Title: Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics
Author: Alisa Harris
Acquired: The book was sent to me by Kate (The Parchment Girl) because I told her I was excited to read it; thanks Kate!
Review: I have to admit, part of the reason I wanted to Raised Right by Alisa Harris this book was a sort of voyeurism. As a person not raised going to church or even ascribing to a particular religious philosophy (other than my mom’s constant advice to “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you”), I have a really hard time understanding where religious, right-wing politicians are coming from when they so deeply connect religion and politics. In fact, it rubs me the wrong way so much that it’s almost impossible for me to take a candidate from the Religious Right seriously.
Harris’ memoir was, I think, a great vehicle for me to get stared trying to learn about this movement, in the sense that Harris and I have a similar sensibility (other than the whole religious upbringing thing), or at least a similar love for writing and writing as thinking. A former young journalist, Harris notes in the introduction that the book is as much a memoir as a way for her to write and explore her own faith and politics:
Writing is not just how I communicate my thoughts, but how I actually think. It’s the way an experience of fleeting thought becomes real to me instead of floating away. It’s the way I catch my thoughts and turn them over, testing their weight and deciding to keep them or throw them again. For me, to write is to become, and I can’t become that older, wiser person without skewering these youthful thoughts to paper without holding them up for my scrutiny and yours.
I should back up a little bit. In Raised Right, Harris writes about her upbringing in a deeply religious family that spent time picketing abortion clinics. Harris was home-schooled in a very Christian-Republican curriculum, where faith and Republican politics were deeply intertwined. After leaving for college, Harris was forced to start confronting the fact that the world is a more complex place, with more complex people, than she was raised to believe was possible.
Raised Right isn’t a perfect book, despite how much I enjoyed reading it. In her struggle to write her way to understanding, Harris loses a sort of cohesive narrative to the book. There’s not a good sense of time — when particular events take place to give them context — or forward momentum to the storytelling. The memoir is really more of a series of topical essays exploring issues like abortion, immigration, and poverty than a memoir as I tend to think of them.
I think what I liked about the book was the way that Harris constantly sought a more nuanced explanation for issues that we’ve been trained to see in black and white. Although sometimes, like with abortion, this leaves her without a clear stance on the issue, it does go to show that even thinking people can come to different — yet equally valid and acceptable — feelings on the same subject. In a public discourse that actively tries to discourage nuance, I thought this was refreshing and interesting.
I don’t think this is Harris’ final book that will explore the way faith and politics intersect and contradict each other, and for that I’m glad. Although she struggles to come to many conclusions in Raised Right, I appreciated learning about her life and seeing issues from a perspective that is well outside of my own.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!