The Bookworm: Books about belief, in God and yourself

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Faith: A Journey for All”

“Faith: A Journey for All,” by former president Jimmy Carter

By Jimmy Carter

c. 2018, Simon & Schuster

$25.99, $34.99 Canada; 181 pages

Today, you are feeling secure.

The world’s woes don’t worry you this day. You know that you’ll want for nothing and that everything will turn out for the better, that your every need will be provided for. You know it will be so because, as in the new book “Faith: A Journey for All” by Jimmy Carter, you believe.

Starting when he was a small boy, Jimmy Carter has had faith, and it was wide: he had faith in his friends, an integrated bunch that lived in his small hometown; he had faith in his parents, who raised him right; and he had faith in God.

Back then, people weren’t as worldly as they are now and they stayed closer to home. Says Carter, most “contacts with the world beyond our community were limited” and the church was a necessary part of a family’s social life. But now?

“When I look back…” he says, “I can see how startling the changes have been.”

The challenge for believers today, he suggests, is complex. It’s absolutely imperative that we seek faith in order to find a “peaceful coexistence” and confront moral dilemmas, and that we maintain our faith inside and out. This can lead to a “source of joy and strength,” but it can also launch a journey. Finding faith “is a highly personal and subjective experience,” and holding onto it is equally individual.

Jimmy Carter, author of “Faith: A Journey for All”

It’s that last one that believers may struggle with. We need to remember, as Carter points out, that the answer to prayer isn’t always “Yes.” We must strive to recognize other religions, and to reconcile scientific facts with Biblical teachings as we understand them. And, surprisingly, Carter says pacifism is not a “necessary element” of Christianity.

As Carter shows, we can share faith by action, just like the people who inspire him: the founders of Habitat for Humanity; a driller of wells for those who lack safe water; a physician who works to eradicate tropical disease; and Billy Carter.

“My brother,” says Carter, “was an inspiration to me.”

Fans of author Jimmy Carter’s work rejoice; what you’ll find inside “Faith” is what you’d expect because this is one of Carter’s areas of expertise.

On the other hand, though, this book can be a hard read.

Much of what’s inside “Faith” has been said before, sometimes in Carter’s own previous works; in many cases, even the repetition is repeated, or ideas are phrased differently in the same paragraph. Readers may also notice circle-talk that just goes round and round and round, and a good amount of fluff that’s seemingly without point.

And yet, as he touches upon the tenets of faith that include one’s fellow man, Carter comments on current events and politics-as-unusual. That leads to scattered-here-and-there surprises, in which a Jimmy Carter we might barely know peeks between the lines…

This skinny book's appeal will rightfully be wide, but be aware that this challenge for readers may be a challenge to read. If you don’t think that’ll bother you, then “Faith” is a book to secure.

“Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!” by Marley Dias, introduction by Ava DuVernay

“Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!”

By Marley Dias, introduction by Ava DuVernay

c. 2018, Scholastic Press

$14.99, $19.99 Canada; 208 pages

I don’t like that.

How many times a day do you say those words? Surely you’ve been saying them all your life...about food, time-outs, bedtime, homework, curfews, clothes and a hundred other things. So you don’t like that. Read “Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You!” by Marley Dias and do something about it.

It all started with a stack of pancakes.

Marley Dias was having breakfast with her mom one morning when her mom asked: what's one thing you want to change this year?

It happened after Marley had just finished “a ridiculously amazing book” that “opened a whole new world.” That, and a required-reading list that was badly lacking in diversity led her to say that she wants change how “classic” books are viewed in schools. To be exact, schools needed more Black Girl books on their shelves.

“How can educators expect kids to love, instead of dread, reading,” she asks, “when they never see themselves in the stories they’re forced to read?”

And so, with the help of her parents, Marley created a hashtag (#1000blackgirlbooks) to match the idea she’d envisioned: to collect and donate to schools and libraries a thousand books featuring Black girls. Her parents started using the hashtag on their social media accounts and it spread and spread and soon, Marley’s campaign really took off. By now, she’s collected well beyond her original goal of 1000 books, and she’s donated them all.

But there’s more to this book, as you’ll see by “the very last word: You!” Yes, you can make change, and the first step is “get woke.” Look around: what are the biggest issues facing your community and how can you be the activist that’s needed?

Then, learn to listen and respect others’ thoughts. “Start small,” says Marley, and “Pace yourself.” Tell people about what you hope to accomplish and find your tribe. Ask your parents, teachers and other trusted adults for help and counsel, please.

And finally, educate yourself by reading. If you don’t know what to read, ask. Librarians, says Marley, are “super-helpful partners.”

Although the claim is that it’s really, really not a memoir, “Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You!” is a memoir. But that’s okay – its life-story theme doesn’t detract one bit from the bubbly can-do attitude that oozes from its pages.

As we’ve seen lately, kids can make change and author Marley Dias is a great activist ambassador for that. Readers will not only get advice on getting involved, they’ll also get chipper, gossipy information that make Dias approachable, like any normal teen. Parents should also note that Dias tackles the bad parts of life online, including trolls and haters, and she stresses to young readers that parental involvement is absolutely key.

For the 11-to-14-year-old who frets about being too young to create change, this book may spark some action. For sure, it’ll open young eyes to old issues and for that, “Marley Dias Gets it Done” is a book you’ll both like.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.