Women's History Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an openly accessible book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Reviews to Read

Say What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer, and Poetry in Iran

By Niloofar Haeri

From the review:

“Overall, Haeri’s work pushes back against the scholastic and journalistic trend to focus on the legalistic aspects of Islam and, more specifically, in Iran, to offer a view of the joy, sobriety, seriousness, and creativity of being Muslim in Iran. It is also a great example of how a thorough and ethnographically rich book need not be long to be productive. In only 162 pages, Haeri takes us on an accessible journey...“ - Candace Mixon

Finding Phoebe: What New Testament Women Were Really Like

By Susan E Hylen

From the review:

“There is much to discover by reflecting on important communities of the past. Hylen—perhaps a Phoebe herself in our current context—brilliantly adds to this conversation by elevating women often forgotten by history.” - Jane Curry

We Will Be Free: The Life and Faith of Sojourner Truth

By Nancy Koester

From the review:

“To write about a historical or cultural icon is a brave undertaking. Not only must the project engage its readers, but also it must offer them insight into some under-inspected aspect of the subject’s life and work—shed light on a stone unturned by previous scholars. In We Will Be Free: The Life and Faith of Sojourner Truth, Nancy Koester’s focus on the life and faith of Sojourner Truth, neé Isabella, accomplishes both...”  - Crystal J. Lucky

The Lives of Jessie Sampter: Queer, Disabled, Zionist

By Sarah Imhoff

From the review:

“It is clear that, for Imhoff, Sampter is not just a research subject or a historical figure; she is an example of the ways everyone embodies paradoxes and complexities in their daily lives, and for Imhoff, she is even, at times, a friend. Imhoff may be a ‘historian who loves too much,’ as historian Jill Lepore described biographers and microhistorians, but her work—and our understanding of embodied theology and politics—is better for it.” - Brittany Acors

Gods, Goddesses, and the Women Who Serve Them

By Susan Ackerman

From the review:

“[T]his volume displays Ackerman’s masterful ability to animate an ancient world for a modern readership. I hope Ackerman’s essay collection, in addition to serving a convenient reference, will inspire continued research on these important topics.” – Chadd Feyas 

Available for Review

bell hooks' Spiritual Vision: Buddhist, Christian, and Feminist

By Nadra Nittle

From the publisher:
“When Black feminist and scholar bell hooks died in 2021, she was widely remembered for writing more than three dozen books across genres including memoir, poetry, theory, and criticism. However, it was her book Ain't I a Woman, in which hooks examines how Black American women have historically faced gender, class, and racial oppression, that catapulted her to prominence as a leading feminist thinker.

Nadra Nittle makes it clear that hooks identified not only as a feminist but also as a Buddhist Christian. In bell hooks' Spiritual Vision, Nittle recounts how hooks kept her spiritual practice private for years, fearing there was no room to discuss her faith in the feminist movement or in the academy. Ultimately, hooks decided to talk and write about her faith to give hope to students curious about her source of strength in a society she deemed an ‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.’”


Women Who Do: Female Disciples in the Gospels

By Holly J. Carey

From the publisher:
“To be a disciple is to follow Jesus. And that requires action. But in the gospels, the disciples often falter. The Twelve even abandon Jesus at his crucifixion in many of the narratives. Yet it is female disciples who remain faithful to Jesus to the end. What do we make of this?
In Women Who Do, Holly J. Carey examines what it means to be a disciple—and contends that it’s the women who best embody discipleship in the gospels. Carey describes the expectations and social roles for women in first-century Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts. Then she offers a close reading of each of the four gospels, as well as Acts of the Apostles. What emerges is a cohesive narrative-critical case that the Twelve are not an equivalent group to the disciples. In fact, the Twelve are set as foils against the faithful, active, and often nameless disciples who populate the narratives—many of whom are women.”



Women, Households, and the Hereafter in the Qur'an: A Patronage of Piety

By Karen Bauer and Feras Hamza

From the publisher:
“It is commonly understood that the Qur'an sought to transform social and religious practices in its seventh-century Arabian milieu. Yet the nature of that transformation is debated, especially as it relates to women, warfare, kinship and community. This book offers a fresh perspective by undertaking the first historical-critical study of all the Qur'an's verses on women, who were integral to this transformation, and by offering an initial overview of households and patronage — late antique social structures that took the place of formal state structures in the Qur'an's tribal milieu. The findings of this study call into question common approaches to Qur'anic theology, law, and narratives, to the nature of the early community, and to women's place in that community. . .”



Hidden Histories: Faith and Black Lesbian Leadership

By Monique Moultrie

From the publisher:
“In Hidden Histories, Monique Moultrie collects oral histories of Black lesbian religious leaders in the United States to show how their authenticity, social justice awareness, spirituality, and collaborative leadership make them models of womanist ethical leadership. By examining their life histories, Moultrie frames queer storytelling as an ethical act of resistance to the racism, sexism, and heterosexism these women experience. She outlines these women’s collaborative, intergenerational, and leadership styles, and their concerns for the greater good and holistic well-being of humanity and the earth. She also demonstrates how their ethos of social justice activism extends beyond LGBTQ and racialized communities and provides other models of religious and community leadership. Addressing the invisibility of Black lesbian religious leaders in scholarship and public discourse, Moultrie revises modern understandings of how race, gender, and sexual identities interact with religious practice and organization in the twenty-first century.”


Keeping Women in Their Digital Place: The Maintenance of Jewish Gender Norms Online

By Ruth Tsuria

From the publisher:
“In Orthodox Judaism, Halacha—the legal code derived from the Torah and the Talmud—constructs and determines Jewish life, informing not only practices of prayer and holiday observance but also financial behavior, personal relationships, and gender roles. Given the central importance of rabbinical Halachic guidance for everyday Jewish life, the unregulated spaces of the internet have posed a critical challenge to Orthodox communities in recent decades, particularly regarding norms around gender and sex.

In Keeping Women in Their Digital Place, Ruth Tsuria explores how Orthodox Jewish communities in the United States and Israel have used “digital enclaves”—online safe havens created specifically for their denominations—to renegotiate traditional values in the face of taboo discourse encountered online. Combining a personal narrative with years of qualitative analysis, Tsuria examines how discussions in blogs and forums and on social media navigate issues of modesty, dating, marriage, intimacy, motherhood, and feminism. Unpacking the complexity of religious uses of the internet, Tsuria shows how the participatory qualities of digital spaces have been used both to challenge accepted norms and—more pervasively—to reinforce traditional and even extreme attitudes toward gender and sexuality.”