HDS’s 2020 Summer Reading List

July 9, 2020
Eboni Nash, MTS '21
Eboni Nash, MTS '21, surrounded by books on her reading list this summer. Photo courtesy Eboni Nash

Summer has always been a time to catch up on that ever-growing reading list, whether it be for work, for pleasure, or, this summer, for knowledge and strength in these uncertain times. Below, members of the HDS community shared what they’re reading.

Eboni Nash, MTS ’21, HDS Student Association social justice chair

A typical summer for me would consist of one or two novels, and a social justice focused reading. As many of us have gathered, the summer of 2020 is not a typical summer. Intentionally, I have decided to consume crucial conversations surrounding social justice.

At the top of my reading list, I have The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Mathew Horace and Ron Harris. Following that, I plan to read As Black As Resistance: Finding The Conditions for Liberation by Mariame Kaba. These are two very focused books, however, I think they will have their own sets of objectives that will complement each other well.

To wrap up my summer, I plan on reading Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman and Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know by Malcom Gladwell.

I always like to end the summer on a thoughtful but reflecting read to clear my mind and prepare my soul for the fall semester. It is important personally for me to alternate dense and relaxing reads to stretch and care for my mind. Reading is an investment within ourselves, and I am looking forward to collecting more great suggestions throughout community conversations.

Ariella Ruth Goldberg, Center for the Study of World Religions events coordinator

This summer I am looking forward to reading Little Labors by Rivka Galchen and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Both books have been on my reading list for a while, but as I recently became a mother (my daughter was born in early March, right before the pandemic lockdown) I am eager to engage in topics of motherhood through literature.

In the last few months I’ve mostly been immersed in children’s books with my daughter, such as The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (a favorite from my childhood) and A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara (a new favorite), among others, but have recently begun reading Little Labors to her aloud as she sleeps in her snuggly. This book really speaks to me in this moment: both the stream of consciousness style and short vignettes are such relatable glimpses into my own experience as a new mother. I’m also excited to delve into The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson which has been hovering in my sphere for quite a while. I’m interested in exploring the way she depicts pregnancy, motherhood, and her evolving relationship with her partner in this memoir.

As a poet myself I have always been fascinated by how the topic of motherhood manifests in different genres, and how the act of living a creative life and “making work” is similar or dissimilar to conceiving, giving birth to, and raising a child.

Quardricos Driskell, MTS ’08, legislative and political affairs manager, American Urological Association; adjunct professor of legislative politics at George Washington University; senior pastor at Beulah Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA.

Georg Friedrich Hegel said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” Memory is a part of history, but memory and history are not the same. There is a national memory, the ghosts of yesteryears have emerged again in 2020, a memory of an America that was great—an America that was not troubled by people like me.

But history can tell the real truth, and as James Baldwin understood, history is present in all that we do. As such, I will spend this summer thinking about relatedness of memory and history and the future (Sankofa) by reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, 150 Years of Obamacare by Daniel E. Dawes, The Tradition (an assortment of poems) by Jericho Brown, and The Ground has Shifted: The Future of the Black Church in Post-Racial America by Walter E. Fluker.

I have rediscovered Zora Neal Hurston, who famously wroteTheir Eyes Were Watching God, and Hurston’s New York Times bestseller Barracoon, which published posthumously is the account of the one last surviving enslaved people of the Clotilda—Cudjo “Kossula” Lewis. What is particularly fascinating and deeply spiritual about this late work is the art of storytelling—retelling and remembering—at the intersection of history and memory that creates a subtle capacity for survival, resilience, and leadership enabling us through the narrative of Kossula to achieve a shared purpose in the face of uncertainty.

The 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner, Jericho Brown bounds a collection of poetry that questions why and how terror in our society has managed to become traditions. A combination of sonnets and ghazels, the collection of poems situated in beauty for me journeys through the landscape of history and memory—how did we arrive here? But more importantly, how do we end?

150 Years of Obamacare, does not simply explore the history of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it also demystifies our understanding of health reform while analyzing the health equity movement and the leadership efforts to promote mental, minority, and universal healthcare. This work is particularly relevant for my career in health politics given that COVID-19 as beyond exposed the health disparities in our healthcare ecosystems.

This last work is again one of both history and memory and is particularly compelling to me as I lead a historical Black church that celebrates 157 years this year. My work as clergy has centered on “spiritual innovation,” creating spaces and challenging traditional notions of religion and spirituality in ways that lead to socially transformative conversations and political action.

Dr. Walter Fluker, a renowned scholar of ethical leadership and recently retired as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership at Boston University and an academic mentor mine while a student at Morehouse College, discusses in his personal, yet academic and thought-provoking work on the historical and current role of the Black church that archaic, race-based language, traditions, and metaphors of religious discourse have outlived its utility.

Contrast today’s Black Lives Movement with that of the Civil Rights Movement: one started by three queer-identifying Black women and the other by Black cisgender clergymen. What does this post-racial, or most-racial America mean for the future of the church largely and the Black church particularly?

Michelle Sanchez, Associate Professor of Theology

My summer reading this year—with some physical books but many more using online access!—is guided by two related projects: a student-led reading group on the relationship between Christian supremacy and white supremacy; and research for my next book, which looks at the significance of the neo-Calvinist/Evangelical adoption of Weltanschauung (worldview) as an organizing pedagogical concept.

The reading group has a working consensus on the basic operations of white supremacy, so we’re building off of that to focus on Christian supremacy: What is it? How are material, legal, cultural, and theological modalities related? Can we responsibly distinguish between non-supremacist and supremacist Christianity? And what are the precise ways Christianity has intersected with, led, or supported the material and ideological development of white supremacy?

We’ve begun by pairing Katharine Gerbner’s Christian Slavery with several essays by Sylvia Wynter, including “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being” and “The Re-enchantment of Humanism.” We’re adding books and articles as we go, but in coming weeks we expect to return to J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account and Willie Jennings’ The Christian Imagination with these questions in mind.

Alongside this, I’m working through two other reading lists: books on the imagination and worldview in Kant, German Idealism, Romanticism, and historicism; and books on Reformed theology and practice in the American South. The question that ties these lists together has to do with the idea of a “theological imagination.”

Students can tell you I use this phrase all the time in my teaching, but that only underscores the importance of further interrogating the concept itself. What is a theological imagination? Is it just a loose metaphor for the way theology informs perception and interpretation? Or does it refer more literally to the way theology constructs and conforms to a specific theory of mind? If so, it would be important to understand the particular theory of mind informing a particular theological context in order to understand how that theology is attempting to define the human and organize the world.

With books like Stretching the Limits of Productive Imagination (ed. Geniusas), The Imagination in German Idealism and Romanticism (ed. Gentry and Pollack), and the recently-released edition of Wilhelm Dilthey’s Ethical and World-view Philosophy, I’m looking at nineteenth-century debates over the nature and function of the imagination that followed Kant, who coined the term Weltanschauung (worldview) that would later be adopted by Reformed theologians like James Orr and Abraham Kuyper before migrating to the U.S. My goal is to get a handle on how specific theories of imagination informed concrete methods for assessing human expression across different material and historical contexts, thus investing hierarchies of value in different ways of being human.

Then, with books like Our Southern Zion by Erskine Clarke, Children of Wrath: New School Calvinism and Antebellum Reform by Leo Hirrel, and Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920, I’m looking at different accounts of how theology actually informed the perception and material implementation of violent racial stratification in the American context (shout out to Panashe Chigumadzi for bringing these books to my attention last semester!). Ultimately, I hope to build a good foundation for assessing how the broad adoption of “worldview” by Reformed theologians and Evangelicals has worked to discipline the imagination—not only theologically, but socially and racially as well.