Reading as a Spiritual Practice: Sue Monk Kidd
There are some books that I read and I feel as if the author wrote them just for me. Everything that I have ever read by Sue Monk Kidd fits into this category.
I first discovered her through her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees. This story was deeply moving to me for its truth in wrestling with race in the deep South in the 60’s. This story was deeply personal for me in its dealing with a young girl, coming of age, missing one of her parents. This story was deeply worshipful for me in its understanding of blending practices from multiple faith traditions into a beautiful blend. While I love the movie, nothing touches the place the book holds in my heart. This book is literary fiction. It is written with beauty and prose. It is almost lyrical to read.
After reading The Secret Life of Bees, I wondered about what else Ms. Kidd had written. I found quite a bit.
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter is a spiritual memoir recording Ms. Kidd’s journey searching for a feminine spirituality. I have read this book twice now, with 7 years in between. It is amazing how my responses have changed. My first read of this book was at the beginning of my own journey of seeking a spirituality that including my self as female. Mostly, I was scared by the book. Ms. Kidd makes some very brave choices in her pursuit of wholeness and freedom. I didn’t feel ready to make those same choices. Having just read it again, I find myself more able to be open to her journey and to see it as a mirror for some of my own experiences. I will say, this book has the potential to open up some painful places for women. It is a gentle opening and for me, it was life giving as well. This book offered me one way that an evangelical woman from the South could honestly encounter feminine spirituality. For men, this book may seem harsh as Ms. Kidd is gut-wrenchingly honest about the effects of patriarchal systems on her journey, and on women across the world and history. I’ll say this though, Ms. Kidd is judicious about adding her husband’s responses to her journey. I found their addition to be most enlightening as to how some men might respond.
Most recently, Ms. Kidd joined up with her daughter to write Traveling with Pomegranates. This, too, is a spiritual memoir but it is also a book about travel and about mother/daughter relationships. I loved reading this carefully spun story of journeying together! It alternates voices between Sue and Anne, her daughter, as they tell of traveling together to holy sites in Greece and Europe. While each experiencing a spiritual awakening of different kinds, they also re-forged their relationship as mutual adults. Ms. Kidd tells some of the story of how The Secret Life of Bees came to life. As a daughter and a mother of daughters, I loved this book.
Ms. Kidd has also written The Mermaid Chair which I also enjoyed immensely.
All together, I can honestly say that Sue Monk Kidd is the rare author who writes both outstanding literary fiction and mesmerizing non-fiction. She has become a voice that I trust to bring words to my own spiritual searching.