By John G. Rodwan, Jr.
Holidays and Other Disasters considers the major U.S. holidays – Easter, Christmas, Opening Day, etc. – from an atheist’s perspective. It examines explicitly religious holidays, those that have a definite if not always acknowledged religious thrust (Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving) and secular holidays that had religious elements added on (like Labor Day) by way of personal stories, usually the author’s own. Where other people have especially revealing holiday stories, as is the case with Jack Johnson (the first black heavyweight champion) and the Fourth of July, novelist Salman Rushdie and Valentine’s Day or labor leader Eugene V. Debs and Labor Day, Rodwan tells theirs. Of course, holidays aren’t about religion alone, and Holidays and Other Disasters doesn’t look narrowly at them as pageants of piety. Rather, the book considers the various issues holidays raise, including race and class, and discusses other forms of expressive activity, such as literature, music and sports, along with religion and holiday rituals.
John G. Rodwan, Jr., is the author previously of the essay collection Fighters & Writers (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010). His writing has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines such as The American Interest, Blood and Thunder, Concho River Review, Cream City Review, Critical Moment, Fight News, Free Inquiry, Jazz Research Journal, The Humanist, The Mailer Review, The Oregonian, Philip Roth Studies, Midwestern Gothic, Pacific Review, Pea River Journal, San Pedro River Review, and Secular World. He has lived in Brooklyn, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Geneva, Switzerland; and Portland, Oregon.
"Combining personal experiences with cultural critique, blending historical analysis with a coming-of-age memoir, this collection of chapters reveals a scholar’s eye for nuance and an essayist’s knack for insight. … He thoughtfully critiques a less examined aspect of embedded, mandated, and communal commemorations within American life. Race, ethnicity, occupation, territory, class, school, sectarianism, team, music, patriotism, and parades, after all, characterize many public rituals, as well as denominational celebrations. … He can imbibe a holiday spirit without being a Scrooge, he assures us, and he carries on with conviviality and cheer. His book confronts the complacencies of observance by contrasting the stories which, in his life or that of those more famous, express freethinking challenges. Instead of following patriotic tradition, social convention, or religious ritual for its own sake, Mr. Rodwan champions choice."
John L. Murphy, New York Journal of Books
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