Title: Ask Baba Yaga by Taisia Kitaiskaia
Genre: Poetry/Self Help
Rating: ★★★ (3/5)
Ask Baba Yaga imagines what it may be like if Baba Yaga, a fearsome and ancient witch from Slavic folklore, got hold of a typewriter and started cryptically answering the pleas for advice piling up on her doorstep. Existential crises, career crossroads, and love woes alike are stabbed at with incisive prose-poem responses juxtaposed with illustrations in stark colors. Sometimes the responses as earthy and pragmatic, other times they are macabre parables; oftentimes they are inscrutable recipes the reader is not yet wise enough to understand.
As an ambitious young woman navigating the briers of a mid-life crises and the tangled road of true love, I’m pretty sure I am Ask Baba Yaga’s target audience. I often felt like I had survived a number of strange woodland trials and had been granted a single boon by Kitaiskaia’s prickly personae, who hacks away at the weeds of mundane life with strange misspellings and turns of phrase. Some of the questions and metaphors felt repetitive by the end of the book, which ran a little long for my tastes in poetry. It’s also possible that older readers might find Baba Yaga’s advice more suitable for a younger set who are still being battered about by self-doubt and new love, but I think that people from all walks of life can glean a little wisdom, and maybe a few spells, from between the pages of Kitaiskaia’s book.
A few days ago, an anoymous reader asked me over at Millennial Gospel if I knew of any books in a similar vein of progressive, experimental, grassroots theology. While I’m not as well-versed in Christian nonfiction as I would like to be, I do read an awful lot of it, and thought I would point you all towards the best of what I’ve read in the genre.
I read heaps of spiritual memoir, which is where I find the most authentic, gritty accounts of faith in a postmodern world.
- Rachel Held Evan’s Searching for Sunday accounts her journey out of evangelicalism and her wrestling with faith in the Episcopal church
- Nadia Bolz Weber’s Pastrix is the story of a rough, addicted, tattooed woman finding God and becoming one of the most unorthodox and celebrated pastors on the Lutheran scene right now
- Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz is a classic work of “emergent” Christianity, and shares the story of his chaotic, beautiful re-discovery of a God who had disappointed him in childhood
- Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss is a prose-poetry story of struggling towards the ineffable Divine in a life of academia, love, and illness.
For those interested in progressive, Biblical perspectives on gender and sexuality
- Mark Labberton’s Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture covers the science of gender dysphoria, different theologies of difference and inclusion, and treatment options for trans youth all from a moderate, Christ-centered perspective.
- Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist is an affirmation of the God-given dignity and power of women told in a bounteously grace-filled, warm tone that invites both men and women into God’s vision for equality
- Mark Gushee’s Changing Our Minds and Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian for those seeking a Biblical, ethical, and sociological defense of the inclusion of partnered LGBTQ folks in the kingdom of God
Budding theologians will enjoy
- Richard Rohr and Mike Morrel’s invitational exploration of the mystical, relational Trinity in The Divine Dance
- The more ambitious should pick up Elizabeth Johnson’s She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, after which you may never need another defense of the feminine face of God.
I read a lot of political theology and liberation theology for graduate school, but I would not wish 45 page academic articles on you guys! That said, I do really like
- Lammin Saneh’s Whose Religion is Christianity: The Gospel Beyond the West, which explores the theological and cultural shift of Christianity to the global East and South, and unpack colonialism, western guilt, and new trends in Christianity in a conversational, question and answer format.
But I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any accessible introductions and point them your way.
What other titles in progressive Christianity do you consider essential? Comment with your favorites and I’ll add them to my TBR!