I binge-read White Monkey Chronicles The Complete Trilogy. The first time. It’s like Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, J.K. Rowling and Gloria Steinem got drunk one night and decided to write a book. A second, slower read was even sweeter.
The first paragraph of the Prologue tipped me headfirst and wide-eyed into this mind-bending, myth-busting, topsy-turvy tale. Its innocuous, traditional “Once Upon” opening was immediately blown up by the explosive words “infant deity abandoned,”, “famous bachelor Jew,”, and “A-list Hindu”. Wait. Whaaat? The stage was set for a rebellious, revolutionary saga destined to be voted “Most Popular” at a fundamentalist book burning!
A white monkey (part-time Plush toy, full-time guardian of an off-the-record baby boy deity) sets the book’s roller coaster ride in motion on a snowy night in Humbolt County, USA. There, at the withered and weathered Sisters of Immaculate Conceptions convent, we meet the three remaining Sister-resisters of The Great Church’s preening patriarchy. (Lets just say the clergy is strictly for the birds — in dress and demeanor.) Getting a whiff of the unauthorized deity’s arrival, a conclave of Cardinals swoop in to confirm (and possibly kidnap) the threatening newborn from the kind, caring, and radical hands of the rogue nuns. Not so fast.
Mother Mary Extraordinary is just that: unwavering in her conviction that the Biblical creation story is a false narrative; misidentifying the creator, and misplacing the Garden of Eden story in plot chronology.
“…a pastoral postcard that never was.”
Extraordinary maintains that what never-was might be better conceived as yet-to-be. Not a given paradise, but an intentional garden.
White Monkey Chronicles snagged me from a slow, drifting free-fall and set my feet on new paths of thought. I had recently left a mainline Protestant church after more than two decades. (A lot of starts and stops the last few years.) Finally the cognitive dissonance I had wrestled with from “the begat-go” (thanks Isabella) drowned out the beauty of the hymns, the poetry of prayer, and my ability to ignore glaring inconsistencies, past and present.
The Old Testament stories of my youth revealed themselves to me as power and land-grabs by a tribe of people that clothed its dastardly, deadly deeds in the righteousness of the god they were introducing to the world. This god, they made clear, was almighty, vengeful, and always on their side. And this god’s vitae, plus rules of tribal behavior, status and agency were decided upon and written-in-the-Word by bearded men in sandals who also decided to give the omnipotent god a penis — at least enough of one to impregnate a future virgin, without her say-so. #marymetoo. And it so it goes — millennia of oppression and violence against women (the wombs of creation who had no say-so when their god was created.) I saw the injustice in the Holy Book and I saw it in my 21st century church. I could no longer affirm, proclaim and praise the sanctified male pronouns that stuck in my throat like a popcorn hull. It was time for recognition and reckoning. It was time for a personal resurrection. It was time to go.
RECLAIMING MY TIME (Maxine Waters)
White Monkey Chronicles was the shot-in-the-arm I needed: lifting a different, exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking prism through which to view the universe and its possibilities.
“Merry Berry saw the writing on the wall: You are cordially invited to invent a new future.”
BJ Austin is a native Texan whose heart belongs to New Orleans, her soul-city. A retired broadcast journalist, she logged 40 years as a radio news reporter and anchor, starting in Atlanta at the beginning of the Carter Administration. Then it was home to Dallas, a dozen years in New Orleans, and back to Dallas where she retired in January 2017 from KERA 90.1, the North Texas NPR station. Along the way, BJ sang and danced in community theater musicals and raised a son with her radio news anchor husband. These days she’s working on her bucket list. Her number one wish is to walk the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. Or, maybe get a new bicycle.
11 thoughts on “White Monkey Chronicles: Myth-busting in Eden BOOK REVIEW by BJ Austin”
Excellent review that captures some of the eccentric brilliance and humor of White Monkey Chronicles. I have been reading the story each morning as my lectio divina. Look for an interview with Isabella Ides in these pages on Sunday, October 20th. We will be focusing specifically on the rogue nuns. I will be sure to include a link to this post.
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I am so fortunate in this reveiwer! She catches all the fun and gravitas of being a speculative transgressor in the realms of orthodox religion. I thrill to how BJ Austin uses Maxine Water’s line: “Reclaiming my time.” Feminists are all about a reclamation project. Some of us writers of fiction, and I incude Elizabeth Cunningham in this “us,” reach into the past and reclaim THEIR time. Goddesses who have been erased by scribes, overlooked by history, and sexually abused by the male deity cohort. It is a quixotic calling, this rescue mission. So grateful to Xochitle Alviso for this site and for the wide embrace of this forum.
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Xochitl Alvizo–excuse my misspelling of your beautiful name!
I am so grateful to Isabella Ides and other authors who plant seeds of female reclamation in the hearts and minds of those struggling to flourish in this intended garden called Earth. Isabella raises the level of discourse in a deep, unique — and often wacky — way. (Read the book!) Reclaiming our time is a big job stretching from ancient history, texts and dogma to daily family, faith, and workplace life. For me, it’s the smallest of steps in mind and deed. But even small steps empower this aging Baby Boomer who, too often and to her detriment, forsook her convictions for the convenience of others (mostly male). Well, I’m out to make waves now! And I am cheering on the fierce and radiant Greta Thunberg who is speaking truth to power in order to save the planet and her future from the devastation of unaddressed climate change. At 16 years old, she is ‘preclaiming’ her time.
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Yes! One never knows the guise in which a NEW EVE will announce herself. Here comes the diminutive, differently-wired Greta Thunberg thundering across the planet. Her fiery passion is a beautiful sight. Best of all the movement is global, in Russia (Olga Minsik), in Puerto Rico (ile), in the Sudan (Alaa Sala), and the Native American population is blooming garden of young activists. So many bright arrivals on planet Earth!
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PS BJ Austin,
Dept. of small wobbly planet:
My daughter Michelle, who is offline, read your review and says she remembers listening to your radio broadcasts for KERA.
PS. White Monkey Chronicles is just one click away:
Quite a fun read. And you’re right, it celebrates you into rethinking where you want to be with your faith. It is light and thoughtful simultaneously. What I likened was how I felt she was playing with me and respecting my mind and heart.
Thank you, reader! The Monkey favorite roadside attraction: the playground of other minds.
This goddess book will set off fireworks in your mind! A beautiful retelling, remixing, rethinking of creation myths galore. I loved this book!
Thanks for the good words. Looking forward to conducting Eremos workshop for spiritual outliers next year!