More men penning spiritual memoirs


From the Austin-American Statesman. When University of Texas journalism professor Stephen Reese started researching the market for his latest, most personal book, he found himself at Barnes & Noble staring at row after row of faith and spirituality books geared toward women. As he puts it, "There were a lot of pink covers and sunsets."

Reese, 56, is among a small group of male writers who have recently added a different perspective to the spiritual journey genre, which has been dominated by women — from Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling "Eat, Pray, Love" to Anne Lamott's "Grace (Eventually)."

Reese's book, "Hope for the Thinking Christian: Seeking A Path of Faith Through Everyday Life," a memoir of his spiritual development, was published in April. That coincided with the release of "Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir," penned by Duke University professor and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas — who was once named the "best theologian in America" by Time magazine. In early June, well-known atheist and political writer Christopher Hitchens' memoir, "Hitch-22," was published.

Sally K. Gallagher, a professor of sociology at Oregon State University who has written about faith and gender, says the wave of spiritual books penned by men has been spurred by a convergence of events.

"This generation of scholars is coming to a more mature manhood at a moment historically when it is also OK to talk about your own experience and how that has shaped your life," she said.

Reese, the associate dean at UT's College of Communications, usually writes about how globalization affects journalism, bias in reporting and emerging issues in the blogosphere. But over the years, he said, he would give talks about his faith that gave him a chance to reflect on his beliefs as he talked about them.

Reese is a pensive, deliberate speaker with a shaggy beard and a quiet voice. As a result, he said, his approach to God lacks the fervor of a "macho man."

"If men do religion at all, they want to do it forcefully and with a very powerful mind-set," he said.

The 140-page book describes a boy who grew up Methodist and remained faithful to that, even as he faced the deaths of his parents and, later, the doubts that spring from a logic-focused mind trying to sort through matters of the soul. It took time for him to "reconcile faith and beliefs with my intellectual tradition and think that through and reflect on it and realize that it's not antithetical."

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