What we’re reading this month: October 2021

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By Mark Redmond (Onion River Press, 2021)

I can’t think of a better example of someone truly living their life’s calling than Mark Redmond, executive director of Spectrum Youth & Family Services in Burlington, Vermont. In his new, well-titled dissertation, Called, Redmond describes his four decades of working with homeless and at-risk adolescents and young adults in New York and Vermont. “It’s hard work. Difficult. Frustrating. Dangerous at times. Wonderful at other times. Fulfill. Unbelievable,” writes Redmond. “That’s also why I believe I was put on this earth.”

Over 300 pages, Redmond shares his life journey – warts and all. From his Irish Catholic upbringing in Long Island, New York, to his brief stint in the Peace Corps and short foray into business, to his personal struggles with divorce and depression, and finally to his dedicated career. 40 years in social services, Redmond reflects on the successes and failures of his life and career with self-awareness and humility.

Redmond’s passion for his work is evident page after page, story after story. With compassion, he tells the story of an employee who intentionally burns down his office. Modestly, he describes convincing Vermont business leaders to sleep outside in sub-freezing temperatures to raise funds for the community’s homeless youth for 10 years in a row. With joy and gratitude, he tells a myriad of stories of courageous young people with whom he has worked over the years, beaming with pride for all they have achieved despite difficult upbrings.

It is a joy to bear witness to Redmond’s vocation through the pages of his memoirs. His words inspire us all to find what we are called to do: “If you truly believe that the work you do is your calling,” writes Redmond, “then that is, more than anything else, what makes you. sustains through difficult times and even tragic times.

—Rosie McCarty

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By Daniel Bowman Jr. (Brazos Press, 2021)

Almost all of us know someone with autism: 1 in 45 people have the autism spectrum, according to Daniel Bowman Jr., author of the new memoir, On the Spectrum. They are our family members, our colleagues, our classmates and our friends. “You may not know it,” Bowman writes, “But we are in your church. “

And yet, despite the prevalence of neurodiverse people, few communities – religious or secular – have struggled with how to include people with autism or ensure their development. Instead, we tend to assume that all people with autism fit in tidy boxes or are defined by symptom lists, personified by the predominantly white, predominantly male autistic people we see on TV shows. as Atypical, The good doctor, and The Big Bang Theory.

In the series of essays that make up this book, Bowman challenges these stereotypes, painting a more complete picture of what it means to be both autistic and fully human. Through examples from his own life, meditations on art and literature, and descriptions of his career as a college professor, he shows readers how to recognize the gifts of neurodiversity and that we are all created to be. image of God.

Bowman writes that the purpose of this memoir is “to work towards greater hope; thrive where I live and help others do the same; to honor autistic lives – breathed by the very breath of God – which often feel fragile in the demanding landscape of an allistic world. In the end, that’s exactly what the book accomplishes. For neurodiverse readers, it lets them know they’re not alone. And for neurotypical readers, it’s a powerful reminder that we are all the body of God, and as such, we need to work harder to make sure everyone feels welcome in our faith communities.

—Emily Sanna


Briefly note:

Embracing age: how Catholic nuns became role models for aging well

By Anna I. Corwin (Rutgers University Press, 2021)

Corwin contrasts the negative mainstream views on aging with the model provided by Catholic nuns, who approach it with grace and acceptance.


Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics and Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear

By Michael J. O’Loughlin (Broadleaf Books, 2021)

Journalist O’Loughlin examines untold stories of LGBTQ people struggling with their faith amid the AIDS crisis.


In the Name of Emmett Till: How the Children of the Mississippi Freedom Struggle Showed Us Tomorrow

By Robert H. Mayer (NewSouth Books, 2021)

In this young adult book, Mayer describes young people who rose up in the wake of Emmett Till’s murder to protest Jim Crow’s segregation.


This article also appears in the October 2021 issue of US Catholic (Vol. 86, No. 10, page 39). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.


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