Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two-fer Book Reviews

11 On My Own

With the school year having come to a close, I've had a little more time to read. Several weeks ago I saw this moving Youtube video featuring Kristen Luscia and her 11 children on Faith and Family Live. Her story intrigued me. Kristen has had a difficult past. Married three times and with 11 children, she has most recently been abandoned and divorced from her third husband, the natural father of 8 of her children. The court system has completely failed her, and her newest ex-husband has gotten away without paying child support for nearly 3 years. Kristen wrote a book recounting her past and the story of her current experiences and I decided I would do what I could to help her and her struggling family, by buying her book.

Kristen does not shy away from writing about her own failures and mistakes. No woman gets to where Kristen currently is, without making many, many mistakes. I admire the honesty she brings to her story. Her family is currently in horribly tragic conditions. Their home has been foreclosed on, Kristen is the sole provider for her family (with a little help from her teenage sons who contribute financially), the courts refuse to listen to her side of the divorce/abandonment story and continue to award visitation to her controlling, abusive, egomaniacal, sociopath, ex-husband. It's the stuff of afternoon soap operas, not what one would expect from a daily Rosary praying, regular Mass attending, pro-life, homeschooling, Catholic family.

The book is a quick read and fairly well written. While there are fairly large gaps in the story telling, and a strange chapter regarding a more recent attraction to a seminarian/newly ordained priest, Kristen's story is riveting and worth a read, if for no other reason than to help her and her abandoned children by buying her book. Recommended for adults, only.

Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture

I recently attended my first homeschool conference with my two oldest daughters. Several Catholic colleges were represented and I wanted Karate Kid to have a look at what they had to offer. Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy was represented and I stopped to have a gander after noticing Michael O'Brien's books stacked on their display table. Michael O'Brien is Our Lady Seat of Wisdom's writer and artist in residence and the academy was offering signed copies of his latest book at their table. Being a huge O'Brien fan, I had to get a copy of this newest work, Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, even though, I've read his essays on the same topic, and I was fairly sure what he would say in this book.

Regardless of how we each perceive Harry Potter, we owe it to ourselves as Catholics and as parents to read what Michael O'Brien has to say on the subject. O'Brien declares he is not for burning books of any kind, and promises he would uphold the right to free speech of any writer. What he is calling for is greater discernment in what we decide is appropriate reading material for our children.

I will not attempt to summarize his work, as I will fail to do it justice. I will just note a couple points that resonated for me. First of all, one of the arguments O'Brian makes against Harry Potter books is that they promote moral relativism and a new Gnosticism. He uses several examples to illustrate these accusations making a solid case, and while adults might see and recognize these as such and reject the message, children, in general, are incapable of such higher order discernment and are at greater risk of being influenced these falsehoods. Secondly, O'Brien examines the character of Harry, a sympathetic boy who is the proposed hero, but what kind of hero is he? Is Harry the kind of hero we want our children to admire and emulate? A boy, who at times is filled with rage, takes vicious revenge on school bullies, and is excused repeatedly for breaking unbreakable rules because in the end it all ends well. Lastly, and the most disturbing for me personally, are the obvious occult elements of the series. While the vast majority of children may read the works and be able to set them aside without further curiosity, many in the occult world credit the Rowling books with increased interest in their offerings. While we may be assured our own children may not later dabble in witchcraft, or spell casting, how can we be assured our children's friends or our neighbors are not? Hell, Satan, and evil are real. As Christians and Catholics we are called on to not only acknowledge and reject the reality of evil, we are called to spiritual warfare against the forces of evil. How can we do this properly if we allow ourselves and our children to imbibe in these so called harmless entertainments?

O'Brien does not shy away from taking on other literary forces at work in popular culture today. He also takes on the Twilight Saga, and Philip Pullman's Dark Materials, as well as several recently popular movies. Well written, well argued, and a quick read; and regardless of how you feel about Harry Potter, I highly recommend this book for High School students and adults.

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1 comment:

Natalie said...

I had a discussion with my aunt about the Harry Potter books. I was pointing out to her all the Christian undertones and symbolism I saw, but without an open mind she rejected everything. I ended the discussion by declaring if she thought a book would undermine her or her children's faith then their faith must not be strong enough. I love the books and I would recommend Harry Potter and Philosophy by David Baggett and Shawn Klein and the book The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: A Treasurey of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts by David Colbert. Both are quite good reads if you're interested. I'll probably by 11 on My Own now that you've recommended it. I would also like to help that poor mother.