Fierce by Alice Connor was the May read for my facebook group, “Faith, Coffee, and Books”.
Honestly? I kind of dreaded starting this one. It took me a long time to get back into reading after all of the pandemic and lockdown stuff happened. I’m still working my way through February and March’s reads. In my mind, I was comparing this book to others in the same genre and I expected a dry book that I would have to push myself to get through. I found myself wishing I had chosen a different book.
And then I started reading it.
I am so pleased to tell you that I was wrong. I read a third of the way through the book in my first sitting. The book itself is rather short, only 182 pages (including two appendices). The chapters are all quite short. I believe the longest chapter was about 10 pages or so. And Connor’s narrative voice is extremely engaging. It felt like sitting down with a friend or a sister and hearing them give you their take on the women of Scripture.
It is refreshing to hear from Connor, an Episcopal priest and chaplain, that she struggles with certain passages in Scripture:
“It’s not that that I don’t like Jesus. He’s pretty great; I’m a fan. But I’ve always struggled more with stories from the Hebrew Scripture. They’ve got a lot of complexity that doesn’t get talked about so much. We paint them with a single brush, “that scary Old Testament God,” and call it a day, but there’s a lot of grace mixed in with the judgment. So the gospel for a given Sunday might be “the feeding of the five thousand” or something equally meaty, but I’m going to dive deep into Ezekiel or Judith or Proverbs because whatever that passage is, it probably frustrates me. I figure if I’m frustrated, so are other people. (You could make the case that I could be equally likely to preach something from Paul, because that guy, man, I want to have words with him.)”
She also does an amazing job of painting the scene for Bible stories many of us have grown up with and know like the backs of our own hands in order to draw out more nuance.
As someone who only left evangelicalism 5 years ago, I was a little taken aback by the references to the apocryphal books like Judith and Susanna. But it was a fascinating dive into that bit of history that I was never able to learn about in my Evangelical days.
She also has a chapter on Asherah and equates Asherah’s erasure in Scripture to the erasure of important historical figures and events like Henrietta Lacks, the Armenian Genocide, and even the slave trade being erased in the history books in the south. That chapter made me feel some unease. Comparing a false goddess to real people and events seems… I don’t actually know what the word is. But I think its something I need to sit with for now.
Overall, I did appreciate Connor’s take on the stories of these women who have so often been left voiceless and had their stories taken from them and spun in ways I doubt they would appreciate. She gives them back their dignity, their fierceness, and even their sexuality (this book can get spicy!).