Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

Today I'm thrilled to be reviewing Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. 
Please read over the book summary and then check out the
review and giveaway below.

Book Summary:
Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all experienced and rejected extreme religions.

Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure—why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that’s beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.

Paperback: 328 Pages

Publisher: Seal Press (April 2, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1580054420

Twitter hashtag: #SLWExtremeReview

Book Facebook Page:

Author Bio(s):

Cami: Cami Ostman is an author, editor, life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist with publications in her field. She blogs at and on the blogger team. She has appeared in several publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Adventures Northwest, the Mudgee Guardian in Australia, and La Prensa in Chile. Cami is a runner and a dog lover who lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Susan: As a writer, editor and researcher Susan has worked on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism and religion. Susan’s interest in these subjects led her to become an editor for several non-fiction titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel’s Bag. Her new anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions will be published in April 2013 by Seal Press.

Cami's Twitter:

When I first read the synopsis of the anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions, I knew I wanted to get in on this blog tour. Having grown up in a home with parents who didn't practice any particular religion, I came into my own faith after marriage and children. I have always been intrigued by some of the more "extreme" religions, although in saying that, I realize that the term "extreme" is in the eye of the beholder. I'm glad that I took the time to read the introduction to the book, because I might have been confused by the opening essays had I not. 

In the introduction, the two editors, Cami Ostman and Susan Tive, explained that during the course of compiling the stories for consideration in Beyond Belief, they received a number of very different "slice of life" essays. While they did receive examples of women leaving extreme religions, they also received stories from women who were born into a particular faith and chose to stay in it for various reasons. A lot of these essays can be found in the first half of the book, so I did find myself thinking that the direction of the book was not what I had expected at first.

However, I will say that by the time I got about halfway through the book I was hooked. One night, I went to bed before finishing an essay and actually woke up at 3 a.m. needing to continue reading. That almost never happens to me these days! Of course, there were some religions I was drawn to reading about more than others, but that is the beauty of an anthology organized in this manner, and there is a great mix of material. This book would have made for a lively discussion in one of my college women's studies classes. What I found particularly interesting was that one author would describe her religion in glowing terms while another writer 20 pages later was describing what so was extreme in the exact same religion that she had to leave. 

Ostman and Tive, who met in a memoir-writing class, made an interesting observation in the introduction of Beyond Belief, one that I believe describes the book well as a whole:

As our friendship with each other taught us, women living life inside extreme religions have much in common despite their differences of practice and belief.

Did you ever leave an extreme religion or know someone close to you that did? Or, are there any other memoirs about extreme religions you would recommend? Share in the comments section.


Crystal Otto said...

Renee -

Thank you for taking time to find out more about Beyond Belief and for your honest review as well as hosting this fabulous WOW! tour.

You are greatly appreciated.

Thank you Cami and Susan for opening your hearts and picking up your pens - this is an unforgettable anthology.


Cami Ostman said...

So grateful to everyone who has shown such interest in this volume. Women's voices deserve to be heard on this topic and we were privileged to be able to facilitate the conversation. We welcome questions and comments.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Bummer. I missed the giveaway. This sounds like a fascinating book. I read an ebook from a blogger who left the Mormon church. I was amazed at her story. It's called "Mormon Diaries" by Sophia L. Stone.