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A Confession (Encountering Traditions)

Natalie Carnes


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A meditation on the conversions, betrayals, and divine revelations of motherhood.

What if Augustine's Confessions had been written not by a man, but by a mother? How might her tales of desire, temptation, and transformation differ from his? In this memoir, Natalie Carnes describes giving birth to a daughter and beginning a story of conversion strikingly unlike Augustine's--even as his journey becomes a surprising companion to her own.

The challenges Carnes recounts will be familiar to many parents. She wonders what and how much she should ask her daughter to suffer in resisting racism, patriarchy, and injustice. She wrestles with an impulse to compel her child to flourish, and reflects on what this desire reveals about human freedom. She negotiates the conflicting demands of a religiously divided home, a working motherhood, and a variety of social expectations, and traces the hopes and anxieties such negotiations expose. The demands of motherhood continually open for her new modes of reflection about deep Christian commitments and age-old human questions.

Addressing first her child and then her God, Carnes narrates how a child she once held within her body grows increasingly separate, provoking painful but generative change. Having given birth, she finds that she herself is reborn.

Stanford University Press, 9781503608313, 208pp.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020

About the Author

Natalie Carnes is Associate Professor at Baylor University, where she teaches feminist theology and religion classes. She has published two books, most recently Image and Presence (Stanford, 2017), and multiple articles and online essays, including pieces on Pope Rihanna and nursing Madonnas. She lives in Waco, Texas, with her three daughters, two cats, and one husband.