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Book Review :: God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland

God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland published by HarperOne book review by Jack Bylund book cover image

Guest Post by Jack Bylund

In God is a Black Woman, author and professor Christena Cleveland confronts the faults of the mainstream Christian deity, whom she refers to as “whitemalegod.” A perpetrator of endless wrongs in society, the whitemalegod that Cleveland interrogates is found at the heart of racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, and toxic masculinity, among others. Cleveland makes her case for mainstream Christianity’s role in these issues succinctly and effectively, providing compelling evidence from recent events and her own upbringing in Christianity; stories drawn from her life prove as compelling and honest as they are tragic and too common.

All the while, Cleveland presents a narrative of her travels through France on a pilgrimage seeking out Black Madonnas—statues of the Virgin Mary throughout the world who are Black. In her efforts to connect with these works of art, she enumerates the multifaceted ways in which Black Madonna—the titular figure of the book—contrasts with and rejects the white supremacist ideals of whitemalegod. She applies Black Madonna ideology to modern issues and rhetoric. Most of all, Cleveland gives hope for people in need of a God who truly loves amid the post-Trump rise in Christian hatred and nationalism.

God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland. HarperOne, February 2022.

Reviewer bio: Jack Bylund teaches and studies English literature and fiction at Utah State University. He loves contemporary lit, Panda Express, and books about the end of the world.

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