If I could name a 2020 “impact” author it would be Sue Monk Kidd. She broke my world open with “Dance of the Dissident Daughter,” and I continue to derive meaning out of each of her works. Kidd’s continued focus on elevating women’s stories brings me bravery, and validation that our experiences and largeness matter. This is true of her latest book “Book of Longings.”
We’re all familiar with the adage, “History is always written by the victors.” If there is one constant within modern history, its oppression of women. My girlfriends and I laugh at the question ‘If you could go back and live in any time period which would you choose?’ because we always answer firmly, ‘NOW!’ Today still isn’t just and perfect for women, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the rest of history. Because women were oppressed, many weren’t taught to read or write for centuries … hiding innumerable stories and experiences. For comprising half of society, libraries and history texts are grossly under-indexed in stories written by or about women.
Kidd’s focus turned to one of the most popular and important literary works, the Bible. Women are tangentially referenced in the Bible, yet we know how important women were and are to Christianity and the church. Kidd helps to bridge this gap, with the fictional story of Ana, the wife of Jesus. Kidd takes creative license in the telling of this story, but grounds in historical accuracy – including the importance of marriage in Jewish culture during the time.
I enjoyed reading the story of an educated, strong, risk-taking woman in Kidd’s clean yet beautiful writing style. No one can simply describe complex concepts of the heart like she can. I also thought it was fun to read a more humanistic story about Jesus, filling in the gaps of his early life, since his ministry didn’t begin until 30.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite ways to learn – I get exciting stories layered with historical accuracy, and “Book of Longings” delivers. I learned about the geopolitical, social, cultural norms of the time, and in turn it helped me understand the Bible a bit more.