Tom Levinson reads from All That’s Holy
Saturday, November 15, 7:30pm
Tom Levinson says he’s no expert on religion, just a guy who set out on a road trip with a notepad and asked dozens of ordinary Americans to open up and tell him about God. Thousands of miles, scores of interviews, 305 pages and four years later, his journey has resulted in the recently published book All That’s Holy, a conversational documentary on contemporary American religious experience that’s earned acclaim from industry journal Publishers Weekly and veteran writers such as Joyce Carol Oates.
Levinson, a 29 year old University of Chicago law student, said he paid little attention to religion growing up in an unobservant Jewish family in Manhattan. In the book, Levinson borrows the terms “cafeteria Catholic” and “mess hall Muslim” from his subjects to describe the way Americans pick and choose among traditions as if in a buffet line.
In his account, a white New Mexican woman converts to Sikhism by way of yoga, a Cambodian Buddhist treats her cancer with both Western medicine and traditional healing, a southern Baptist says a “Hail Mary” when her daughter gives birth, Hindus worship Jesus icons, neo-pagans transform Halloween into a Celtic ceremony, Orthodox Jews keep kosher but smoke cigarettes, and Muslim women veil themselves but stand up for gender equality in the workplace. The book is light on analysis and heavy on anecdote, which Levinson said is by design.
“I wanted it to be as accessible as possible,” he said. “I see the book more as a conversation starter within faith communities … for example, do Baptists in Kentucky know the Muslims in Lexington? If not, why not?” These are the questions he said he hopes his book will encourage readers to ask themselves.
Tom Levinson will read and sign copies of All That’s Holy