Circling Faith: New Review & Guest Editorial

Good morning! I woke to see this lovely review of Circling Faith over at Chapter 16: A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers and Passersby. It’s called, “Sacred Harmony.” Here’s an excerpt, but please click on the link to read the full review!

“The collection opens with a bang: in ‘Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer,” outspoken poet, memoirist, and Texan Mary Karr—who recently released a CD of songs she co-wrote with Nashvillian Rodney Crowell—describes how poetry and prayer accompanied her journey from addiction and depression to a surprising conversion to Catholicism in 1996.

“From Karr’s struggle to acclimate herself to unexpected joy, the collection moves on to ‘Chiaroscuro: Shimmer and Shadow’ by Mississippi native Susan Cushman, who writes of her deep conversion to the Orthodox faith during the 1980s. Her transformation included changing her name for a time (to “Marye” in honor of St. Mary of Egypt), covering her head in church, marriage to an Orthodox priest, learning to paint icons, and receiving spiritual direction from the nuns of Holy Dormition Monastery. Ultimately, though, she sought balance: ‘After about five years of what some of my friends called my ‘nun phase,’ I took off my head covering and embraced my Southern roots. Manicures, make-up, and jewelry returned to my arsenal, and my long-neglected hair again received layered haircuts and blond highlights.’ Through her painting, and later her writing, Cushman works toward healing from childhood abuse and the acceptance that sometimes, as Mother Gabriella from the monastery suggests, ‘we also have to learn to live with brokenness.’

“In ‘Taking Terroir on Faith,’ Mississippi poet Beth Ann Fennelly, attempting to understand her adopted Southern home, examines the practice of geophagy, or ‘dirt-eating,’ and its curious attraction for generations of Southerners.

“In ‘Amazons in Appalachia,’ Marilou Awiakta, an East Tennessee native and renowned chronicler of her Appalachian and Cherokee heritage, tells the story of Nanyehi or ‘Beloved Woman,’ an eighteenth century Cherokee warrior, mother, tribe leader, peace-treaty-council delegate, and elder much sought out for her wise counsel.

“In ‘Going to Church: A Sartorial Odyssey,’ Nashville memoirist and singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman also addresses the pervasiveness of God within all of creation: ‘I am not a churchgoer,’ she writes, yet “it’s like the whole world has become my church. And every breath I take is a prayer.””

—Tina LoTufo, Chapter 16: A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers and Passersby (July 6, 2012) “Sacred Harmony.”



Read my guest editorial in the July 7 Commercial Appeal “Faith Matters” column. Thanks so much to David Waters for inviting me to contribute. You can read it here: “Memphis Woman Writes About Unusual Journey from Southern Presbyterian to Eastern Orthodox.”


You can also read it here, at “Cushman: Finding Spiritual Balance in Orthodoxy.”

Note: My husband pointed out an error–mine, not the CA’s–when I said something about the “decades” before 1054, I meant to say the “centuries.” He’s right, as usual.

Have a great weekend everyone. Try to stay cool!