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Book Reviews

Lives that Speak: Stories of Twentieth-Century Quakers

edited by Marnie Clark
published by by the Religious Education Committee of Friends General Conference, 2004
pages: 168
reviewed Spring 2013

The idea for this little book was a good one—tell stories of some modern Quakers and what they did, for middle school students. Alas, the execution of this project didn’t work out at all well, at least not for me.

The choices of whose lives to discuss include only one non-American. Some of the stories are written in first person (in whole or in part) while others confuse present tense verbs with past tense verbs. The language is mostly too complex for middle school students. Basically, too many details, not enough story.

At the end of each life story is a short series of questions and in a couple of instances a little puzzle is included. Alas, I really cannot recommend this book.

Letters from Lillian: Faith and Practice Among Liberal Quakers

by Elizabeth Boardman
published 2012, pages: 140
reviewed by Roena Oesting, Winter 2013

I really wish I had liked this book better. The premise is that two old friends—one a Quaker and one not—engage in an email conversation about their lives, their faith, and what it means to be a Quaker in today’s world. Good premise.

For me, though, it didn’t work out very well. It may partly be that I have never liked epistolary novels anyway, but I found that I lost interest about half-way through the book.

It might be just fine for those who are starting on the Quaker path, especially so for those who enjoy series of letters.

Henry J. Cadbury, Friendly Heritage, 1972

reviewed by Roena Oesting, Fall 2012

A compilation of short articles Cadbury wrote for the Friends Journal from 1941-1969. Each article is one or two pages long.

To give you just a taste:

Letter 94: "Anent Quakers at Edinburgh" -how can you not like a title with the word "anent" in it? This is a none-so-flattering view of the "damnable sect of the Quakers, who being deluded by Satan_sundry of them walking through the streets naked except their shirts."

Letter 107: "A Moslem Diplomat the Quakers" explores a meeting February 8, 1682 between George Fox and three other Friends with the ambassador of the King of Morocco. After "listening gravely to the Quakers, he told them that though their religion might make them good men in this world, it would never take them to a better."

Letters 112, 175, 207, and 210: All dealing with the usage of thee, thou, and you- "Do I call thee you? Or do I call you thee?" Cadbury explores the change of language in both the US and Britain, with a few notes about other languages.

Letter 131: "Cap and All" reflects Cadbury's fascination with postage stamps. He discusses a series of four stamps from West Germany, including Elizabeth Fry.

Lawrie Tatum, Indian Agent: Quaker Values and Hard Choices

By Robert Hixson
published by Pendle Hill Pamphlet #238
reviewed by Roena Oesting, Fall 2012

President U. S. Grant decided that the corruption and profiteering that was rife on Indian reservations were part of the reason why Indian tribes were unwilling to make treaties with the US government and were still "on the warpath." He decided that he would appoint people recommended by religious groups to be superintendents or agents for various Indian groups.

Lawrie Tatum, a farmer from Iowa, was one of 4 Quakers appointed. He was sent to oversee 5,200 square miles-mostly in what is now Oklahoma-comprising primarily Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache tribes. Grant said: "If you can make Quakers out of the Indians, it will take the fight out of them."

This pamphlet outlines the 4-year experiment. Tatum had only minor success—included arranging the release of 26 women and children who had been kidnapped for ransom, finding reservation homes for several bands of Comanche and Kiowa, negotiating the return of some stolen horses and cattle. He resigned, and the final Indian wars began.

This pamphlet makes a great read, outlining a chapter of Quaker history most people are unaware of.

In Fox's Footsteps: a Journey through Three Centuries.

By David and Anthea Boulton
ISBN: 0-9511578-2, pages: 234
reviewed by Roena Oesting, Fall 2012

Read this book!! (I can't possibly put enough exclamation points on that sentence.) This is the story by a couple who walked the trail that George Fox took from Pendle Hill through the Yorkshire Dales to Swarthmoor in 1852.

Their walk was in 1994, and they followed as much as they could figure out of the exact tracks George Fox would have taken nearly 350 years earlier. They use George as a travelling companion, interspersing little chunks of his journal in theirs, and trying to find the exact houses, meeting houses, churches, inns, and pubs that George would have gone to. They find many of these places, and in others they find descendants of the people George writes about.

This book makes the best sense of the interconnection between the English Civil wars and the rise of the Quaker movement that I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them. It does it, though, in a very gentle way, like old friends just talking to you about their adventures.

The little details are what make the book. Example: Where did George get his money from? When and why does he change from being willing to support armed insurrection to being opposed to all war?

Here's a bit I really liked. They write about James Tennant, an early Quaker who eventually died in prison for his beliefs, "He died in 1674 and was buried in Scarhouse burial ground under a stone roughly carved JT 1674. The stone was later unearthed and used as a butter-slab in a dairy."

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