Calling (2008, Da Capo Lifelong Books, $15.95) approaches calling in the sense of a meaningful life. Through four contemplative steps (Discovery, Detachment, Discernment, and Direction) and eight “powerful practices,” Dreher recommends antidotes to modern ailments like overscheduling, stress, and depression. Author of the bestselling The Tao of Inner Peace and a scholar of renaissance literature, Dreher is a professor of English at SCU.

Listen up! Hear Diane Dreher read from Your Personal Renaissance.

Caring for a dying loved one

The End-of-Life Handbook

Advances in medicine mean that when and how a life ends is increasingly a matter of choice: whether to prolong life through painful treatments or to offer care that might provide comfort but, at the same time, hasten death. The ethical and practical decisions that family caregivers face leave so many of us reeling. Which is why SCU Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology David B. Feldman and S. Andrew Lasher Jr., M.D., teamed up to write The End-of-Life Handbook: A Compassionate Guide to Connecting with and Caring for a Dying Loved One (New Harbinger, 2007, $15.95). The book is meant to help navigate confusing medical terms and procedures; it also discusses realistic decisions that must be made and dispels misconceptions regarding a dying person’s final days. Ultimately, it strives to provide a way to find hope, inspiration, meaning, and human connection at the end of life.

Revolution and evolution

Central & East European Politics

“History has not been kind to the peoples in the east of Europe,” assess SCU Professor of Political Science Jane L. Curry and George Washington University political scientist Sharon L. Wolchik at the outset of Central & East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008, $34.95). But beginning in 1989, the year of revolutions, it looked like the peoples from Warsaw to Sofia were back on the right side of history. From the victory of Solidarity in Poland to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, it was clear things were going to be different now. How different? The euphoria over getting “back to Europe” was palpable, the promise of prosperity so close you could taste it. So what happened? To answer that, Curry contributes a chapter on Poland and Wolchik on the Czechs and Slovaks; they bring together contributions from more than a dozen experts on the economic, political, and social territory traversed in the past two decades. There’s also the matter of what lies ahead for these newest (and future) members of NATO and the European Union. Whither the pieces of the former Yugoslavia—once again making headlines for violence in the streets? Will Ukraine get beyond “muddling along,” as Ukrainian scholar Taras Kuzio’s chapter puts it? Stay tuned. The politics of the region promise to be, as Curry and Wolchik conclude, “far from boring for some time to come.”

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Listen up!

Catherine Murphy reads from The Historical Jesus for Dummies.

Diane Dreher reads from Your Personal Renaissance.