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Circling Faith

Southern Women on Spirituality

Wendy Reed, Jennifer Horne, Mary Karr, Debra Moffitt, Susan Cushman, Beth Ann Fennelly

Publication Year: 2012

Circling Faith is a collection of essays by southern women that encompasses spirituality and the experience of winding through the religiously charged environment of the American South.
 
Mary Karr, in “Facing Altars,” describes how the consolation she found in poetry directed her to a similar solace in prayer. In “Chiaroscuro: Shimmer and Shadow,” Susan Cushman recounts how her dissatisfaction with a Presbyterian upbringing led her to hold her own worship services at home and eventually to join the Eastern Orthodox Church. “Magic” by Amy Blackmarr depicts a religious practice that occurs wholly outside of any formal setting—she recognizes places, such as a fishing shack in south Georgia, and things, such as crystal Cherokee earrings, as reminders that God exists everywhere and that a Great Comforter is always present. In “The Only Jews in Town,” Stella Suberman gives her account of growing up as a religious minority in Tennessee, connecting her story to a larger narrative of Eastern European Jews who moved away from the Northeast, often to found and run “Jew stores” in midwestern and southern towns.  Alice Walker, in an interview with Valerie Reiss titled “Alice Walker Calls God ‘Mama,’” relates her dynamic relationship with her God, which includes meditation and yoga, and explains how she views the role of faith in her work, including her novel The Color Purple.  These essays showcase the large spectrum of spirituality that abides in the South, as well as the equally large spectrum of individual women who hold these faiths.
 
 

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Thanks to the Alabama State Council on the Arts; the Seaside Institute for an Escape to Create fellowship; the Alabama Center for Public TV and Radio; Jennifer, the best coeditor and friend in the world; Dan Waterman; my friends; Greg, my copaddler; my Aunt Dianne; my mother Betty, and extra mothers, June and Anniece; ...

A Special Note on Barbara Robinette Moss (1954–2009)

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction: A Faith of Verbs

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pp. 1-8

When our first book, All Out of Faith, was published in the fall of 2006, we didn’t know what to expect from readers. The cover looked innocuous enough: dinner on the grounds framed with cross-stitching. Inside, though, the voices were anything but. We braced for controversy. Wondered how we would look tarred and feathered. ...

I. Seeking: Faith in Motion and Stillness

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Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer

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pp. 11-25

To confess my unlikely Catholicism in Poetry—a journal founded in part on and for the godless, twentieth-century disillusionaries of J. Alfred Prufrock and his pals—feels like an act of perversion kinkier than any dildo-wielding dominatrix could manage on HBO’s Real Sex Extra. I can’t even blame it on my being a cradle Catholic, ...

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Pilgrimage

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pp. 26-38

The Mediterranean sun blisters Antibes’s ocher cathedral and penetrates the worn stone steps. I tug at a thick wooden door and slip into the cool darkness away from the noise of the market and the high sea. Though I’m not Catholic, I’ve come here to weather the storm and marvel at Jesus. He stands in the shadows on a pedestal by a back bench and his heart holds a mystery. ...

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Chiaroscuro: Shimmer and Shadow

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pp. 39-50

First I changed my name. I chose Mary of Egypt as my patron saint early in my conversion, changing my name from Susan to “Marye,” and adding the “e” for Egypt, a way of distinguishing her from Mary the Mother of God and other saints who shared her name. I began signing all my correspondence, “forgive me, Marye, the sinner,” and naively used “sinfulmarye” as part of my original e-mail address. ...

II. Keeping: Faith of Our Mothers

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Taking Terroir on Faith

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pp. 53-61

I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself. I was curious: too curious. I found myself stalking a website I’d bookmarked, one which promised “Discrete shipping on all orders.” I placed the illicit item in my shopping cart, then took it out. I wanted to take one small step closer to full membership in my adopted home, my quest to be a Southerner. ...

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Amazons in Appalachia

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pp. 62-71

The speaker is Attakullakulla, a Cherokee chief renowned for his shrewd and effective diplomacy. He has come to negotiate a treaty with the whites. Among his delegation are women “as famous in war as powerful in the Council.” Their presence also has ceremonial significance: it is meant to show honor to the other delegation. But that delegation is composed of males only. ...

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Why We Can’t Talk to You About Voodoo

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pp. 72-86

We who are natives of this City and count ourselves among the Faithful cannot talk with you, the outsider, about Voodoo. And that is unfortunate. Because in this highly complex, deceptively simple set of principles, beliefs, and what-haveyou, is much that could heal you of whatever it is in your life that needs healing. Could heal your whole life, probably. ...

III. Embodying: Faith in the Flesh

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Magic

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pp. 89-93

Summer, a blazing hot afternoon in Oklahoma City. I’ve got my hair up in a French braid and I’m wearing the clothes I call my mental health outfit: mint green linen dress and sand-colored sandals, silver Navajo bracelet, light turquoise paisley scarf tied to my leather bag. I’m visiting artisans’ booths at the Red Earth powwow, and I’ve paused over a glass case of beaded jewelry I can’t walk away from. ...

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Going to Church: A Sartorial Odyssey

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pp. 94-102

I am not a churchgoer. At least not on any regular basis. The last time I went to church was Easter Sunday 1998. I’d been out in the yard digging in the garden when, at about a quarter ’til eleven, I jumped up and decided I had to go to church right then and there. My husband, Chris, agreed to go with me, so off we went, not bothering to change clothes or anything because we didn’t want to be late. ...

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What the Body Knows

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pp. 103-110

Yesterday I cleaned my closet, refolding the clothes worth keeping and making a tall stack of those I no longer wear. Lots of souvenir T-shirts went into the castoff pile, along with any pair of pants that had more pleats than pockets. As usual, I granted an exception to the blue jean cutoffs I have not worn since my sophomore year in college. ...

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The Queen of Hearts

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pp. 111-138

Shetland sweaters were a must, but they were expensive, especially at Steve and Anna’s, the select little shop in Westhampton where St. Catherine’s girls bought their clothes. My mother rummaged in an attic trunk and found a sweater, dusky rose in color, with the large yarn look of a Shetland, and she gave it to me. ...

IV. Questioning: Life Without Faith?

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pp. 139-156

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Rapture on Hold

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pp. 140-144

Mother was a woman possessed in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She made candles, using Foremost milk cartons, paraffin from a box, and Number Two yellow pencils with string wound around them to suspend the wicks. She baked. She cleaned. We cleaned at her behest. Every room in the house, including the bathroom, had what she lovingly called “a touch of Christmas.” ...

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The Only Jews in Town

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pp. 145-166

I was born in Union City, Tennessee, a little dot on the map kind of place in the northwest corner of the state, and we were the only Jews among its 5,000 or so inhabitants, of which more than half were black. My parents had come to Union City to open what was called a “Jew store,” and we thought of ourselves as Southern Jews or Jewish Southerners, depending on the circumstances. ...

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A Purposeful Life

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pp. 167-176

As a young girl, I enjoyed picking blackberries, fishing for bream, watching the real stars . . . and the man-made ones. I’d spend hours relaxing on the warm asphalt of the road that went by the Sweats’ cabin at Lake Lanier. I was quite safe there (except perhaps for the odd venomous snake), since there was little traffic on that road in the sixties and probably even now. ...

V. Transforming: Faith in Change

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A Fairy Tale: The Prodigal Daughter Returns

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pp. 179-183

She had been drawn to the little sea shack nestled betwixt water and sky with the simple purity of a turtle whose true north is a singular spot of sand on an empty beach. She was happy there. The details of her life—errands into town, cleaning the house, writing her books—were timed in conjunction with the comings and goings of the Gulf ...

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Alice Walker Calls God “Mama”: An Interview with Alice Walker

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pp. 184-191

Alice Walker has always known God. But she prefers terms like “Godness” and “Mama” to describe the divine—for her, it is everywhere, from the Japanese maples outside her window to the slow yoga she practices. Though her seven novels, including 1982’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Color Purple, and many essays and poems have myriad themes ...

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Signs of Faith

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pp. 192-197

About twelve days after I got home from the hospital, my preacher friend Garret drove down for a visit. Though he lived in Canada, he had grown up in Alabama. We understood each other in ways that only Southerners can. It’s knowing that fried okra is fabulous no matter what other people say. ...

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What We Will Call Nature

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pp. 198-216

Early July, and a moat of fog was rising chest-high in pastures all around the house; cricket call went ratch-fitch as usual, volleying back and forth across the yard; under the long porch roof I met the scent of my tall Enchantment lilies, condensed in mist beaded on the bellied screen; and all of these familiars were tethers of a web I had to breast and tear, in walking out. ...

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Contributors

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pp. 217-228

Mitzi Adams is a solar scientist for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, now housed in the National Space Sciences and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, she graduated from Georgia State University with a B.S. in physics and earned the M.S. degree (also in physics) from The University of Alabama in Huntsville. ...

Permissions

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pp. 229-230


E-ISBN-13: 9780817386085
E-ISBN-10: 0817386084
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817357016
Print-ISBN-10: 0817317678

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2012