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Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir Hardcover – April 16, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
A rural Texas boy grows up to become Time magazine's "best theologian in America"-that's the unlikely story behind Hauerwas's arguably destined journey to academic fame. Hauerwas (Resident Aliens) learns that his mother, like Hannah in the Book of Samuel, prayed for the blessing of a child whom she would offer to be in God's service. The theologian then weaves a compelling narrative that incorporates his humble beginnings as the son of a bricklayer, his troubled first marriage to a mentally ill woman, and his industrious intellectual pursuits. The result is a memoir that is both a well-documented story of Christian renewal and a superbly candid investigation into the scholarly mind. Fans of Christian memoirs will be pleased with Hauerwas's frank yet poignant style, and those who are simply fans of the memoir genre will find the book's careful blend of faith and scholarship easily accessible and far from didactic.
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Most contemporary memoirists tell stories about themselves that are the next thing to first-person-narrator fiction. Renowned theologian Hauerwas prefers to talk about others. While he relays the facts of his life, he focuses on his family, friends, and colleagues far more than on himself. He obviously owes his rooted, second-nature Christianity to his parents, and he maintains the working-class consciousness he imbibed from them in his unpretentious friendliness and candor, though he did have to lose the salty workers’ diction he’d picked up from his bricklayer father’s work crew as his academic career advanced. His friends and colleagues (mostly the same people) helped him shape his thought as he became increasingly sure that Christians must be nonviolent, helped him transfer from Notre Dame to Duke and thrive at both, and helped him persevere while his first wife descended into angry, delusive mental illness and, then, separate from her and carefully find new love. You don’t have to be interested in theology to enjoy, perhaps a little bemusedly, this theologian’s warm testimony. --Ray Olson
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I've never read a book quite like Hannah's Child. Perhaps this is because I have not read many memoirs. Yet I found Hannah's Child delightful. Hauerwas tells his story in compelling, clear language, and I found this book a joy because it provides a context within which to place Hauerwas's theological writings. It is indeed true that Hauerwas has come a "long way" from his beginnings in Pleasant Grove, Texas. But when Hauerwas's thought is placed within the frame of his stories of family, upbringing, bricklaying, and church, books like Community of Character and Resident Aliens, to name two of my favorites, suddenly take on a more robust shape.
As for the contents, you'll find Hauerwas's story from his humble beginnings, to his growth as a thinker at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, on to Yale Divinity School, and then forward to Yale Graduate School, earning his Ph.D. He tells of his first marriage to his wife, Anne, who suffered from mental illness. And he reflects on his friendship with his son, Adam, whom he considers a great blessing. He tells of his progression from Augustana College to Notre Dame, then on to Duke, and how through the years his thought was influenced by the thought of Barth, Yoder, and Bonhoeffer, to name three theologians he mentions. Along the way he tells of various friendships he established and enjoyed, as well as his growth as a teacher. He tells of his relationship with Paula Gilbert, their marriage, and their involvement in the life of Duke Divinity School. Perhaps most interesting is Paula's influence on Hauerwas in suggesting that he should make prayer a part of his classroom experience at the Divinity School, a development Hauerwas is deeply thankful for.
This memoir is enjoyable reading, particularly for those who are familiar with Hauerwas's theological writings. Who knew that the life of a theologian could be so interesting?
What a delight to read this text. It is precisely what it claims to be - a memoir. What most resonated with me as an individual reader is the fact of Hauerwas's honest portrait of his life's story - particularly the intersections of his work as a student, as a colleague figuring out how to navigate professional/academic guilds, and his life with Anne and Adam, his first and their child. As a student, he was just moving forward and searching - but not out to prove anything, it seems. As an academic, in his own story, he notes how green and crass he was, turning people off and not pleasing all but being honest. In particular, I valued how his life as an academic took place in conversations with so many other academics - the persons with whom he worked that shaped how he thought and what he read and how he come to converse and lecture on various topics. In his life with his wife, he notes the difficulty, pain and ambiguity that came with being married to someone who would later have psychotic breaks that he and Adam tried to manage and live with and through. And, of course, how being the son of a bricklayer and, by his own testimony, a bricklayer himself wove itself through his life's story.
I found the memoir to be hopeful for for those who might be in academia or theological colleges/seminaries - those younger or older in complex marriages - those new to academia or young in it. Hauerwas's story testifies to the reality that a person can't manage or create a perfect life to become a "Stanley Hauerwas" - each person must simply live life with integrity. Mature and grow with your own life's story.
Hauerwas's story is personal and memorable.
The book is not a must read for many people - but for those in theological/philosophical work within "the academy" - this memoir offers much personal and anecdotal wisdom for thinking about one's own life and profession.
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Hannah's Child is Stanley Hauerwas' reflections upon his life as a theologian and someone...Read more