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Book reviews

Gerard J. M. Aardweg’s Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory (TAN Books, 2009)

If you know a dead person, then you should read this book.

Now that I have your attention…

Seriously, though, Aardweg’s book is not simply an illustration of the merits of praying for the dead (a feature of Judaism and Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, long abandoned by our Protestant brothers and sisters).  It is, in contrast, an interesting summary of the theology behind Purgatory and the benefits of praying for those who have died.

Besides theology, the reader can accommodate the 134 easy-to-read pages in about two days, accounting for DuckDuckGo searches to locate more information about the persons who have seen or been touched by the dead.

That Aardweg was able to generate 134 pages of text (and 20 pages of endnotes and a bibliography) based on only ten artifacts held in the Piccolo Museo del Purgatorio (the Little Museum of Purgatory) in Rome testifies to his ability to incorporate accounts of the various seers to substantiate his thesis.

Despite the praise it deserves for bringing to the attention of twenty-first moderns the instances of souls from Purgatory reaching out to living persons, the book has definite flaws, some minor and one major.  Some sentences are not as mellifluous in English as they could be; perhaps these matters of diction can be attributed to translation deficiencies.  The major flaw is, as is typical with many books published by TAN, the lack of an index.  (What is it with that company that it produces books with no indices?  Doesn’t the company know that faculty and students may want not only to read its productions, but also to use them for research?)

Despite these flaws, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from TAN Publishers directly.  At $5, the book is a steal: https://tanbooks.com/products/books/afterlife/purgatory/hungry-souls-supernatural-visits-messages-and-warnings-from-purgatory/.

Quotable quotes:

“The prevailing cheap optimism holds that […] the life of practically everybody automatically ends up in a state of bliss” (x).

“Purgatory (to say nothing of Hell), penance, expiation, God’s holy justice: these do not fit in with today’s cheerfully cheap religiosity” (x).

“Yet on balance, the place or state of purification, of God’s fathomless justice, is at the same time a place or state of God’s mercy, of hope, inner peace, and joy” (xxi).

“Typically, ghosts, i.e., souls from purgatory, seem to wait humbly until their host questions them” (7).

“Some apparitions that present themselves as souls of the dead may indeed turn out to be demons in disguise, seeking to deceive the credulous” (17).

“Souls from Purgatory and Hell have one decisive point in common: they cannot be conjured up at will” (17).

“Reports of poor souls dwelling in churches are not exceptional; these souls seem to get more ‘rest’ in holy places and places of prayer than somewhere else” (22).

“The widespread age-old belief in reincarnation or migration of the souls (into newborns or even animals) was perhaps a degeneration of an originally more correct insight; at any rate, it contained the wisdom of the necessity of some purification after death” (29).

“Offering sacrifices for the dead is an extremely old and almost universal custom that at least hints at some awareness of Purgatory, and praying for the dead is so spontaneous and human a reaction that one can hardly believe that this habit originated only a few hundred years before Christ” (30).

“The notion of Purgatory and the belief that the living can come to the aid of the suffering souls there are anything but medieval inventions.  Affirmations of the ancient Church Fathers show that the apostles themselves professed them” (33).

“It is furthermore remarkable that reports of apparitions of souls from Purgatory are highly consistent in the course of the centuries and vary but little from one historical period to another” (35).

“Terrestrial bonds of love continue after death” (36).

“The fire of Purgatory, which comprises the sufferings of the ‘pain of loss’ and the ‘pain of sense,’ is the fire of the love of God enkindled in the soul right after death” (40).

“Demons appear as repulsive creatures; if they disguise themselves as human persons, there is usually some abhorrent quality of shape or manners that puts the seer on his guard” (77).

“These apparitions clearly prove that it is the individual person and not some depersonalized, anonymous ‘soul matter’ that survives bodily death” (78; italics in original).

“It is not unusual for animals to perceive something physical, too: dogs may become scared, and cattle or chickens become restless” (78).

“The perception of a spirit cannot be reduced to a merely mental event, something internal in the seer; it is a manifestation outside of him.  He can see the door opening or a strange light that makes the objects in the dark room visible; objects (such as a light-switch on the wall) cannot be perceived anymore during the time the phantom stands before it, but as soon as it is gone, the object is normally visible again” (78).

The Bavarian mystic Sister Maria Anna Lindmayr writes, “I have always been given to understand that: how you sin, so you must do penance” (79).

“It cannot escape us that the seers of souls from Purgatory are often reported to be especially good and pious persons” (80).

Regarding why more women than men are the seers of poor souls, “it might be explained by the motherly, caring, and more compassionate nature of the woman” (81).

The seer Eugenie von der Leyen recounts how the poor soul Old Heinz “threw himself upon me and strangled me so firmly by my neck that I thought I would suffocate.  It didn’t last more than a second, to be sure, but it was horrible and totally upset me” (95).

The Bohemian widow who saw the dead, called “Ruth”, is told that the poor souls of deceased family members “stand at the door of their houses, of our former dwellings, and wait” (121).

The deceased father of a nun reports to her “that St Joseph was present at his judgment, that he had since repeatedly visited Purgatory in company of the Blessed Virgin to console him, and that he often saw his guardian angel, who came to comfort him” (132).

Chapter 5, endnote 1: “Apparitions of the dead are reported in most, if not all, pagan cultures before Christianity.  In the light of the fact that some poor souls in recent apparitions manifest animal features, to express the vices they must atone for […], one may wonder if such apparitions didn’t occur in ancient times as well, giving rise to the confused idea that some souls come back (reincarnate) in animals” (140).

Chapter 11, endnote 9: “Look at the dehumanized figures of several poor souls who came to Eugenie von der Leyen.  An exceptionally stark example was the soul that manifested itself as a snake” (145).

Chapter 13, endnote 4: “Some souls do not or cannot speak before reaching some minimal stage of purification, and when they speak, it is usually telegram-style, their answers being no more than a few key words that are all the more emotional and impressive” (147).

Chapter 13, endnote 26: “It may well be that demonic influences play a role in many cases of compulsive and obsessive needs and drives (which need not be precisely possessions proper, but rather partial possessions, or demonic obsessions and oppressions)” (148).

Chapter 17, endnote 5: “Family bonds of love and of responsibility reach over the grave” (150).

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Book reviews

Daniel J. Sullivan’s An Introduction to Philosophy: Perennial Principles of the Classical Realist Tradition (TAN Books, 2009; originally published 1957)

This 1957 masterpiece can help beleaguered conservative and pro-life people in 2023 understand how leftists (either ignorant of or deliberately opposed to basic philosophy) attempt to destroy contemporary society.

I found so much of this work significant that I have annotated (either by underlining, adding parallel lines in the margins, or drawing stars of David) virtually all pages, so repeating those annotations here would be repetitious to the extreme.  However, the few comments which follow may be of particular interest to conservatives and pro-life activists concerned about, among other topics, the delusions of gender activists and anti-life/pro-abortion ideas.

For example, I think everyone has read about or seen on social media the lunacy of gender activists who claim that a man can become a woman merely by (poof!) claiming to be one.  The mental illness of transgender activists doesn’t stand a chance when confronted with biological reality, a foundation principle of Western philosophy.

Sullivan’s comments throughout the book about reality being the basis of philosophical speculation should therefore encourage those who argue rightfully that there are two genders and that no cacophonous rage shouting by a transgender person that he is female can overcome reality.

In short, dealt with it, buddy.  You have a penis and a scrotum containing two testes.  Enjoy being a man.

Similarly, abortion wrongs activists have argued that the unborn child is not a person (which is, apparently, a legal term more than a philosophical one).  In philosophical terms, this is comparable to saying that the unborn child is not a being in his or her own right.  This rejection of science is necessary if abortion zealots want to force all of us to accept their anti-human philosophy.

Again, Sullivan’s comments about being, which are passim, can help pro-life persons counter those deluded souls who think that human life doesn’t begin with the reality of fertilization.  Personhood, existence, or being isn’t granted to someone just because (poof!) his or her mother thinks so.  The right to life, the right to exist, is an essential, inherent aspect of our humanity.

In short (yes, I know: the second one in this review), pro-abortion zealots should therefore shut up already and accept the reality that a pregnant woman carries another human being and that both mother and unborn child deserve our love and protection.

Reading Sullivan’s work can be disturbing for many.  For example, Protestant Christians may ineluctably conclude that their denomination’s “Reformation” wasn’t that as much as a divorce from a coherent philosophy begun in the ancient pagan world through solid logical reasoning and refined by Western (Catholic) Christian saints for 1,500 years.  The subjectivism of the Protestant mindset would lead to the nihilism of today, and all of us suffer from that five-hundred year rupture from reality and sound logical thinking.

Likewise, a second major disturbing result of Sullivan’s work is that many would reject philosophical study because it is infused with ideas and terms developed by the Roman Catholic Church.  American Catholics know well that anti-Catholicism is a vibrant force, not only in the area of respect for life, but in virtually all of society.  Therefore, the reader may despair that many in contemporary culture could remain ignorant of the structure and depth of philosophical principles simply because such profundity is rejected by their anti-Catholic bigotry.

Fortunately, though, there is hope that conservative young people will not only resurrect the sound philosophical conclusions reached by scholars like Sullivan, but also live their lives according to those principles.  Two instances can justify this hope.

Philosophical proofs for the existence of God?  St. Thomas Aquinas makes as much sense in the twenty-first century as he did in the thirteenth.

Can the old-fashioned virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice still apply in this utterly technological twenty-first century?  Stifled by sexual immorality; families consisting not of mothers and fathers but a mother and various baby daddies; and politicians like the fake Catholic Joe Biden supporting abortion, which harms women, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers: all of these social realities testify to the relevance of these, not so much old-fashioned, but ancient virtues which have guided human beings in prehistoric cultures to our own.

Though brief for an introduction to a major field of study (280 pages of text, followed by extensive reading lists and an index), Sullivan’s work takes time to read, digest, and understand, so prepare at least a month for delving into his summary of 2,500 years of Western philosophy.

The presence of an index is a major benefit.  As many TAN Books customers know, works published by that firm often do not have indices, making it extremely difficult for students and faculty to conduct research without wasting time flipping through pages, hunting for a term or name.

Finally, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from TAN Publishers directly: https://tanbooks.com/products/books/liberal-arts/philosophy/an-introduction-to-philosophy-perennial-principles-of-the-classical-realist-tradition/.

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Book reviews

Joshua Hren’s How to Read (and Write) Like a Catholic (TAN Books, 2021)

Written in a high register of literary technical vocabulary which PhD students taught by leftist professors in English would understand more than the average man or woman, Hren’s collection of essays is still worthwhile as substantial reading to understand the idiocy of much contemporary fiction.

Although the 463 pages contain few mentions of fictional literature concerned with the pro-life issues (my central research concern), Hren’s essays can help readers who are forced to suffer through LGBTQ and transgender accounts of quasi-fictional gender dysphoric literary diarrhea.  Moreover, readers will appreciate that the bizarre, sinful, and often laughable elements of those two categories of fiction (among others in the leftist realm of American publishing) are topics which Catholic readers must analyze, evaluate, and even teach.

Hren relies heavily on major Catholic saints and literary figures to justify why not only Catholics, but even secular persons should read novels exploring ideas contrary to ingrained natural law beliefs, including Dana Gioia, Jacques Maritain, St. John Henry Newman, and Flannery O’Connor.

For example, Hren quotes St. John Henry Newman often: “literature is largely a record ‘of man in rebellion’” (2; internal quotes in original), and another quote soon after expands on this idea: “You cannot have a sinless literature of sinful man” (4-5).  With such assertions, it is easy for Hren to conclude that “Catholic thinkers should and even must analyze and teach, appreciate and criticize the sinful literature of man.  Why?  Because most men are not destined for the cloister” (5).  The most significant words from Newman for Catholic writers which Hren quotes may be the following: “Take things as they are, not as you could wish them” (29).

O’Connor’s words about writing fiction can assuage the horror that many moral and righteous readers may feel when they delve into novels deemed important new works by young authors, but which to them seem not merely naughty, but often outright pornographic.  Hren cites O’Connor’s “pious trash” (33) comment, and one can understand how many “religious” novels are often boring, making their hero characters flaccid caricatures or allegories instead of fictional characters meant to represent living human beings.  This is especially true if the “good” characters end the novel with a “come to Jesus” moment, Evangelical Christian fiction being particularly disposed to resolve plot conflicts with such a righteous yet saccharine denouement.

On these bases, for example, the good priest’s famous (for me), infamous (for some) masturbation scene in Brian Moore’s novel Black Robe as he witnesses coitus by two youths is justified.  Whether a reader delights in the prurience of the scene or not is something which he or she should consult with his or her priest in the confessional.  For me, Moore’s novel goes beyond pornography to bring my attention to God’s deeper truths about not only sexual sins, but also sexual delights which should obtain between a married man and woman (since they are unmarried, the young people are committing the sin of fornication).  While it’s odd that Hren doesn’t cite Moore’s novel as a solid example of Catholic fiction which depicts challenging matters, perhaps a future edition will include this novel and others.

Hren does, however, examine works by many twentieth- and twenty-first century authors, Catholic all (whether devout, lukewarm, or fallen-away), and his criticism of the various works can overwhelm readers with a literary load that seems insurmountable.  Reading Evelyn Waugh’s Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future (which concerns euthanasia); Katherine Anne Porter, a “sometimes-Catholic writer” (133); David Foster Wallace, who “took his own life in 2008” (139); James Joyce, whose work includes short stories about altar boys most likely molested by priests—a topic considered long before the current pedophile and pederast scandals; Walter M. Miller, another suicide, whose major work, A Canticle for Leibowitz, examines euthanasia; Christopher Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder, which also contains a euthanasia element; and Michael Chabon’s short story about abortion may seem suitable only for those lucky English professors who achieved early retirement ten years ago and have time to sit back, crack open a book from interlibrary loan that no one reads, and annotate at his or her leisure.  (Ahem!).  Hren, however, thinks we all should read these works to show the great expanse of Catholic fiction.

And why we should read such works is answered well.  Hren argues that “Good fiction helps us better grasp the fact that everything we deliberately do—from amusements to our acts of mercy—assumes moral significance” (2).  Thus, “we ought not dismiss or underappreciate the importance of well-rendered sin in good literature” (4)—the phrase “well-rendered” not being ironic.

Hren further claims that the purpose of Catholic fiction differs greatly from a purely secular understanding of the art.  If “the Catholic literary tradition has been marked by writers who understood that human nature finds its final cause not in mere beauty, not in mere inclusion, but in salvation” (48), then, he states, “a Catholic literary culture that works in continuity with its rich heritage will give us a contemporary literature that both gazes unflinchingly at the messiness of our present moment and artfully works out its characters’ salvation or damnation” (48).  This conclusion is necessary because “Christian love is never aimed at the neighbor in-and-of-herself, but at the Imago Dei that is found in every human being” (199).

To bolster his conclusion, Hren quotes Dana Gioia at length about a “Catholic aesthetic”:

Catholic writers tend to see humanity struggling in a fallen world.  They combine a longing for grace and redemption with a deep sense of human imperfection and sin.  Evil exists, but the physical world is not evil.  Nature is sacramental, shimmering with signs of sacred things.  Indeed, all reality is mysteriously charged with the invisible presence of God.  Catholics perceive suffering as redemptive, at least when borne in emulation of Christ’s passion and death.  (342)

Unfortunately, the volume does not have an index, so the reader must guess that the various chapters may contain what he or she is seeking.  Sometimes, the content of a chapter is obvious; sometimes, chapter contents are ambiguous from the title.  The volume does contain two reading lists which can help the reader, whether faculty member or student, check off those items which Hren suggests as required reading to appreciate the depth of contemporary Catholic fiction.

Finally, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from TAN Publishers directly: https://tanbooks.com/products/books/liberal-arts/literature/how-to-read-and-write-like-a-catholic/.  Instead of paying $34.95, purchasing it from TAN through its $5 a book program makes this scholarly tome a deal.

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Book reviews

Re-Introducing Christianity: An Eastern Apologia for a Western Audience, edited by Amir Azarvan (Wipf & Stock, 2016)

Dr. Amir Azarvan’s collection of essays works to advance Catholic and Orthodox ecumenism.  It will also make Protestants wonder how much they lost by separating themselves from branches of Christianity which prospered for 1,500 years before their revolt against authority.

The above is a recurring idea which one will obtain on reading the often trenchant essays in this 188-page volume (8 more pages of a bibliography).  That is, if Byzantine and Roman Catholic Christians may not know much about Eastern Christianity, specifically the Orthodox Church, then they will be struck by the numerous points of comparison between the traditions, including the compatibility between science and faith, Scripture, devotion to the Virgin Mary, and salvation.  Protestant Christians, in contrast, may perceive that they have lost much after the misnamed “Reformation” removed them from two branches of Christianity which developed theology derived from the apostles and asceticism meant to assist Christians on their journey to salvation.

For example, one essayist mentions that Hubble disproved Einstein’s idea of an “infinite past” and that the universe is only 13.7 billion years old (17).  Some Protestants would not be able to reconcile the facts of science with a fundamentalist interpretation of the Genesis creation passages.

More importantly, regarding Scripture, Protestants have some “splainin” to do if, as several contributors remarked, the idea of “sola scriptura” is not in the Bible and was fabricated by Martin Luther to justify his revolt against the hierarchy of the Church.

Beyond sectarian insights, however, some quotes from the book can be useful not only for evangelizing, but also for apologetics.  For example, if you encounter someone who argues that it is uncertain if Jesus ever existed, then cite Eugenia Constantinou, who writes in her masterly essay “The Historical Jesus” that “more independent evidence exists for Jesus than for the existence of Socrates, Homer, Abraham, Moses, and many other important historical figures whose existence people would never think to question” (32).

Several “new” ideas discussed in this collection of essays will probe deeper into theological tenets long understood by scholars and theologians but which may not have been perceived by ordinary practicing Christians.

For example, Jonathan Resmini argues two such novel propositions.  First is his claim that, “If God is love and his love is eternal, indiscriminate and inescapable, then it stands to reason that there is nowhere that God is not present.  Not even hell” (183).  Resmini’s second claim is that “The Orthodox believe that heaven and hell are relational realities, that is, they are reflections of the way in which the human being perceives the love of God” (184).  One can see how Catholic theologians would be able to agree with these claims while Protestant Christians would stumble over the deeper philosophical principles.

Overall, Azarvan’s anthology is a profound book, discussing theological concepts written by Orthodox scholars in language that ordinary people will easily comprehend.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from Wipf & Stock directly: https://wipfandstock.com/9781498224048/re-introducing-christianity/.

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Book reviews

Stephen M. Krason’s Family and Sexual Morality Issues

While it’s only 61 pages documenting how damaged American society has become because of feminism and leftist ideologies, Krason’s work suggests hope despite the frightful state of American culture.

Key ideas after reading this book are: for men, maintain sexual self-control until you’re married with a woman, have sex with your wife, make babies with her, work hard, and raise them well; for women, do the same with your husbands.

The above paragraph is not a simplistic reduction of solutions for the vast problems destroying American life.  Heterosexual normativity and morality worked throughout human history, and no propaganda from feminist zealots, abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, or the Democratic Party (same things) can overcome essential human nature.

Some statistics which Krason provides are shocking.  How many of us know that children attending day care “are at a 50-100% increased risk for contracting certain fatal or maiming diseases” (15)?

Or that “40 percent of all births in the U.S.” are to single parents (21)?

Or that the claim that 10% of the population is gay or lesbian is false, the true figures ranging in the single digits or below 1% (28)?

Or that “nonvirgin brides have a 60% greater chance of divorce than virgin brides” (39)?

Or that the feminist claim that women make a quarter less than a man’s dollar “is outright untrue” (45)?

Or that “of the 3.3 million reports [of child abuse] in 2009 only 14.4% were substantiated” (53)?

Or that “To underscore the ineffectiveness of classroom sex education, during one ten-year period in the 1970s to the early 1980s government funding for it increased by a massive 4,000% but teen pregnancies increased by 20%” (67)?

And these are only statistics which Krason cites.  His explanations in each of the chapters are eminently readable and cogent.

Granted, most Americans have come not to trust “scholars”, those leftists in community colleges, colleges, or universities who indoctrinate our children with racist theories like “white privilege” and who try to eradicate 5,000 years of Jewish and Christian thinking with cancel culture mindlessness.  However, Krason is one of those who deserve the title of scholar without quotation marks.  His commentary is sound and always supported by eminent sources, 394 endnotes to be exact.

Highly recommended for parents, first, and students, next, people who want to know what’s wrong with divorce, fatherlessness, absent parents and day care, polygamy, the welfare state, artificial birth control (commonly called contraception), sex education, pornography, homosexuality, prostitution, cohabitation, feminism, sexual harassment, and the false allegations of child abuse (these topics being the order of the chapters) will be shocked by sixty years of feminism’s stranglehold on all aspects of our lives.  Hopefully, the shock will change to anger and then motivation to work against these corruptions of human life.

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Book reviews

Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby (One World, 2021)

Compelling and intricate, Peters’ novel demonstrates that transgenderism and pro-abortion policy are incompatible, especially when human life follows heterosexual normativity.

Readers may not be able to follow the 337 pages of Peters’ novel unless they remember the gender recognized at birth of the main characters.  Reese is a biological male who passes himself off as a woman; Amy is also a biological male, who passed himself off as a woman but then detransitioned to his gender recognized at birth and is now known as Ames.

Clear?

Knowing this makes the rest of the novel easy to understand, despite several passages and pop culture references which include verbose academic language or items not in common knowledge but well-known to LGBTQ activists.

The plot is simple.  Ames wants Reese to be the mother of the child he fathered with his boss, Katrina.  Katrina spends most of the novel wondering if she should acquiesce to Ames’ demands or abort the child.  While the novel ends ambiguously, the final literary evidence may swing more to a pro-life ending, for Ames, Katrina, and Reese

are together, and miles from each other, their thoughts turning to themselves, then turning to the baby, each in her own way contemplating how her tenuous rendition of womanhood has become dependent upon the existence of this little person, who is not yet, and yet may not be.  (337)

Thematically, this narrative examines transgender philosophy, its refusal to accept heterosexual normativity, and whether adopting a pro-life position is possible for transgender persons.

Ames suffers from a warped idea of what it means to be a father, because

fatherhood remained the one affront to his gender that he still couldn’t stomach without a creeping sense of horror.  To become a father by his own body, as his father was to him, and his father before him, and on and on, would sentence him to a lifetime of grappling with that horror.  (25-6)

“Affront”?  “Horror”?  “Sentence”?  Who teaches such a negative view of a man’s opportunity to generate and protect human life?

Perhaps Ames’ negative view of fatherhood is based on his having been a mere sexual object for those men who gratified themselves when he posed as a trans woman, Amy.  His reflection about those encounters disgusts as much as it generates sympathy:

After sex, the spell could dissipate, and she saw herself as she truly was: a boy, lying dazed on his back on a stranger’s bed with a dress hiked up to the waist, a string of his own pre-cum on his thigh, and a stranger lifting himself off the bed to sheepishly pull off a reservoir-filled condom.  (151)

At novel’s end, the ruminations of being a mother to Katrina’s unborn child lead Reese to a conclusion which most transgender political activists would abhor.  Reese

had given the baby up to Katrina, and now, it was with dismay—perhaps even horror—that she had to acquiesce that the baby’s mother had the right to abort.  That another woman could end the existence of a baby that she had come to imagine, softly, tentatively, at the center of her future life.  She had found her emotions and, in the two days since Ames told her about the abortion, had veered in the direction of pro-life politics.  Never before had she found her thoughts trending to the personhood of an unborn child.  (334-5)

Peters has written a novel which is truly controversial—not because of the inclusion of a transgender theme (every author does that ad nauseam).  Unlike other transgender authors who think they must support an anti-life ideology, what Peters contributes to the genre is the possibility that a group of persons steeped in transgender practice are able to consider supporting an unborn child instead of killing him or her.

This was the last of five novels I examined for a presentation before a scholarly audience on recent transgender literature and the right-to-life issues.  My recommendation is that, while it is not necessary to purchase this novel (especially not from Amazon, which supports pro-abortion politicians), pro-life readers may want to borrow it from their local libraries instead to enjoy a delightful narrative which counters the anti-life focus of most LGBTQ and, specifically, transgender fiction.

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Book reviews

Aimee Herman’s Everything Grows (Three Rooms Press, 2019)

Preachy novel of a lesbian teen’s pornographic mind, pass this up and read Dickens or Hawthorne instead.

Readers may find many lines in Herman’s novel difficult to understand; they’re written in English, but the ideas are straight from leftist academia.  For example, Flor, Eleanor’s mother’s lesbian friend, is “making room for myself in spaces that try to exclude me” (19).  Come again?  Also, why Eleanor would say “my body will feel less like mine” (56) when she would begin to menstruate is an idea that must have originated from a leftist professor, not a teenaged girl.

Maybe the preachiness of the novel comes from the author’s leftist ideology.  According to the “About the Author” section, Herman is “looking to disembowel the architecture of gender and what it means to queer the body” [226].  Wha-what?  Since such a troubled woman mentions “my own suicide attempts” [224] in the “Acknowledgements”, the compassionate reader, therefore, hopes this novel is, if not of literary, then at least of cathartic value.

An annoying grammar error occurs throughout the book.  Are constructions like “Dad had Gret and I” (66) deliberate to show that Eleanor is just a stupid teenager, or is it ignorance on the author’s part?  The former may be the cause; after all, Eleanor thinks that being “a feminist is someone who believes in the equal rights of men and women” (80), omitting completely the main purpose of feminism in today’s culture (forcing everybody to accept abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever).  Even more ignorantly, Eleanor asks if abortions can be obtained at Planned Parenthood (114).  Who in the world does not know that Planned Parenthood is primarily an abortion business?

The novel has the typical elements that are supposed to attract teen readers: an abortion sequence which spans four pages (112-5), Eleanor’s lesbian episode with a stranger (142-3), or another long and laughable lesbian sex scene (188-191).

Recommendation: read only if you must write a report for school or college.

This was the fourth of five novels I examined for a presentation before a scholarly audience on recent transgender literature and the right-to-life issues.  My recommendation is that it is neither worthwhile nor necessary to purchase this novel (especially not from Amazon, which supports pro-abortion politicians), but pro-life readers may want to borrow it from their local libraries instead.

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Book reviews

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other (Black Cat, 2019)

A lugubrious yet creative novel intended to illustrate that black lesbian feminists and transgender persons eventually achieve social success, the reader would be more interested in the ultimate success of heterosexual normativity among persons with gender dysphoria.

Evaristo’s work is certainly challenging since it lacks ordinary punctuation and reads like 452 pages of a stream-of-consciousness free verse poem.  However, it never reads as preachy despite its anti-Trump/pro-racist Barack Obama allusions or the feminist, lesbian, and transgender nonsense permeating the work.

Much of it is, in fact, comic.  Several passages can make the reader howl with delight, especially when the leftist characters talk about the usual canards of their philosophy, such as “the evils of capitalism and colonialism and the merits of socialism” (12).  The Babylon Bee should film the litany of leftist groups’ demands on management of a building they appropriated for themselves (17-8) or the passage concerned with “white privilege” (65-6).

Furthermore, the tired feminist ideology and the newer transgender lunacy will make readers laugh at the passage where a character’s mother “was unthinkingly repeating patterns of oppression based on gender” (307) or another passage where “Megan was a woman who wondered if she should have been born a man, who was attracted to a woman who’d once been a man, who was now saying gender was full of misguided expectations anyway, even though she herself transitioned from male to female / this was such head fuckery” (321).

Despite the lesbian and transgender blabber, most ordinary readers will appreciate the ineluctable trend to heterosexual normativity in the narrative.

The lesbian main character, Amma, manifests the inherent heterosexual normativity of her gender when it is disclosed that “Yazz [her daughter] was the miracle she never thought she wanted, and having a child really did complete her, something she rarely confided because it somehow seemed anti-feminist” (36).

Moreover, the abstract importance of the heterosexual family is obvious, even among these lesbian and transgender characters.  For example, the crucial role of the mother is illustrated in one powerful line: “when your own mother pretends you don’t exist, it is like you are dead” (159).  Another female character acknowledges the inherent natural law against lesbianism when she objects to her husband’s approval of Amma’s lesbianism thus: “it’s not that she’s backwards or anti-gay, it’s more of a gut response to something that doesn’t feel natural” (234).

Of course, given the leftist politics of the characters, heterosexual normativity is never completely respected and is often disparaged.  For example, Dominique and her lover Laverne reverse the usual practice of marriage between a man and a woman (getting married first and then having children) by adopting children and then entering a “marriage” which may be legal but not sacramental.  Similarly, the heterosexual appreciation of unborn children is negated in this work.  One character views unborn children as “fatherless timebombs” (128); the concern for fatherlessness is evident again in another character who “had three kids […] / who’d grow up with no fathers in their lives” (212).

One character’s anguish over being adopted (a variation of heterosexual normativity to some, but excruciating for her) is painfully succinct: “she was an orphan / a bastard / unwanted / rejected” (282).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a feminist take on the British family in the 1950s and 1960s if the novel did not include a Tarzan-like summary of patriarchy at work (in the tired language of feminist theory, “oppressing women”), as one character’s husband puts it: “me hunter – you homemaker / me breadwinner – you bread-maker / me child maker – you child raiser” (289).

Given all of the above, it is surprising, then, that, despite all the feminist, lesbian, and transgender instances which could have been vehicles to indoctrinate readers to their respective philosophies, the novel ends with an eminently heterosexual resolution.  Hattie, an old matriarch who had never disclosed that her father had taken her bastard daughter away from her and who never knew what happened to the baby, reunites joyously with her daughter at novel’s end.

While feminists, lesbians, and transgender persons, therefore, may not appreciate this denouement, the rest of us ordinary readers will laugh at the leftist lunacies scattered in the 452 pages and then simply rejoice over a happy ending.

This was the third of five novels I examined for a presentation before a scholarly audience on recent transgender literature and the right-to-life issues.  My recommendation is that it is neither worthwhile nor necessary to purchase this novel (especially not from Amazon, which supports pro-abortion politicians), but pro-life readers may want to borrow it from their local libraries instead.

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Book reviews

M-E Girard’s Girl Mans Up (HarperTeen, 2016)

A typical teen abortion novel with transgender stuff thrown in for no sufficient reason except to try to make a longwinded narrative sexy, read only if you must write a report for school or college.

Pen, the main character, is supposed to be a lesbian and transgender character, but most readers would conclude that wanting to style her hair or wear jeans as men do isn’t a sufficient reason for a biological female to pursue an aggressive LGBTQ lifestyle, which distorts heterosexual normativity.

The abortion episode in the novel is just as irrelevant as the transgender ones.  The father abandons both mother and unborn child, the child is killed, and the teen lovers split up.  Pen’s role is the same as any other collaborator in the abortion killing.  Her being transgender has nothing to do with the killing of the unborn child.

Finally, the sexual scenes in the novel are standard fare for publishers to entice teens to read their books.  The lesbian sex scenes are juvenile and laughable.  Somewhat more interesting are the depictions of the male characters who obviously have not learned what male sexuality is all about.  Pen’s video-game buddies, the males in Pen’s high school, all think that male sexuality just concerns ejaculation.  These boys have obviously swallowed the secularist philosophy of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, which grooms young people to think that sex is an activity that anybody can (and must) engage in solely for pleasure.  Is it possible those selfish sacks of male hormones will realize that sex is an expression of love between a husband and wife for the two purposes of uniting them in intense sexual pleasure and having their activity be open to the creation of new life?

Nah, these boys just want to squirt.  As one says, “I just wanna have fun and get laid” (30).

More interesting, however, are the passages where Pen’s language falters as she considers her gender dysphoria.  She knows she is a biological female; she recognizes that she is “a girl” (323) and that “Girls can’t decide they’re not girls anymore” (335).  The reader should therefore feel some compassion for how screwed up she has become in not understanding that her gender was not “assigned” at birth, but recognized.

Pen’s confusion over language can be illustrated by two passages.  The first regards the words “dude” vs. “girl”: “It’s like one second, I should be a better dude.  I should stop being such a girly douche, and I should just man up.  Then, it’s the opposite: I’m too much of a guy, and it’s not right.  I should be a girl, because that’s what I’m supposed to be” (42).

The second passage questions language which offered standard definitions in American English for years, some for centuries, to denote sexual deviancy in general:

“I don’t think of myself as being gay, because that word sounds like it belongs to some guy.  Lesbian makes me think of some forty-year-old woman.  And queer feels like it can mean anything, but like—am I queer because I like girls, or because I look the way I do?  Maybe I don’t know enough words” (65; italics in original)

Is this novel worth reading?  It can be if you must write a report for school.  It can be worthwhile if only to illustrate that even transgender authors like Girard will eventually produce novels which support heterosexual normativity.  It can even be helpful to show that transgender authors incorrectly presume that they must write pro-abortion works when they should realize that being transgender has nothing to do with abortion, which harms women, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers—an eminently heterosexual thing for them to consider, which may account for their difficulty in depicting abortion episodes from the real world.

This was the second of five novels I examined for a presentation before a scholarly audience on recent transgender literature and the right-to-life issues.  My recommendation is that it is neither worthwhile nor necessary to purchase this novel (especially not from Amazon, which supports pro-abortion politicians), but pro-life readers may want to borrow it from their local libraries instead.

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Book reviews

Vickie Weaver’s Billie Girl (Leapfrog Press, 2010)

A typical anti-motherhood and pro-euthanasia narrative, Weaver’s novel almost makes the reader happy that the godforsaken eponymous main character commits suicide at novel’s end.

Weaver’s novel traces the life of Billie Girl from babyhood to old age.  Abandoned by her parents, raised by transgender “mothers”, manipulated by a boy who wanted her to masturbate him, and living with various men who use her as their sexual objects, one would hope that a woman who undergoes these abuses would realize that she has the opportunity to rise above her trauma, to love life, and to help others.

Unfortunately, Billie illustrates the opposite, and so the novel repeats a common plot of women with tragic lives who perpetuate tragedy in fellow human beings.  Billie does not change her life’s trajectory from being a victim to overcoming bad influences in her life.  She will continue to slither from one man to another, never considering that marriage is a sacrament.  The sexual activity she engages in with the various men in her life is just something to do to occupy her time.  Billie’s philosophy is succinctly offered in the ambiguous claim that “We do what we have to do” (132).

Most distressing, however, is Billie’s adoption of standard anti-life ideas.  She never wanted her stillborn child because “I had never wanted to be a mother” (132).  Moreover, like other novels with characters who deny motherhood or who support abortion, Billie’s attitude toward the elderly is explicitly anti-life.  She calls the elderly in the nursing home where she resides “other old, useless, decomposing human beings—most of them not in their right minds” [221].  The cavalier way in which she describes killing people is remarkable.  The tortured syntax of saying that “The next two residents I sent on their way” (225) is brutal, yet a literary gem.  Killing a nursing home resident because “She had pooped in the bed” (228) almost gives the reader delight, if not a sense of divine justice, in knowing that such an evil person as Billie eventually commits suicide.

Billie thus has a didactic function to perform for contemporary readers.  Pro-life readers can use Weaver’s novel to be vigilant against those who disrespect human life, whether the life of others or their own.

This was the first of five novels I examined for a presentation before a scholarly audience on recent transgender literature and the right-to-life issues.  My recommendation is that it is neither worthwhile nor necessary to purchase this novel (especially not from Amazon, which supports pro-abortion politicians), but pro-life readers may want to borrow it from their local libraries instead.