Don’t judge a book by its author?

Day 5!

Bibliographic info:

This far by faith : Stories from the African American religious experience
Williams, Juan.  (Yes, that Juan Williams)

Summary (Booklist Review):

Williams, who wrote the companion volume to the award-winning PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize, and Dixie, an Indiana University professor, offer a well-illustrated companion volume to the upcoming PBS series “This Far by Faith.” They follow the traditional contours of other studies of African-American religious history, beginning with slavery and following the tale through the emergence of free black churches; the nadir of the late 19th century; the Great Migration; the rise of black nationalism and urban religious traditions in the early 20th century; the civil rights movement; and the embrace of alternative religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and the Five Percenters in the 1970s through the 1990s.

The quote on the front is from the very impressive Marian Wright Edelman

My Reaction:

It was hard for me to give this book a fair shake.  It really was after my own heart, the sepia toned cover art, the business card tucked inside (A vestige from a previous reader;  it was a funeral home business card.   Fodder for a an imagination yearning to run wild!)  But I just couldn’t shake the irritation I felt toward that Juan Williams.

The book is extremely well written.  It includes accounts from and about noted church leaders Richard Allen and Martin Luther King and lesser known but equally dynamic leaders, Reverend Albert B. Cleage (founder of The Shrine of the Black Madonna) and Absalom Jones (founder of the African Episcopal Church of St.Thomas).

I was going to say “conversely” it discusses the leadership of Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad but the tone of the book (mostly) suggests that there was a  commonality among all of the teachings  be they rooted in Christianity or Islam, and that was a message of empowerment.  As the title of the book states, a strong—unshakeable even in the darkest hours—faith is to be credited for allowing an oppressed people to come ‘this far”.

All of those beautiful sentiments kept feeling like a moot point when viewed beside the authors statement (made some years after the release of this book) that “when [he] get[s] on the plane… if  [he] see[s] people who are in Muslim garb [he] think[s]…they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, [he] get[s] worried. [He] get[s] nervous.”

The book included a very involved chapter on Ibrahima Abdul Rahman “The Prince” in which Juan discusses the obstacles that Ibrahima faced as a Muslim Minority on a Christian plantation.  He’s has intimate knowledge of the goodness and decency of Ibrahima which he eloquently discussed. Williams also authored ‘Eyes on the Prize’, the prize being freedom and equality.  Does Ibrahima and his ilk—Muslims—not deserve the same prize?


9 thoughts on “Don’t judge a book by its author?

  1. Why is everyone giving Juan a hard time…. I think he was brave enough to express his feelings when it comes to Muslims….would it be bad to say..some Moslem folks make me nervous too…lol

    • If the ‘klu klux klan’ weren’t a bunch of cowards behind sheets, then they would make me edgy too, if they traveled in gear. Yeah- right!

    • I’m not mad that Juan had those feelings. He’s just too much of a public figure to express those sentiments. Especially in a co-sign (even if it was a half hearted co-sign) with Bill Oreilly!

  2. I would love to read this book myself, as well as view the bibliography to see what sources he used in researching his topic and developing his characters. Your insight into the book is intriguing. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks!

  3. Very interesting, I don’t care too much for reading or watching the news, therefore in true ignorant fashion I can say- “watcha talkin’ bout Asha?”, lol. No really, Some of the best presenters of information can still hold within their heart contempt, fear, and prejudice towards the subjects of their prose. Obviously his writing wasn’t enough to move him into thinking better even if he knew better. So since he didnt convince himself, I know he’s not going to convince a non reader like myself- so I’ll pass, thanks for the short synopsis.

    • yeah girl. the writing was so inspired so I would have thought maybe Juan Williams really saw the beauty of Islam…and you know what maybe he did. I will concede that one can love Islam (Aliyyah Tee! lol!) and still feel some kind of prejudice toward members of the faith—but I still maintain that it was irresponsible of him to broadcast those feelings. Especially when he knows (through his writing/research he became kind of intimate with our plight as minorities in this society) that we’re fighting an up hill battle to be seen as up standing citizens. knaamean?

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