Book Review: What God Is Honored Here?

Book Review: What God Is Honored Here?

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Published:
December 16, 2019

Editors Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang are not unfamiliar with the grief of miscarriage and infant death. In the wake of their own losses and healing journeys, Gibney and Yang attempted to find meaning and make sense of a phenomenon that doctors are unable to explain.

In their introduction to What God Is Honored Here?, Gibney and Yang highlight astounding statistics on miscarriage and infant mortality in the United States. For example, the CDC indicates that around 600,000 women a year experience miscarriage in the United States and around 24,000 babies are stillborn each year. The United States also has an alarmingly high infant mortality rate with an aggregate of 5.9 percent for every 1,000 live births.

When looking at the infant mortality rate when disaggregated by race, then numbers are even more alarming per 1,000 live births, with 11.3 percent for African Americans, 8.3 percent for American Indians, 5 percent for Latinx, 4.9 percent for white, and 4.2 percent for Asian Americans.[1]

Gibney and Yang highlight the clear gap in medical research for women, and particularly women of color. Looking at literature for grieving mothers, Gibney and Yang found that the experiences and stories are of white women, leaving the authors wondering where the space is for their experiences and stories. Out of Gibney and Yang’s search for meaning in the void of miscarriage and infant loss, they decided to embark on this project of remembrance, community, and healing. They write, “…our individual and collective healing is intimately bound up in the process of remembering them and us when we were with them, even if it means that we must also remember and survive once again the moments when we lost them.”[2]

What God Is Honored Here? is an empathetically written and edited collection of twenty-seven stories and poems of remembrance. Each woman, whether a professional author or a first-time writer, contributes her voice and experience to “build bridges of hope and healing.”[3] What this anthology brings to the table is invaluable. Each story, while unique, also reflects the similar experiences of hundreds of thousands of indigenous women and women of color who see doctors and medical professionals that don’t believe them or their pain, who listen to friends who tell them that they can “just try again,” or who are in faith communities that often fail to address the rooms full of grieving mothers that frequent their mosques and churches each week.

I read this anthology in light of the recent update to the stance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on abortion made at the General Conference Annual Council this fall. While the statement does indicate that it is not directed at miscarriage or spontaneous termination, the stories in this anthology (unlike the statement) reflect the complexities of pregnancy that this primarily male-crafted statement fails to grasp.

What God Is Honored Here? recounts brutally honest and human situations, where there are more questions than answers, and the right choice is not always so clear. Each unique narrative shows how women dealt with infant loss and being misdiagnosed by medical professionals, miscarriage and the struggles of interracial marriage, stillbirths and generational trauma. These are the stories of indigenous woman and women of color who are living in the “both/and” of society and affirms that they matter and their stories matter. This anthology is primarily a source of safety, solidarity, and healing for grieving mothers. In a space that is often alienating, this anthology calls women into community with one another. At the same time, all other readers are not left out. We who have not experienced miscarriage and infant loss are invited to enter a space of learning, empathy, and end up rightly asking and reflecting on the title question “What God Is Honored Here?”

 

Notes & References:

[1] Statistics found in: Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang, eds, What God Is Honored Here: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2019), 3. 

[2] Ibid, 4.

[3] Ibid, 8.

 

Danielle M. Barnard currently works as a Legal Advocate for sexual assault survivors at the Cora Lamping Center in Benton Harbor, MI. When she’s not working, she’s finishing her research for her MS in Community and International Development at Andrews University.

Book cover image courtesy of University of Minnesota Press.

 

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