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Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun Paperback – July 17, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jan Willis meets Anne Lamott in this funny, observant memoir by Adiele, an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Burned out by the pressure of undergraduate studies at Harvard, Adiele took a year off to get her head together and do field research in Thailand, where she had once spent time as a Rotary exchange student. She became fascinated with Buddhist nuns and began soliciting their stories, a process that led to her rather impulsive decision to seek "temporary ordination" as a nun herself. The nominal-Unitarian-turned-Buddhist is humble about her spiritual insights: "Where I should be über-nun, I'm not even what is perceived as a practicing Buddhist. I don't meditate regularly; I nurse anger; I despise tofu. Dammit, I don't appear to have learned anything! So how can anyone learn from me?" But readers can and will learn from Adiele, who parses out her second stay in Thailand with a comic's timing, a novelist's keen observations about human idiosyncrasies and an anthropologist's sensitivity to issues of race and culture. Her main narrative is almost talmudically surrounded by commentary: all along the outer margins of the book, quotes from Buddhist luminaries mingle with excerpts from her own very raw journals from that year. As she admits her fear of the rats that infested her meditation cave or chronicles her pride in gradually increasing her meditation hours, we are privileged to see an unvarnished vulnerability.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

By her own reckoning, Adiele is an unlikely candidate for Buddhist spiritual enlightenment. Neither Asian nor disciplined, she doesn't fancy meditation; despises tofu; and, raised Unitarian, isn't particularly religious. Yet the Nigerian-Scandinavian ex-Harvard student from eastern Washington became the first black Buddhist nun in northern Thailand. She first went to Thailand at age 15, after winning a Rotary Club International Exchange Program scholarship at a time when most Americans could barely find Thailand on the map. Although used to being different--she wryly notes that, every day, she was an exchange student in her own country--she wasn't prepared for life in a tiny rural Thai community, in which she was the first black anyone had seen. But something about the country and Buddhism appealed to her and she chose to return, though she was as surprised as anyone else when she decided to become a Buddhist nun. A warm, witty account of an unusual woman's spiritual journey and search for identity between the vastly different cultures of East and West. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (July 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039332673X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393326734
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #676,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Courson VINE VOICE on September 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
As a biracial child of a struggling, single mother in a remote Washington state farming community populated almost entirely by white farmers, their families and their Mexican employees, Faith Adiele became familiar very early in life with race and class differences. In high school, as part of cultural-exchange programs, she visited Mexico and Thailand. In both countries, her experiences fueled her growing outspokenness on issues of race, poverty, and women's rights.

A bright child and a gifted student, Adiele found her way paved way to Harvard but as her university career began was struggling with a ferocious set of personal demons. She discovered quickly that her own biracial background and rural upbringing made her experience of being an African-American utterly unlike that of her black classmates. "My entire identity was in opposition to what was around me," she says of those days. "I didn't have the tools to dissect what was going on in this very segregated community."

Scared, exhausted and unmotivated, she found herself enrolling in a study-abroad program sponsored by the University of Washington, making her second visit to Thailand to develop a sociology project studying Buddhist nuns. Once there, she made an almost spur-of-the-moment decision to undergo ordination herself, but for scholarly rather than religious reasons: she wanted to experience the nuns' lifestyle firsthand. Doing so, she hoped, would allow her to "challenge traditional anthropological methodology and understand the women I was presuming to write about.
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Format: Hardcover
I recently purchased Faith Adiele's book as a gift for a colleague. The write-up sounded like something that would appeal to him. When it arrived, I thought I would just glance through it to be sure it was appropriate, and found myself immediately hooked. Not only have I become immersed in the writing, but the book arrived at a time of major transition in my life, and Faith's journey has in significant ways come to inform my own. There is also the sense that with the journal notes written in the margins of every page, I have shrewdly gotten two books for the price of one! Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on April 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Though I'm not a Buddhist, it's a topic that fascinates me, and Faith's memoir provided a riveting and highly accessible introduction to what it means to live as a Buddhist. I thought the book's format, which weaves in quotations from an amazing array of scholars and commentators, was fantastic -- very engaging and personal. The book was full of insights and surprises. Best of all, the author has a wry and appealing sense of humor about her odyssey in Thailand -- and, more broadly, about the universal quest to find spiritual fulfillment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read Adiele's essay in The Best Women's Travel Writing of 2005, I was disappointed in the structure of her book. The side page commentaries were distracting and sometimes didn't match the page they were on. The book contained a lot of factual journal entries but very little depth of insight or application to her life for the future. I found some flashback memories to 'prior to ordination' not attached to the context of that chapter. Some good writing, some good story telling. The book didn't live up to the section chosen for the book mentioned above. Kay Klinkenborg, Springfield, IL
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In “Meeting Faith,” Adiele recounts her journey to Thailand to become a Buddhist monk. Having spent a year in high school abroad there, she fell in love with the country and found herself seeking out its tranquility and beauty after she returned to the United States to attend Harvard. So, naturally, she returns. With the mission of immersing herself in the lives of Buddhist nuns, the female equivalent of monks, she winds up deciding to become ordained herself for the full experience.

I enjoyed parts of this story but was somewhat confused at times—sometimes the memoir was about her childhood, sometimes it was about her life and identity, sometimes it was an anthropological look at Buddhist nuns, sometimes it was a statement about mindfulness… there were a lot of different trails and they didn’t necessarily intertwine very well. That being said, I think it did a pretty good job of demystifying the world of Buddhism for the average person. While it was a little too drawn-out for my taste, it was still fairly enjoyable. 3 stars!
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very insightful book about a way of life we know very little here in the USA. Please give this book to all whom you love, in need of peace, searching and unhappy. This book transcends our place of violence and lack of love and brings us to a place we can begin to breathe, and to search and to find what is life. A major achievement in writing well, and a helpful friend on the road to peace. This author becomes your new best friend forever.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a great book about a young woman trying to find herself in today's complicated world. She chooses to ordain as a Buddhist nun in order to do this. The book is not about Buddhism as the title suggests, it is about Faith and how she discovers herself and where she wants to go and what she wants to do with her life. She is a very interesting writer and her style pulls you into the book on the very first page. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad but captivating all the way through.
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