There are many reviews coming out about A Year of Biblical Womanhood. You can read these all over the Internet. Rachel sent me an advanced copy but I wasn't asked to do a review. Still, I'd like to add my two cents.
A few patriarchal Christians out there have already dinged Rachel for "making a mockery of the Bible" or for her "flat hermeneutic." The criticism comes from the fact that Rachel attempts, over the course of the year, to follow the commandments regarding "biblical womanhood" as literally as possible. This, as you might expect, leads to many hilarious situations. The criticism Rachel faces here is that no one would be so undiscerning in reading the bible as to assume that all the commandments in the bible directed at woman should be treated literally and equally. This is a "flat hermeneutic" that doesn't recognize that some commandments are more important than others and that other commandments just aren't applicable today.
But that's sort of Rachel's point. Agreed, no one is following all the commandments literally. People pick and choose. But here's the deal: They don't realize they are picking and choosing. And even if you argue with these people, pointing out how they are picking and choosing, they still can't see it. And in the face of that (I think willful) denial Rachel does something pretty remarkable. Rachel engages in a hermeneutical performance, one that, in refusing to pick and choose, reveals to anyone reading her book just how much picking and choosing is actually going on. She helps you see it. And laugh at the same time.
And that's what is pretty badass about the book, intellectually speaking. The book is hermeneutical performance art.
Intellectually, that's what I admire about the book. But let me tell you what I like most about the book.
What I like most about the book is Rachel. And Dan, Rachel's husband. He's as much of the book as she is and it was great to read his journal observations throughout the book/year.
What I loved most about Rachel's first book Evolving in Monkey Town was the transparent human drama of her story, her journey from certainty to learning to live with the ambiguities and open-endedness of faith. And that was also my favorite part of A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Again, the book is an intellectual treat, and very funny, but the parts that drew me in the most were the parts where Rachel wrestles with herself, her husband, the bible, evangelical culture, her past...and her oven. To name only a few things.
Here's the great paradox of the book. The book is entitled "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." And in the eyes of her critics, and perhaps many of her fans, the book seems to suggest that there is no such thing as "biblical womanhood." Or, at the very least, "biblical womanhood" can't be reduced to one particular biblically-endorsed vision. A one size fits all vision.
But I actually think Rachel's wrong about that. Thus the paradox.
Biblical womanhood does exist and it means something very, very specific. And if you read Rachel's book, and if you watch Rachel closely in the book, chances are you'll see it.