My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery at the end of the 18th Century in Ulster county, New York. She knew what it was like to groan under dark oppression and to long for the day of the Lord's release. Her moment came when she escaped in 1828 and found refuge with an abolitionist family, and obtained her emancipation. She became an itinerant preacher, an avid spokeswoman for abolition and promoter of women's rights. How fitting, then, that Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Naval Academy alumni, USMC veteran, author, speaker and visionary founder of LINKS, Inc. titles her new 208 page softback "A Sojourner's Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World." It is an easy-to-read book that weaves in the story of Israel's enslavement in Egypt and subsequent liberation by the hand of God the Redeemer through his servant Moses. It is a manuscript that "provides a unique opportunity for" readers "to explore the Scriptures from the vantage point of someone who, like Moses, was born into a marginalized people group" (5).
"A Sojourner's Truth" is a mixture of autobiography, Bible teaching, social criticism, remedy, and devotional. The author is upfront with her experiences as an African-American woman in America, how she has been treated, and how she filters life-events. "Knowing the pain, history, violence, and silence that have shaped the African American narrative infuses how I read the Scriptures" (14).
For many readers who may be white, like myself, it will not always be satisfying. Yet, by the end of the book, whether you like what she says or not, you will gain from listening to Robinson, especially if you read to listen, rather than to critique. My initial, knee-jerk reaction as I started reading was to respond to her (that means, to argue with her), but I decided to listen and try to hear from her. It was well worth it. The author gave me some delightful perspectives on the women who were involved in sparing Moses' life and helped him become God's instrument of redemption (27-29). She gave several simple ways for unmarginalizing marginalized people in the work place and in the church (74-76). As Robinson began talking about reparations, she didn't go where I assumed she would go. Rather, she made a case for a more doable way forward, "Have you thought about financially supporting businesses, non-profits, and schools that are owned or operated by people of color? Or perhaps you can offer financial literary education for uninformed communities. Maybe you feel called to tutor a student who needs some extra attention. People cannot give what they do not have" (94). The main noise that kept distracting my listening, was that it seemed to me that the book sees everything from the victimized perspective - even painting some of the history from that bleak palette. I get it, I understand why we do that, but after while it becomes annoying.
"A Sojourner's Truth" could easily be used for individual enlightenment and group discussion. I think pastors, ministers and church leaders would benefit from reading as listeners, and then thinking through ways of engaging Robinson's analysis and applications. I love the author's words, as she was using a tough time in her marriage to illustrate what she is after in the book: "Our healing began when we decided that we were not each other's enemies, but we were going to work and get better together" (185). I'm glad to recommend the book. You can purchase it here: IVP
My thanks to IVP for sending the book used in this review, at my request. The only stipulation from the publisher is that I give an honest review, which I have freely given. And now I freely give it to you.
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