Don’t Mess With Sister

My father’s favorite childhood memory, retold many times around the dinner table, was his besting of the nun who tried to give him a good rap across the knuckles for his misbehavior in second grade. Hands out, ready for punishment, he swiftly lowered his hands just as the ruler descended, causing Sister to whack herself instead of him. Not many can boast of escaping Sister’s wrath (and he never reported on what happened afterwards). In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof – We Are All Nuns – and Maureen Dowd – Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns – offered their opinions on the Pope’s confrontation with the nuns, who are “accused…of worrying too much about the poor…” It isn’t hard to predict who will win.

In addition to recounting the legendary but truthful tale of Sister Rachele of the Congo who managed to “browbeat a native warlord into releasing the great majority of girls” who had been kidnapped from her Ugandan Girls’ School, Kristof offers this caution:

“…the Sisters may be saintly, but they are also crafty. Elias Chacour, a prominent Palestinian archbishop….once asked a convent {to} supply two nuns for a community literacy project. The mother superior said she would have to check with her bishop. ‘The bishop was very clear in his refusal to allow two nuns,’ mother superior told him later, ‘I cannot disobey him in that.’ She added: I will send you three nuns.'”

Having had the personal experience of being indoctrinated by nuns through twelve years of schooling – with some memories that are scary, most benign, a few endearing – I wondered about fiction – who wrote about nuns? I remember two books I’ve read and enjoyed – how about you?

Related Article: Vatican Reprimands US Nuns

Summer Reading List

Journalist Nicholas D. Kristof offers his summer reading list with “great novels relating to social justice.”  He asks, why read fluff when you can read “mindful page-turners” on the beach?

Have you read any of these?  since high school?

  • Germinal by Emile Zola
  • Pale Fire by Vladimr Nabokov (author of Lolita)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
For a short summary of each, go to Kristof’s essay:  Action! Romance! Social Justice!

Would you rather stick with nonfiction? NPR’s Rachel Smythe has these suggestions:

  • The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal (Read my review here)
  • Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden
  • Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
For more ideas on nonfiction, see Smythe’s article: Summers’ Biggest Juiciest Nonfiction Adventures