WHAT DOES GOD THINK – Vigaland Podcast Book Review

 WHAT DOES GOD THINK? by Cheryl B. Evans

Vigaland Book Review Podcast #10 by Viga Boland

 

When a non-fiction book soars to the top of Amazon charts within a few days of being published, you can’t help but ask “why”? Is it all about the marketing? Or is it, in fact, that when the topic of a book raises so many questions for which the answers are varied and controversial,  intelligent readers want to learn as much as they can about the subject? That, without doubt, accounts for the success, and deservedly so, that Cheryl B. Evans is having with her second book, WHAT DOES GOD THINK?

The topic of WHAT DOES GOD THINK?, like Cheryl’s first book, I PROMISED NOT TO TELL,  is gender and transgender people, and few subjects today are as hot as this one. What with parents suing a Christian school for allowing a boy to wear a dress in class, or President Trump banning Transgender people from the military, one would have to be living on a remote island to not be aware of all the issues and concerns…religious, scientific, political, cultural and otherwise surrounding transgender people. Cheryl B. Evans book, WHAT DOES GOD THINK?, is not only cleverly titled, but it’s timely, and for those who follow the teachings of the Bible…and even those who don’t…it is of great interest and importance. 

Just to update those who haven’t read Cheryl’s first book, I PROMISED NOT TO TELL,, Cheryl’s son was a biological female at birth, but as early as 4 years of age, Jordan indicated he felt more like a boy and wanted to identify as one. As Cheryl and her husband watched Jordan grow, it became obvious this identity was critical to their son’s mental health. They did what they had to do to help him, and then, of course, the religious backlash started. As Cheryl writes in her introduction to WHAT DOES GOD THINK? : 

“Our home, which was so often filled with laughter, became void of it. The closeness between my children gave way to emptiness as they distanced themselves from one another.”

It was only natural then, that this writer and mother, felt the need to explore the entire topic of transgender people and the bible more deeply. She has done a remarkable job of that in  WHAT DOES GOD THINK?. This non-fiction book is short, well-researched and easy to read. Cheryl begins her examination of gender dysphoria by looking at the age-old debate of whether our genders are the result of nature or nurturing. For the uninformed, she clarifies any confusion on the words, “sex” and “gender”. Then she adds power to her argument that gender is determined by nature and is not nurtured by sharing a fascinating story of a couple, who gave birth to twin boys: their story ultimately proved nurturing had nothing to do with gender identification. 

The author then moves into examining scientific arguments for the naturalness, if you wish, of gender identity. As she writes:

“At any time during the gestational period, the delicate chemicals in the developing brain can get disturbed, leaving the door open for a possible disconnect to develop between the gender determined by sex and chromosomes and the gender one self-identifies with in their brain.”

This being the case, and for those who believe that God determines our DNA, it is easy to extrapolate from that belief that God knew such variations could occur. It is then, as Cheryl quotes from Ecclesiastes 11:5:  “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things.” Amen!

It is Chapter 4 in WHAT DOES GOD THINK? that Cheryl directly addresses the religious speculation that a transgender child is “not of God”. She addresses the Christian belief that God made only two sexes, male and female, but brings in the scientific proof offered in the previous chapter that there are “intersex” babies, ie.. those born without simple XX or XY chromosones, or obvious sexual characteristics. Cheryl goes on to point out that several sections in the Bible contradict the same stories in other sections of the good book. So how can one say the Bible is the one and only authority on some subjects? But it is the Bible’s scripture on which so many people choose to base all their beliefs and by which they choose to live their lives. As Cheryl rightly points out, these beliefs are passed on, generation after generation and we are expected to accept and follow them with “blind faith”. Cheryl urges her readers instead to study the bible, but to think for ourselves about what we read there, and thereby live with true faith and not just blind faith. 

There is so much great reading in WHAT DOES GOD THINK?, and it is so well presented, it would be easy to keep on telling you about this book. But the purpose of a review is to give you an idea of what to expect and let you make the decision to buy it. If you truly care about people, of all genders, races and cultures, and if you believe you have an open mind, you will want to read WHAT DOES GOD THINK?. Of course, in reply to that title question, non-believers might answer this question with another question: “How can any of us possibly know what God thinks about a subject like this, or anything for that matter?” This is true. 

But that’s just all the more reason to pick up this superb, second book by Cheryl B. Evans. By doing so, you will also read in the remaining chapters about how incredibly hard it is for transgender people to live in a society that is so judgemental and refuses to think outside the box. Or rather, for far too many people, to think for themselves and beyond the Bible. Doing so will not, as many sadly believe, prevent you from entering the pearly gates of heaven. In fact, what might help you get there is leaving any judgement to God.

If you are still having doubts by the time you finish reading WHAT DOES GOD THINK?  consider this closing by statement Cheryl B. Evans:

“Is it not more peaceful to live in a world where we invite everyone to the assembly? Where everyone is welcome to the table? To choose that kind of world is to choose God.”

Can I have a “Hallelujah”? Well done, Cheryl!

© Viga Boland

You can purchase WHAT DOES GOD THINK? at these links: 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0995180741/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0995180741&linkCode=as2&tag=vigabo-20&linkId=f3964def8bcf9d0e615c0afea1bc29bf

https://www.amazon.ca/What-Does-God-Think-Transgender/dp/0995180741/

and follow Cheryl B. Evans here: 

 website:  www.writtenbymom.ca
 

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ESCAPING the LION and the LEOPARD-A Vigaland Podcast Book Review

ESCAPING the LION and the LEOPARD by Ellie Porte Parker

 Vigaland Podcast Book Review #9 by Viga Boland

The next time you feel life is overwhelming you, that you can’t go on and that you don’t understand why you have dealt the worst hand in the deck, pick up a “restorative narration” like Escaping the Lion and the Leopard by Ellie Porte Parker. This true story about Ghabriela, whose beautiful face graces the cover of this sometimes gut-wrenching narrative will help you feel better about your own lot in life. Escaping the Lion and the Leopard is riveting, eye-opening, touching and true. You may not care for narrative memoirs, but this is one you won’t easily forget. 

When Ghabriela, the youngest child in her family was born in Ethiopia, her siblings were in their late later teens or already married. Her mother adored her and Ghabriella felt loved and happy. But very suddenly one day, her mother passed away. Ghabriela’s 17-year-old brother, Andu, the only other person who really loved her, promised to look after the heart-broken child. Andu rushed into an arranged marriage so Ghabriela could have a family to look after her. But for Ghabriela, this was the beginning of years of loneliness, neglect and mental abuse, not by Andu, but by all who were to help look after her: Andu’s new, teenaged wife and Ghabriela’s own older sister who lived far away from Andu. Neither woman wanted the burden of looking after Ghabriela and they made sure she knew it. 

After spending years in a Orphan childrens’ home where Ghabriela discovered her own inner strengths but little to no love, it was time for her to find her own way in life. To tell you all she went through after that, looking for love wherever she could find it, would be to spoil your reading of this story. Her dreams of one day having her own family, a man to love and care for her, and children of her own faded while she walked barefoot through the streets, often starving, and despite her belief in God, wondering why he wasn’t helping her. What had she done to deserve this?

As you read, Escaping the Lion and the Leopard, you will also learn a lot about life for women in Africa and how different it is from that of ours in North America. However, you might come away feeling even a bit guilty for complaining about not being able to afford something you want but don’t really need.  Ghabriella never had that luxury. But before you think Escaping the Lion and the Leopard by Ellie Porte Parker is a weeping “poor me” kind of story, it is anything but. Parker narrates this story in first person, capturing Ghabriela’s voice and emotions beautifully and realistically, but she keeps the focus on how struggles make us stronger. As the ever resilient, courageous Ghabriella runs from the lion to the leopard, she forever shows us what survival is all about: believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams. 

Don’t miss reading Escaping the Lion and the Leopard by Ellie Porte Parker. You will come away, as Ghabriela did, better, stronger, happier. Highly recommended. 

©Viga Boland

TRAFFICKED – VIGALAND PODCAST BOOK REVIEW

TRAFFICKED by Peg Brantley

Vigaland Podcast Book Review #8 by Viga Boland, author and book reviewer

One of the joys of being a book reviewer is suddenly discovering a brilliantly, talented author like Peg Brantley. Brantley is a crime fiction writer with three previous books to her credit. If Trafficked is any indication of the kind of writing one can expect in those other books, you’ll be wanting to check them out as soon as your heart and head calm down after you finish Trafficked.

On her author’s website at www.pegbrantley.com, Brantley states she couldn’t understand why her stories were referred to as “thrillers”. Well that is exactly what Trafficked is. Even more specifically, it’s a psychological thriller that will leave you chilled, shaking your head at the ugly and heartbreaking reality of the sexual trafficking of young people, particularly, in this case, females. 

Trafficked completely fits the description of a thriller as stated on the home page of Brantley’s site: 

… thrillers are typically the most emotional, focusing on the fear, doubt and dread of the hero as she faces some form of what Dean Koontz has deemed ‘terrible trouble.’

There’s actually several heroes facing “terrible trouble” in Trafficked: Mex Anderson, the private eye hired to locate the privileged but ignored 17-year-old daughter of a wealthy business man; Mex’s estranged sister, Sedona, who cannot redeem herself despite the help she gives Mex; Cade, Mex’s woman; Darius, Mex’s right hand man; and Rachel, a former prostitute who will be key to the eventual rehabilitation of the three, trafficked females, Jayla, Alexis and Livvy. These three young women each emerge from Trafficked with lives forever changed, but each in her own way, a heroic survivor of “terrible trouble”. 

It’s human nature to want to tune out the constant media reports of the sexual trafficking of children and teens: it’s a reality many would prefer to pretend doesn’t exist, or that they tell themselves only happens in other people’s lives, in other countries, other cultures. Well reading Trafficked will convince you otherwise. It will make you more wary and you need to be. The victims in Trafficked hail from Denver. Alexis comes from a wealthy family, spends her time working out and has money to burn; 15-year-old Jayla, a good student hoping to make something of her future, comes from a poor background where her single mom has too many mouths to feed; and Livvy? she’s your typical 12-year-old teen, sharing secrets with her BFF, but looking for romantic love in the wrong place: the internet. What makes these three females coming from such varying backgrounds so appealing to, and such easy marks for predators? Read Trafficked to find out. These girls could be one of your daughters…a chilling reality revealed brilliantly by Peg Brantley. 

The author states on her site that in fiction based on social issues, it’s the “characters that drive the story”. That is definitely true of Trafficked and just one of the reasons this book is so hard to put down. The other reason is tied to what Brantley says here about what happened to her as she did her research for this book:

The research for this story about buried me. Not only was there a lot of material, it was horrific. While I write fiction, and can tell it the way I want to tell it, what I was reading was real and not the way anyone wants it. I thought of these enslaved people and the heroes who never stop fighting to free them, and it was almost more than I could bear.”

Readers of Trafficked, will, like the author, find what they read is almost more than they can bear. It would be lovely to be able to close the book and say, “That was a great read! Thankfully, it’s only fiction!” But you won’t say that as Brantley also prefaces each chapter with snippets from newspaper, book and various reports on trafficking that will alarm and frighten you and make you want to put your arms around your children and make sure you always know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing. 

But more important is the one question we all need to ask ourselves when it comes to our children: in our ever busy lives chasing what we think our families need, are we giving them what they really need? If we are, then maybe we will spare them the “terrible trouble” that Alexis, Jayla and Livvy faced in Trafficked. Add this book to your reading list today. You’ll be glad you did. 

©Viga Boland

 

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DODGING SATAN – VIGALAND PODCAST BOOK REVIEW

DODGING SATAN by Kathleen Zamboni McCormick

Vigaland Podcast Book Review #7 by author and reviewer, Viga Boland

Ever read a book and thought “That is so me! Wish I had written it…or had the guts to write it!”

That’s the effect Dodging Satan by Kathleen Zamboni McCormick had on me. From the bright & colourful eye-catching cover to the very last word, McCormick had me riveted as she put words to thoughts that have perplexed me from my earliest days of attending Catholic schools. Kathleen Zamboni McCormick reminded me of practices and past-times long forgotten, but with which I immediately identified as soon as she brought them up. 

If you were raised by Catholic parents and attended Catholic schools, do you remember collecting Holy cards? Accumulating special indulgences? Praying on rosary beads made in China? Cherishing that first missal acquired through green stamps? Staring at a glowing luminescent plastic crucifix beside your bed or on the wall? Worrying about Satan visiting you at night once you were alone in bed? Wearing a scapula and preparing yourself to become a nun? And last but not least, those horrid and feared Diocesan Exams that you knew you’d fail no matter how hard you studied your bible!

And then, somehow strangely, as you matured, you began questioning everything that was being drummed into your head by those fearsome nuns in their black habits: how could a virgin give birth? How did Mary bathe Jesus and did she spank him when he was naughty? After all, he was the son of God! And why was Eve, and not Adam ultimately to blame for the downfall of mankind? Was it really all about biting an apple? 

It’s questions and ruminations like these that make Dodging Satan by Kathleen Zamboni McCormick one of the most fascinating, enjoyable and memorable books I’ve ever read. But at the same time, and no doubt intended by McCormick, Dodging Satan is disturbing. Even those not raised Catholic, but steeped in the many other religions and their teachings, will pause to consider what years of religious brainwashing can do to our thinking. Some become too afraid to question, so they accept what they’ve been taught on faith alone. Others, unlike Kathleen Zamboni McCormick, question but don’t dare voice their opinions: doing so might mean ostracism or permanent banning.  

Kathleen Z. McCormick, author of DODGING SATAN

What caused the young, very devout, God-loving Bridget in Dodging Satan to finally decide to get rid of all her holy cards and to abandon her plans to become a nun? It was seeing how those all-important ten commandments were not being followed by the adults in her home and extended families. It was seeing super-drunken fathers beating up their wives and cheating on their spouses but never missing Sunday Mass.  It was witnessing favorite aunts being ridiculed and mentally abused by supposedly loving family members. It was looking forward to family Christmas dinners that were far from a celebration of life. 

By the time Bridget grew into a woman, she could only conclude one thing: it was, and still is, near impossible for a woman to come out on top in a man’s world: surely even the Bible was written by men to keep women under foot. Why else are women still so far away from being equal to men?

Yes, there is a strong element of feminism running throughout Dodging Satan, but the seriousness of the real themes is tempered by humour. As Bridget, Kathleen Zamboni McCormick narrates what she witnesses through a young girl’s voice, and marvellously captures the confusion she feels because of the conflict between what she’s being taught and what she sees in the world beyond the classroom. 

Dodging Satan will shake up and shock some readers, while it simultaneously earns praise from those with open minds who dare to think beyond what they were taught. I am one of those and have the greatest admiration and respect for both this author and her book, a book I wish I had written!  

© Viga Boland, author and book reviewer

 

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CULT – A VIGALAND PODCAST BOOK REVIEW

CULT by Warren Adler

Vigaland Book Review #5 by Viga Boland, author and book reviewer

Today’s book, CULT, was written by a rather well-known author, Warren Adler. Adler is famous for his book which became a movie, “War of the Roses”. But I first encountered the writing of Warren Adler when I read and reviewed his book, “Mother Nile”. 

After reading “Mother Nile”, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on another Warren Adler book. I chose “Cult” because, as a victim of childhood abuse I am forever trying to understand the mind and motivations of those who use manipulative and mind-bending brainwashing to gain power over others. I have always been fascinated by tragic events like Waco, people like Koresh, and the Jonestown disaster. I’m as much interested in why people join such cults in the first place, as I am about how impossible it becomes to get out of them once you’re in there.

Warren Adler’s book didn’t disappoint in explaining both those things. In fact, I gained additional insight into how the susceptible are unknowingly “captured”, assuming Adler’s story is based on some fact and research, and most of his books that deal with such cultural situations are indeed, researched by him before writing.

I don’t believe or put much faith in reviews where “reviewers” like or don’t like a character for reasons of their own. A proper book review should be based on its writing merits, its plot development, its characterization, pace and theme. So it’s irrelevant if I liked or didn’t like Naomi, for instance. She was opinionated and it was difficult for her to break away from her beliefs…just like those inside the cult for different reasons. The goodness or badness of Mr. Adler’s book doesn’t hinge on her character. She is what she is. The same is true of others in the book. With the exception of the Sherrif, and the male protagonist caught in a horrible and fruitless struggle to get his wife out of the cult, most of the characters do not touch us all that deeply.

One reviewer said the ending was predictable. Well perhaps. I wasn’t expecting exactly what happened but I did see it as a most probable conclusion. And unfortunately, that’s a shame…and one of the ugly truths about belonging to any cult…including established and century long organized religions. After all, we are all born into a religion of some kind then brainwashed into thinking as that religion has taught us. And once we are all taught to think the same way, there’s no more reason to think, is there. That, essentially, is what just about everyone inside and outside the Cult, including Naomi, learns in Warren Adler’s book: once we stop thinking, stop questioning what we are brainwashed into believing, we may just as well merely “exist” as do those inside a cult.

©Viga Boland, author and book reviewer

Are you an author with a novel or memoir you’d like to have reviewed? Please visit our ABOUT VIANVI REVIEWS PAGE on this site to see what’s involved. 

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MEMOIRABILIA and VIGALAND