Book Review: Womanish Theology: Discovering God Through the Lens of Black Girlhood

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Womanish Theology: Discovering God Through the Lens of Black Girlhood

by Khristi Lauren Adams

    Publication Date: Aug 20, 2024
    List Price: $19.99
    Format: Paperback, 192 pages
    Classification: Nonfiction
    ISBN13: 9781587436345
    Imprint: Brazos Press
    Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
    Parent Company: Baker Publishing Group

    Read a Description of Womanish Theology: Discovering God Through the Lens of Black Girlhood

    Book Reviewed by Eryka Parker

    “How differently would Black girls see the world or themselves had they [been] represented and treated as imago Dei [created in the image and likeness of God]?” In Womanish Theology: Discovering God through the Lens of Black Girlhood, author Khristi Lauren Adams takes her readers on an exploration of faith through the unique experiences of a host of Black women and girls. Adams’s profound journey, inspired by her own upbringing and supplemented with the voices of many Black women, brings to light the significant yet often overlooked experiences of Black girlhood when it comes to our understanding of God.

    Adams begins her narrative by reflecting on her initial perception of theology during her early seminary years. “I thought White men owned theology,” she remarks. She discusses the exclusion of Black girlhood from theological discourse, introducing readers to “womanish theology,” a concept that centers the perspectives and experiences of Black women. This unique approach to theology is refreshing and insightful. It not only incorporates the highly valued female interpretation, offering a necessary counterbalance to male-dominated perspectives, but it also places the experiences of Black women at the forefront.

    The book’s foundation is laid through intimate family stories, notably those of Ma Rosella, Mama Hattie, and Aunt Mary, who served as Adams’s first spiritual guides. These women modeled Christ’s love through their unwavering faith and acts of caregiving. Her grandmother Mama Hattie, who treated Bible reading as sacred, passed down hermeneutic skills to a young Adams, while Aunt Mary embodied the spirit of selfless service. Her great-grandmother Ma Rosella’s Holy Bible held cursive notes in the margins that helped guide Scripture reading sessions for generations to come. The lives of Adams’s foremothers demonstrated that reading the word, caregiving, and nurturing their faith were all forms of love, servitude, and dedication.

    We all have a moral authority and responsibility of passing on a generational guide for the lives and choices of young Black girls. “Our foremothers realized their moral authority and responsibility in passing on Scripture to us as young Black girls…to [give us] something tangible to help us in our journey through life.”

    The author’s stories about the Black church’s cultural practices, such as Vacation Bible School and Sunday school, struck home for me. It brought back memories of attending these community church events for encouragement, reinforcement, and Scripture interpretation. As Adams introduced the term “hermeneutic of suspicion,” which encourages a thoughtful and critical approach to Scripture that allows questioning without doubting faith, I was reminded of my own struggles with interpreting Scripture and the expectations that were placed on me as a Christian. She addresses the natural tendency to have questions about what we are reading and being taught, explaining that asking questions is not the same as questioning God. Had this type of encouragement been provided during my youth, I believe my understanding of the Scripture would have been developed more deeply.

    Salvation within the Black church is also explored in depth as Adams shares how many Black girls and women, including herself, grappled with understanding salvation’s true meaning. Through touching testimonies and personal accounts, we learn that for many, getting saved was initially a response to fear or expectation rather than a personal decision. As they matured, their understanding deepened, leading to a more profound relationship with God.

    One of the most compelling themes of this book is the recognition of Black girls as “imago Dei (image of God).” Adams reflects on her own experiences of isolation and racism at a predominantly White school after attending a Black private school. As she delves into the experience of being a Black girl in predominantly White spaces, she recounts her feelings of isolation and racism, juxtaposed with the sense of community and pride found in her Black church, which fostered a strong cultural identity and sense of belonging. I connected with her testimony of identity affirmation within the Black church where she witnessed Black men and women in leadership, multiple textures of Black hair, and the comfort of familiar rituals. “Black girls internalize the message that they are created in the image of God, but the world perceives them as less than.”

    The practice of prayer in the Black community is another central theme, as Adams describes the complexity of public and personal heartfelt conversations with God. Often encouraged from a young age, prayer has served as a vital means of coping with daily bouts of stress, finding spiritual comfort, and maintaining a close relationship with God through our savior, Jesus Christ.

    I found Womanish Theology to be an informative and insightful collection of stories, memories, and testimonies that celebrate the rich spiritual legacy of Black girlhood. Although girlhood is a fragile time in our lives, it is often the most defining period that shapes who we will become. Through the author’s collection of personal stories and quotes from various women, she stresses the importance of creating spaces for young girls’ engagement and commitment to God. Womanish Theology displays the spiritual depth of Black women and will help readers understand how Black women develop and nurture their relationship with God over their lifetimes. Its readers are reminded of the importance of recognizing Black girls as made in the image of God, despite societal perceptions that often devalue us.

    Adams is an ordained Baptist minister and the author of The Parable of the Brown Girl, Unbossed: How Black Girls Are Leading the Way, and its middle grade version Black Girls Unbossed: Young World Changers Leading the Way. In this book, she touches on the powerful concept of theodicy, acknowledging the struggles Black girls face and the ways their faith is fortified through these challenges. In Chapter Four, “Womanish Theodicy: How Black Girls Question Evil and Suffering,” Adams shares a thought from Christian theologian Daniel Migliore: “This is the theodicy with no easy answers but with the honesty to raise what earlier believers would have considered blasphemous questions and with a determination to be faithful to God even when it appears that God has ceased to be faithful.” Questioning God’s goodness during times of crisis, fear, and uncertainty happens, but our faith is also strengthened through the acknowledgment of our struggles, the grace we have received, and focusing on gratitude and resilience for survival.

    Womanish Theology is an exploration of the intersection of faith, identity, and the lived experiences of Black girls. Adams’s personal and universal narrative offers an explanation of the spiritual journeys of Black women. This book will leave readers with a deeper appreciation for the divine image reflected in Black girlhood: the strength, resilience, and unwavering faith. It is sure to inspire and educate readers of many faiths and backgrounds.

    Read Brazos Press’s description of Womanish Theology: Discovering God Through the Lens of Black Girlhood.

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