Monthly Archives: March 2017

Unbroken

By Laura Hillenbrand

Louie Zamperini showed an early inclination for pranks and trouble-making. His notoriety for petty theft, primarily of food, was matched only by his getaway runs. With the help of his older brother, Pete, Louie joined the high school track team, earned a scholarship to college, and set his sights on Olympic gold. Young and unseasoned, Louie made his Olympic debut running the 5,000 meter race at Berlin in 1936, a distance he had run only 3 times before his final heat, and came away without any medals. Undeterred, Louie continued training in hopes of running his favored distance, the mile, in the 1940 Olympics. Before his next opportunity, the Olympics were cancelled as the globe descended into WWII, and Louie was drafted to support US troops fighting in the South Pacific. What follows is an unbelievable, and almost unbearable, story of suffering and resilience. Louie spends weeks floating across the ocean with his raft-mates, sighting land only to discover they are in enemy territory. Subjected to years of emotional and physical torment in Japanese POW camps, Louie struggles to survive based on defiance, audacity, and any last shred of hope to which he can cling.

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand offers a remarkable story showcasing both the depths of human cruelty and suffering and also the indomitable human spirit and ability to persist in the face of adversity. With Hillenbrand as narrator, the story of Louie’s life unfolds starting with early childhood memories all the way through old age, demonstrating his impishness, exuberance, and uncompromising drive to achieve his dreams. Although the story focuses primarily on Louie’s experiences, Hillenbrand also branches off into commentary about other people connected to Louie’s life when helpful to do so. These side stories complement the narrative of Louie’s life, adding perspective and intrigue. As if Louie’s harrowing circumstances and narrow escapes weren’t enough to keep readers hanging, sharing the experiences of other soldiers, leaders, and family members increases the sense of emotional investment in Louie’s trials and tribulations. Just when it seems the saga is about to end, Louie faces new and equally terrible challenges, surviving only because he has no other option. Thoroughly researched, Hillenbrand offers detailed and accurate information about the Pacific stage of WWII that goes well beyond basic geography of the largest ocean in the world and highlights of major events during the war.

This book is almost impossible to put down. The story of an underdog from beginning to end, the story of Louie’s life is compelling, gripping, and inspiring. I was first interested in this book thinking it would be a running biography, and was not at all disappointed when I discovered that was only a small part of the story. Although the horrors he faced at times seemed overwhelming and unbearable, I never felt hopeless when reading this book. Shocked and disbelieving, yes, but never hopeless. This book also made me want to read more books about the Pacific stage of WWII, and any book that inspires further reading is well worth reading in the first place.

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Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault

By Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb

For most survivors of sexual assault, the struggle to come to terms with such a horrific violation of one’s personal and physical boundaries can present a challenge that seem insurmountable. For some survivors, this struggle is further complicated by questions of sin and how to reconcile Biblical teachings with the traumatic violation that occurred. This book aims to address concerns specific to Christian religious teachings about sin, morality, transgressions against others and God, and the possibility healing and recovery after having experienced sexual assault. The authors discuss the emotional impact of sexual assault and different responses victims may experience, and then offer religious interpretations and teachings that show the ways by which faith in God and Jesus Christ offer solace, healing, and redemption. Throughout the book and in each chapter, the authors return to the notion of grace and disgrace, emphasizing the unconditionality of each. Early on, the authors define disgrace as “one-way violence” committed against a person, and that person bears no responsibility for the pain caused to them. They also reiterate the healing power of grace, “one-way love,” offered unconditionally by God to provide redemption, healing, and hope of a better future.

“Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb offers thoroughly researched and clearly presented arguments about the possibility of redemption following the sin and disgrace of sexual assault. Both authors have experience supporting survivors of sexual assault, and their definitions and explanations align with the commonly cited examples of varied emotional responses to sexual assault. They also personalize the story, offering narratives from individual survivors at the start of each chapter in the section dealing with responses to sexual assault. This humanizes the information and helps make it more accessible to survivors by showing examples of how others have dealt with similar situations. The authors then follow up each response with clear connections to scripture and religious teachings that show how sexual violence is never the fault of the victim, offer examples of recovery, and express the importance of accepting unconditional love and grace from God as part of the recovery process. The chapters in the middle of the book follow a predictable pattern (personal story, emotional response, scriptural teaching), and the book itself flows nicely by starting with an introduction to the issue of sexual violence and closing with an emphasis on hope and healing.

As someone who currently has a fair amount of distance from Christianity, I still found this book to be relevant and applicable. The descriptions, definitions, and examples of sexual violence and the possible impact it may have on survivors matched everything I have encountered as an advocate doing this work, and their suggestions for supporting others or seeking support are spot on. Although I may not necessarily agree with everything presented in this book, I do feel able to endorse it as a source of understanding and help on the issue of sexual violence as it intersects with Christianity. If you have need of this book, it is would be a good resource.

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