Stephanie is a troubled and angry young woman who also happens to be a brilliant composer and musician . . . and a drug addict. This is a story of real life struggles, change, acceptance, and redemption.
Before I go any further, let me say that this is a Christian novel, and I am not a Christian, so I hope I judge it fairly. In addition, I am not musically inclined and have never used drugs, so I can’t relate to a lot of the situations in the book, but I still enjoyed it.
When the book began, I really did not like Stephanie’s character. She was hateful, rude, and violent. I chalked it up to the fact that drugs make people into different people—the kind no one wants to be around. MINOR SPOILER ALERT: When Stephanie has a sudden transformation, she became very likable, and I have to admit, that I was a little insulted with the implication in the novel that this was solely a result of her becoming a Christian. However, it may be that I just interpreted it that way, and perhaps when she quit doing drugs because of a supernatural strength from God, that, in turn, made her a nicer person. But don’t think you know what’s going to happen. There are some twists and turns in this novel.
The author, Melissa Service manages to keep the reader turning pages with some interesting characters and some other-worldly action. But what I liked best about this book was the message of acceptance. Service is able to elicit a sense of responsibility in the reader to help his fellow man—to see others who are different from us through the eyes of a loving mother or a heart-broken father. Definitely worth the read. 4 out of 5 stars.—Christina Knowles
Polarity Weeks was already having a rough time of it. Switching schools, dealing with her mother’s Borderline Personality Disorder, and struggling to fit in are hard enough, but Polarity is shocked to discover that her latest problem has nothing to do with anything she or her family has done. When a nude photo of her suddenly begins to circulate among the students at her high school and on the internet, she has no idea where it came from or what to do about it. This novel deals with the all-too-real issues faced by the modern teenager living in a high tech age while navigating the age old problems of friends, parents, school, and popularity.
I really loved this book. At first I was turned off by the title and the main character’s name, but there is actually a touching story behind the name, Polarity. Although this book is categorized as a romance, it is so much more than that. It’s an intriguing mystery, which kept me turning the pages. It’s about bullying and relationships and about dealing with teenage drama in high school. It’s about dealing with parents and mental illness. It’s about issues with social media and technology and about being powerless in the system. It’s about growth and prejudice, and it’s about finding out who you are, who you are becoming, and who you want to be.
But my favorite part of the book, the part that struck an emotional chord in me, was the horrifying reality of Polarity’s daily tight-rope act of dealing with her mother’s mental illness. It was beautifully written and realistic. I didn’t know much about Borderline Personality Disorder, but I assume Vicars did her research because Polarity’s mom was startlingly real. Vicars manages to make the reader sympathetic to Mrs. Weeks, even while hoping for Polarity to escape her verbal and emotional abuse.
Vicars also writes Polarity’s character so smoothly that she seamlessly grows throughout the story from a passive introvert into a strong-willed and confident girl without ever seeming like a different person. I love a book that leaves me wanting more, and I want to know what happens in her life next. I enjoyed Ethan, the grandmother, and Polarity’s father as well.
As a high school teacher, I’m going to tell my students that this is a must-read! It would also be great to teach in a class because of the character growth and symbolism in the story. I just recently read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and really enjoyed it, but I think I actually enjoyed this one even more! Highly recommend. 5 out of 5 stars.–Christina Knowles
Turning 50 is supposed to be some kind of milestone, right? I should be feeling down about crossing over the threshold of another decade. But I’m not—at all. On the contrary, I have never felt better about myself. And it has nothing to do with how physically fit I am (LOL). It has everything to do with being comfortable with who I am and where I am in my life.
I have heard many women say that getting older is very freeing, and I find it to be so true. I have never cared less about what other people think about me. I mean this in the best possible way. It’s like I just don’t have time for bullshit anymore. I am who I am, and I am more and more unwilling to act like I’m anything else. I say my opinion, and if you agree, fine. If you don’t, I respectfully don’t care.
I am getting some gray hair, my wrinkles are taking up more and more space on my face, and I have put on a few pounds since last year. I, personally, think I look great. I am healthy and happy. I like me.
I recently started teaching college; I have left my comfort zone to teach things I have never taught before this year, and I am ROCKING it. My professional life is progressing in wonderful directions. I am planning the publication of my second book this year, a book of poetry, I’m working on a short story collection, and I have an absolutely fabulous novel in progress. I have many more plans in the works professionally as well. There’s a certain respect, which I enjoy, now that I have years of experience under my belt as well.
I am completely in love with my husband and couldn’t be happier in that realm. I look forward to growing old with someone with whom I can be completely myself. My relationship with my daughter has blossomed into the adult friendship of love and mutual respect I always hoped it would. I have numerous interests and enjoy so much about my life.
I have the most amazing friends and enjoy many adventures and fun times with them. Getting older really allows for much more satisfying friendships because I don’t have time for bullshit in that realm either. My friends and I share our lives on an honest, bullshit-free level with no drama. This is the way friendship should be.
I know who I am, what’s important to me, and the way I want to live my life. My philosophy, beliefs, and my political opinions are well-established. I’m done worrying over such things or caring about what other people think about my views.
And the weird thing about getting older, which is also very cool, is that with the exception of this straightforward feeling of freedom about who I am, I still feel like who I have always been. I still feel like the excited little girl opening her birthday presents, the little girl who can’t sleep late on Christmas morning because she is too excited to open presents, and the little girl who loves to walk barefoot in the damp grass, picking daisies to put in her starting-to-gray hair. That will always be me, and I’m glad.—Christina Knowles 🙂
This week I was confronted with the fact that numerous girls from the age of 16-18 hold views of gender equality, or should I say inequality, that are more akin to what I expect from their male counterparts of the same age. I teach in a somewhat, okay, very conservative high school, but still, these students have embraced openly homosexual and transgendered students with fairly open arms. Yet these same students hold the view that women should be submissive to men, that it is a good idea to stay home and let husbands take care of them, and that many jobs traditionally held by men should continue to be held by men to the exclusion of women.
It seems that no matter how prevalent racism is, no matter how discrimination still subsists against the homosexual community, and no matter how much prejudice remains against those who practice certain religions or no religion at all, the final holdout will likely be biases based on gender. It makes me wonder with all the racist comments directed against our first black president, who happens at least to be a man, what kind of degradation will a future female president be made to endure. I have to ask myself, Why?
Well, here’s my theory. America is a country where, according to a Pew Research Poll (2012), 73% identify as Christian (PewResearch). And although sexism is a factor in many religions, including Judaism, I often hear many comments about Islam’s blatant sexism, which I don’t deny, but the sexism inherent in Christianity is a much more subtle, and therefore, easier to ignore type of oppression, and with 73% of Americans theoretically accepting the bible as God’s word, I wondered if this is the root of our tenacious American version of sexism.
Of course, the bible condemns homosexuality, and yet, there seems to be a trend to accept that as a lifestyle more and more. Still, being raised in the Christian religion myself, I know, firsthand, the views of women’s roles according to “God.” I have heard from the pulpit of at least a dozen churches that women are to be submissive to their husbands, should not rule over a man, that woman was made for man, women were created to be man’s helper, and that a woman is to keep the home, stay silent in church, and ask her husband if she has any questions.
Of course, all of this is biblical. This archaic message continues to be heard from thousands of pulpits today, even in the 21st century. It really is quite shocking—yet, many Americans aren’t shocked at all. Why?
I believe that women are complicit in their own sexist treatment as a result of being subtly conditioned by a predominantly Christian culture to find sexist treatment desirable, flattering, sexy, and even loving. Again, from the pulpit I’ve heard ridiculous explanations of the stories in the bible twisted to make the degradation of women seem acceptable. I’ve heard a pastor say that Adam only ate of the forbidden fruit because he didn’t want Eve to be condemned without him. Sure, that is a much more romantic way of blaming Eve for the downfall of mankind. And everyone’s heard the feel-good twist on the creation of Adam and Eve. The real bible story goes that Adam was created first, and then Eve was made from his rib to be his “helpmate” because it was “not good for man to be alone.” The modern version of this story is that Eve was taken from Adam’s rib to symbolize how she walks next to him—not in front of him, not behind him, but equal to him.
I guess someone should have told this version to Paul. This is what he has to say on the subject in I Timothy 2: 11-15: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (Biblegateway.com). Apparently, Paul, and God by extrapolation, believe that because Eve came after Adam and was first to be deceived, women now and forever after must keep their mouths shut, be submissive, know their place in the church and at home, and if they do their job of birthing children, there may still be hope for them. So much for walking side by side in equality.
And, of course, there is always the “Chivalry” justification. I’ve heard from the pulpit that women, as the “weaker vessel” are to be treated like a priceless vase or precious fine china. They need the protection of a man, and this, unfortunately, means protecting them from doing really hard stuff like having authority over a man. Where was all this delicate treatment when women had to marry their rapists or were being offered up to be molested in the place of angels in Sodom and Gomorrah, by a man who was deemed “righteous” in God’s eyes? Naturally, there is an “explanation” for this as well.
Gotquestions.org is a popular site dedicated to answering the unanswerable questions and contradictions in the bible. This is what they have to say about Lot’s righteousness: “Based on what is revealed about Lot’s life, one might wonder if he was righteous. However, there is no doubt that God had declared him to be positionally righteous, even during his time in Sodom . . . At some point Lot had believed in the coming Messiah, and that faith resulted in a righteous standing before God. It is likely that Lot’s uncle, Abraham, had passed this truth down to him” (Gotquestions.org). So he was only considered righteous because he had once believed in the coming Messiah, which contradicts numerous teachings regarding apostates who “turn from the faith” and are commonly thought to never have been converted in the first place. My point is that our culture seems to accept every despicable treatment of women justified by religion as long as we sugarcoat it.
But the absolute craziest thing I’ve heard lately came from a conversation I had with a local bible guru who hosts a Christian radio question and answer show in Denver, Colorado. This talk show host actually used the “protection” reasoning to justify polygamy as being superior to homosexual marriage. Now, I’m sure he would deny that he was justifying polygamy. However, he claims that there are times and cultural demands that present polygamy as the only viable option for women to live safely and be protected. He says, for example, in the bible, that God allowed polygamy for the protection of women. He states that sometimes, in a certain culture where men hold the power and status, and there are not enough men to go around, women would be on the street without polygamy. He says it isn’t God’s ideal plan, but God allows it because the culture requires a redefinition of marriage. Yet he denies that we can redefine marriage to include same sex marriage based on our changing culture. It also seems the double-standard never works in favor of women because when I asked him if the reverse would be true—if a culture dominated by women existed, wherein women held the power, the status, the jobs, and there were fewer men than women, if women should have more than one husband to protect the men, he declined to answer, and instead, changed the subject.
It is no revelation that sexism is rooted in traditional religions. However, it is the subtle acceptance of this legitimatized sexism among mainstream and nice people that makes it so insidious and pervasive. According to a study published by Psychology of Women Quarterly, the effects of what psychologists, Burn and Busso, call Benevolent Sexism, wherein women are complicit in their own oppression due to the religious and cultural reframing of said oppression, biblical literalism is at the root of this problem. Burn and Busso find that their studies “do suggest that religiosity is correlated with BS [Benevolent Sexism]. Thus, a consideration of the various forces that contribute to women’s lower power and status should include religion. Religion is frequently a central part of a culture and many religions communicate to their followers that men’s greater power and status relative to women is appropriate and acceptable. Although this perspective is presented ‘benevolently’ rather than ‘hostilely,’ the net effect is still to support gender inequality—especially because women as well as men tend to endorse it. Not only does BS justify traditional gender roles but it also pacifies women’s resistance to gender subordination by masking gender inequality with the cloak of chivalry (e.g., men need women and should protect and cherish them” (Glick & Fiske, 2001a, 2001b). “BS rooted in religion may be a significant obstacle to gender equality when it is rooted in literal scriptural interpretations and is essentially nonfalsifiable because there is no arguing with the word of God” (Burn, Busso, p.6). Burn and Busso quote Anwar’s 1999 study “Theological alternatives to religious fundamentalism” that states “common features of religious fundamentalism include a belief that society needs to be rescued from secularism, a commitment to the authority of the ancient scriptures, and the idealization of a past where gender spheres were separate and women were modest and subordinate” (Anwar, qtd in Burn and Busso, p. 1).
The churches I grew up in and have attended at various points throughout my life claim not to be fundamentalist, just bible-believing, but they would all fit the above criteria. I don’t deny that there are many factors involved in the lingering and acceptable sexism persistent in the American culture besides religious justification and the “dressing up” of gender stereotyping and behavior. However, I do believe that a culture that teaches women that it is God who demands a subordinate role, and that this role is righteous and good, will continue the “benevolent” oppression of women, and that this acceptable oppression will not confine itself to benevolent acts and innocuous sexist views of women, if there is such a thing. As our culture moves beyond stereotypical assignments of roles to various people groups, the advancement of women as equal human partners in the modern world requires an abandoning of this acceptance of literal interpretations of the bible and of the adherence to ancient biblical writings as divine law that should be imposed on a modern society. As long as religious leaders use the divinity of scripture as justification for the subordinate treatment of women, effectively blaming God for their prejudice, and as long as they condition and pressure women to accept this treatment as the will of God, gender inequality will continue to exist in our society.
If, indeed, there is a god, I am sure this god is very disturbed at the thought of men using an ancient book written by men as a justification to inflate themselves and to persecute half of creation in his . . . or her name. –Christina Knowles