DoubleX Book of the Week: "Raised Right" 

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 14 2011 10:39 PM

DoubleX Book of the Week: "Raised Right" 

1-5f07d14821

I rarely read books that cite scripture so frequently that the majority of the footnotes are devoted to identifying the biblical passages from which they are drawn. In fact, Alisa Harris’ Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics may be my very first gospel-quoting memoir. And that, I suspect, is an indication of a problem that Harris lays out with remarkable clarity. Too many of us see the world as a place where our own worldview is the correct one, while those on the other side of the issues are corrupt and feeble-minded. In many ways, this book is the story of Harris’ journey from the Manichean universe she grew up in toward a world where views are not matters of dogma but the result of reflection on the values they represent.

Harris grew up in a Christian conservative Republican family (that order, I learned, is significant) in which politics was an expression of faith. She started picketing abortion clinics even before she could walk, was home-schooled, and was active in Republican politics many years before she enrolled in a conservative Christian college. In her early 20s, she started to question the orthodoxy of those worlds and to recognize more of life’s complications, especially when she moved to New York City after graduation. This book is the record of that process of self-examination.

Advertisement

As a complete outsider to the world of her childhood (I was nominally raised a Christian, but in a denomination in which God is pretty much an allegory), it’s the portrait of the community she was raised in that fascinates me. It’s much more difficult to demonize “the other side” when they are real people who face the same problems and challenges we struggle with.

The circles Harris moves in these days are much more familiar to me. (In fact, I should note that we know each other slightly through her husband, who is part of the Slate family.) Perhaps that why it’s difficult for me to understand the full import of her decision to support Barack Obama in 2008, and the discomfort it caused her family—until, that is, I think how horrified my British Commie grandfather would have been if I had ever voted for the Conservative Party. (I suppose it’s sad that I can understand her family’s concerns more clearly if I consider how Marge Simpson would have felt if Lisa announced she was moving to Shelbyville.)

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

As Harris herself anticipates, some readers will complain that at 26—and without a single grand slam tennis title to her name—she’s too young to write a memoir. But for once the author’s youth feels like an asset. She’s close enough to her childhood and adolescence to remember how it felt when the stark black-and-white world her parents created started to take on shades of gray. In a few years’ time, I doubt she would spend quite so much time describing her wardrobe choices when she attended GOP debates and conventions, but that would be a shame, since nothing conjures her youthful fervor more effectively than the image of a teenager dressed in a T-shirt “featuring an artistic rendering of a fetus next to a Mother Teresa quote.”

Harris’ honest depiction of her ongoing struggle is inspiring, and she turned those strange beings I am all too prone to dismiss with a term like fundamentalists into real people. As a pro-choice feminist, I’m horrified by the story of how her father lobbied a local hospital to close the one facility in the county where abortions were performed, but I grudgingly admire his effectiveness, and I’m glad I got to know him here.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.