Wheaton College Historical Review Task Force Report

Summary: A Wheaton College task force released its report on Wheaton’s history of racial issues on campus. 

I am a 1995 alumni of Wheaton College, and since my time at Wheaton, I have been interested in racial issues at the school. Part of recent interest was sparked by reading Jesse Curtis’ The Myth of Colorblind Christians: Evangelicals and White Supremacy in the Civil Rights Era. It was only then that the history of Wheaton that I thought I knew was wrong. I was aware of my experience of Wheaton in the 1990s, and I have followed many events on campus since that time, including the firing of Dr. Hawkins. (There is a feature-length documentary that can be widely streamed.)

Wheaton was one of several Christian colleges that initially accepted Black and other racial minority students and then segregated in the early 20th century before desegregating in the post-Brown v. Board era. During my time at Wheaton, I was never aware of a period of segregation; I was only aware of its early history as an early abolitionist school that accepted black students from its founding. The main reason for this report is that Wheaton is attempting to grapple with that largely forgotten or repressed history. I am highly supportive of initiatives like this, and I am well aware that many supporters of Wheaton do not like initiatives like this because it reveals a less flattering history. There is a real risk to the school and the potential for growth.

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2020 Reading Report

I have stopped doing traditional ‘best of’  lists the past couple of years. Instead, I have written about what has impacted me in different areas. I also have been tracking, as part disclosure and part accountability info about the authors, I am reading. My authors were too White and too male again this year. Overall, … Read more

2018 Reading Report

Every year I create reading goals and mostly fail at them. My goals are rough guidelines, more than hard goals.

This year I accomplished some of them. I had a goal to finish the fiction of three authors. I finished all of Marilynne Robinson and Flannery O’Connor’s fiction. But I still have one more Octavia Butler fiction book. I also had a goal to read at least three books by both Madeleine L’Engle and James Baldwin. I read three books by L’Engle and one biography. But I only read one book by Baldwin and two books about him. (I am aware that the two authors I didn’t complete my goal were Black and the ones I did were White, including O’Connor who has some very questionable writing about race.)

I had a goal to read more about beauty, and did not pick up a single book on beauty.

Race and Gender of Authors

Sometime around April, I sat down and figured out the race and gender of the authors I read in 2017 and early 2018. At the time I was reading roughly 2/3 non-fiction and 1/3 fiction. I realized that I was roughly even between men and women authors in fiction, but my non-fiction was disproportionally male.

My real hole was reading non-fiction by non-White women. That is still a pretty big deficit, but I went from 1% in 2017 to 4% in 2018. I also am not reading hardly anything by authors that are Asian, Native American or Hispanic. As far as I can tell, I read no books by Native Americans or Hispanic authors and only six books by an Asian author in the last two years.

This chart is the percent, by category, with each year equalling 100% and the sections (non-fiction and fiction also equaling 100%). In 2017, 50% of the books I read were non-fiction books by male authors and 35% of the books I read in 2017 were non-fiction by white male authors. I read nearly twice as much fiction by women as men in 2018, and that holds true for both Black and White authors. But I read just over three times as much fiction by White authors as Black authors.

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I actually increased the percentage of White non-fiction authors this year from 46% to 51% because I was reading more White women non-fiction, without reducing the amount of White male non-fiction authors. One of the parts I did not foresee was that while I have been reading a number of books about race, history and theology around race, a number of those books were written by White authors grappling with race from their place as Whites. Of the 23 books I read this year around race, 10 of them were by White authors. None of them were bad books. But that is actually an increase from 2017 when I read 21 books roughly about race and only 6 of them were by White authors.

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Best Books I Read in 2016

This is my annual best of 2016 list. (Way late I know.) This is my list of the books that at the end of the year I still think about. They are not all from 2016 (most are not) and they may not be the “˜best’ books that I have read. Some years my best list has been more heavily fiction oriented. And some years I have split it up into a fiction list and a non-fiction list. But this year I am going to keep it all together (fiction is at the bottom). This is my list, roughly in order. I am not sure how you really compare books of widely different genres. So think of it as an approximation.

Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto Fujimura The new Martin Scorsesee movie Silence, based on the novel by Shusaku Endo goes into wide release next weekend. You theoretically have time to read the original Endo novel and then this book, which is Fujimura’s reflection on the novel and his reflections his and Endo’s Christian faith and the culture of Japan. Silence is not for the faint of heart. It is a novel about Christians that renounce their faith in the face of persecution. I think it is an important book and I think Fujimura’s book is the best book I have read this year. I am in the middle of re-reading it right now.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is the most unexpected book on the list. I have liked Noah when I watched The Daily Show, but I don’t watch it often. And I tend to not pick up many celebrity memoirs, so if this has not been offered for free on audiobook I would not have picked it up. But it is very well written and a fascinating look at a culture and country that I do not know much about. Growing up in post-apartheid South Africa is not a particularly funny subject. But Noah handle it with humility, appropriate weight for the subjects and with lots of humor. I will pre-order anything else that he writes.

The March Trilogy by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin with illustrator Nate Powell deserves it accolades (National Book Award and Goodreads Graphic Novel of the Year among others.) I have read a number of comic book/graphic novels this year. I have become acquainted with Seth Hahne who is behind the Goodokbad blog. He has shown me that there is so much more than traditional superhero or Manga. A lot of history is particularly well suited to graphic novel format. And the story of the Civil Rights movement through the biography of John Lewis, hits all the right notes.

Another very good graphic novel is Vision by Tom King. Vision is a member of the Avengers, but this is more a comic book about his family and what it means to love in difficult situations than about superheroes.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes was my light pick of the year. I tend toward heavy fiction and lots of non-fiction. But I can’t only read those. I need funny books and lighters books as well. I am a huge fan of the Princess Bride movie and book. But I had not picked it up until it was on sale several years after I heard about it. This is a book that should be listened to. Elwes is not only an excellent narrator, who does great impressions of the other stars in the movie, but many of the others involved in the movie participated in reading their sections of the book as well.

Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soon-Chan Rah is the best biblical book I read this year. It is both a commentary on the book of Lamentations and a call to bring the concept of lamentations back to Evangelical worship and a commentary on how Christians should think about social issues. Soon-Chan Rah is a former pastor/church planter and now a professor at Northpark Seminary. He is a prime example of why we need more diversity not only in our seminaries, but in our reading and thinking about scripture as well. Diversity is not simply about making minority Christians feel represented but about becoming the whole body of Christ. Also related and worth reading is The End of White Christian America by Robert Jones. It is a book about demographics and polling more than theology, but it just serves to reenforce the need for a more diverse understanding of the church.

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5000th Post

This is the 5000th Bookwi.se post. I have decided to delete free and sale book posts that are more than 50 days old, so there are just under 1700 posts still active (nearly 1300 book reviews, about 50 tips or kindle review posts, some recent sale and free book posts and a bunch of uncategorized posts that … Read more

A Vacation

  My son turned two months yesterday.  And my daughter will be 19 months at the end of next week.  My wife’s last (paid) day as a teacher for this school year is today. I have had a hard time adjusting to this new reality while keeping up Bookwi.se. So I am going to take … Read more

Most Read Reviews in April

The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Gamache #8) by Louise Penny and How the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Gamache #9) Books 8 and 9 were both in the most read reviews this month. If you like a series mystery that both pays attention to the mystery and on going characters, this is a series worth … Read more