Monday, February 15, 2016

The other Merlion and friends by Gwee Li Sui

I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book of funny poetry immensely despite the unfortunate looking cover. This is the second time reviewing books published in Singapore where I must declare that the old adage holds true and that one really mustn't judge a book by its cover. 

Gwee takes inspiration from everywhere. He writes about poetry, Singapore, the government, food, education and more. 

I loved this one:

I got most of it except "M for God / N for country". Didn't quite get that even after I thought long and hard about it. Ah well. 

Anyway, Gwee references many things. I liked "Three-Word Sutra" that takes a leaf out of 三字经, a Chinese classic. Then there was a nod to William Blake in "Songs of innocence and experience" although the content for both veered into territory quite different from the originals. 

I really liked the rhyming bits. Some of it were a throwback to nursery rhymes. But most of it was just simply delightful. There are too many Singaporean poets doing free verse, so bring on the poets who rhyme I say! 

Loved the themes on food. 

And topics quintessentially Singaporean:

Like he said in one of his poems: it's impossible to translate. Especially with all the Singlish bits thrown in. Haha. 

It's an excellent piece of work that I would not hesitate to buy for someone who might be resistant to poetry. It is also a gift I would buy to teachers of Literature to get them to loosen up a little. 

I showed this book to a friend who used to teach GP in a respectable junior college and she laughed with great abandon at "Good Laws and Good People" and whipped out her phone to put it on Instagram. When your work is Instagram worthy, you know you've made it as a poet. 

So I say, well done Gwee! Love most of your drawings too. Just work on the cover man. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God by Megan K. DeFranza

Like any good book on theology should, this book brings the reader one step closer to God even as they learn more about I in LGBTQIA. (For the uninitiated, here's what I learnt from the author: "Intersex" is a term used to describe persons who do not fit into standard medical descriptions of male or female. It is not a diagnosis but an umbrella concept used to cover a wide range of variations in sex development. Many intersex conditions result in ambiguous genitalia, either at birth or throughout the life course of the individual; however, not all intersex conditions are indicated by genital inspection.)

Megan DeFranza has written a well-researched (The bibliography is 19 pages long and every chapter is chockful of footnotes) and very educational book on the intersex. She attempts to also weave in theology to help us understand where intersex people fit in if God created "male and female" in His image and likeness.

Chapter 1 is an interesting introduction to the topic with lots of medical definitions because those who are intersex are on a spectrum. 

Chapter 2 is on eunuchs in the Bible, a type of intersex that is recorded in Scripture and the historical context they are found in.

Chapter 3 is a woefully long chapter on the history of intersex in the Classical Period, Modern Period and Postmodern Period that I was glad to be done reading (it was so dry, cos you know, history), but which Megan put it in to please her history professor (This was kinda like her thesis for her PhD).

Chapter 4, 5, and 6 explored theological anthropology in the postmodern period and is when things get exciting. I really enjoyed reading the second part and kept posting photos of various parts of the text on Instagram, spamming my befuddled readers with choice passages. 

Here is sample of something I posted:

"Secure sex, gender, and sexual identities can be just as much a stumbling block to transformation in the image of Christ as ambiguous identities. Whatever the identity, it must be placed under the scrutiny of the Scriptures by the help of the Spirit so that we may discern what must be put to death and what must be cultivated."

Very interesting, is it not?

What I found most striking was the fact that the presence of a third gender was common knowledge in the past but is sadly absent in the present day. Doctors reinforce the gender binary by operating on babies who grow up to sometimes experience severe dysphoria. This could have been prevented if surgery wasn't an option and doctors weren't so presumptuous. After all, before surgery was invented these kids just developed naturally and chose their preferred gender at puberty or beyond.

I spoke to a paediatrician and she told me that it is essential for parents to know the gender of the kid at birth or they'll experience unease. I told her I understood where she was coming from. But when I explained that they grow up to experience gender dysphoria, she had no reply.

I especially loved the second half of the book that explored theology together with the intersex and it's something I'll have to read again soon. There is so much to unpack and I'm afraid I'll overwhelm you if I begin to expound on it here in this review if you've not read the first part of the book.

If you're interested in this, you can get it at Book Depository with free shipping or Amazon if that's what you prefer.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability by Nancy L. Eiesland

I was quite disappointed with this book because I had high hopes for it. Recommended by a friend on his blog, I ordered this book from Book Depository and read it mostly on the plane when I had a trip across the Pacific in January.

The book mainly deals with how disabled people deal with living life. I didn't find much "liberatory theology" save for a small section at the end where the author mentioned how Jesus is a disabled Messiah. His hands were pierced and when he came back resurrected, he wasn't whole, the holes in his hands were still there. That made me think a little about what being disabled means. People say that in heaven the lame can walk, and the blind can see, but if Jesus' hands were not made whole, what does this say about the new body that we are to possess in the afterlife?

Raises some interesting questions don't you think?

I wished the book dealt less with the lives of the disabled, important as it is, and more with liberatory theology. I guess I have to look for another book to satisfy my curiosity. It is a topic close to my heart because I have bipolar and I sometimes wonder where and how that fits in in the Kingdom of God.

Ah well. If you've got any good titles on disability and theology, do recommend it to me and tell me in the comments below!