Review: Home is the Road

Home is the Road, Diane Glancy. Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2022.

Summary: The traveling memoirs of a literature professor listening to the messages the land speaks and what within her answers these messages.

This is a book constantly on the move, as is its author. Diane Glancy is an emeritus literature and creative writing professor, still a visiting professor at various institutions across the country. She lives on the road, driving from place to place in an old Chevy with 180,000 miles on it. She believes the land has messages to which she listens as she drives. Her home is the road. She sleeps at rest stops, eats at roadside restaurants, and offers exquisite descriptions of what she sees.

She writes:

My creative scholarship is on the road by myself, sometimes within the shadow of other cars. When I am working on a project, I am following the trail of some historical character. The land has memory. It keeps a journal of what has passed upon it. It is in the elements–if I stand there long enough. There is something in the solitary that I find its shape and that I find its shape and connection to the past.

She is part Native American, raised in a fundamentalist Christian tradition where “everyone accepted Christ as their Savior.” As fashionable as it is in her circles to scorn Christianity and as problematic as it may be she states, “It has been foundational in my life–even its incomprehensible and off-setting parts. I believe in the Christ who was crucified.”

She chronicles her adventures with movers transporting her household from Kansas to California and her own parallel travels, who break and possibly abscond with some of her stuff, and yet she prays God’s mercy on men who brought fishing poles in their truck.

The book reads like the musings one has when driving alone on a long trip, watching a train in the distance, the slowing of trucks on a steep incline, the “shredding of self” that occurs as the miles pile up, the challenges of faith and the failures of her life, including a failed marriage. Will there be driving in the beyond? She thinks Jesus would have loved interstates (all this on two pages). Another chapter, “At Dawn, When You Drive Again,” consists of fragments of memory, mostly of childhood.

Her chapters on disenfranchisement are perhaps the most powerful. Once again, she holds terrible injustices and gospel truths in tension:

But I stayed. I have always stayed. I always will stay. I belong to Christ. I believe within the gospel is everlasting life. The missionaries came with soldiers to teach us this and to rid us of the desperate attacks of panic.

Movingly, she captures the tragedy of the Dakota Access Pipeline, once more, the imposition of American power over indigenous peoples during a visit to see what was taking place.

What made this travel memoir so powerful was this process of listening to the land, to its story and her own, often painful and yet held in tension with an unwavering belief, a hope that would not let her go any more than her love for the road. This is also an American story, in the grandeur of the landscape, the expanses we see from our network of highways, the spirituality that roots us, even as we wrestle with the pain of our own stories and the moral ambiguities of our national story. But will we listen? Will we stay?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program.

Review: Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview

Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview, Randy S. Woodley. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022.

Summary: A discussion of an indigenous approach to theology that proposes it is closer to both the indigenous traditions and the teaching of Jesus.

Until recent times, not only the history of our relations with indigenous peoples, but also our theology has been written by Euro-Americans. Randy Woodley, as he introduces himself in the beginning of this work is a mixed blood Cherokee who grew up in a Detroit suburb where his father worked in the auto industry. He came to faith in a revival meeting in a Baptist church, delivered of a drug habit. Educated from a Western perspective, he engaged in missions and pastoral work among indigenous peoples, learning their history and spiritual outlook in his efforts to communicate Christ, and became convinced in many respects, that the indigenous worldview, in many respects was closer to the way of Christ than the Western worldview.

In this work, he engages in three conversations, in indigenous fashion, telling stories and answering questions that contrast indigenous theology and the Western worldview. The first discusses the Western, progressive narrative of history versus the high civilizations of indigenous peoples that existed for centuries before they were “discovered,” likening the encounter to the story of the wolves (indigenous peoples) and the terrapin (the discoverers). They failed to understand the covenant Jesus had with all peoples and the strong indigenous sense of relationship between creator, people, and land.

The second conversation contrasts Western dualism and the much more integral understanding where all of life is both physical and spiritual, where the life of a people is integral with the land they inhabit, and one seeks to live in harmony (shalom) with creation. Western thought “othered” indigenous people, marginalizing and killing them. Healing this begins with acknowledgement, recognizing we are latecomers and usurpers, and working together to repair the damage.

The last conversation gestures toward a decolonized, indigenous theology rooted in what he calls the “harmony way”–ten indigenous values held in common by a wide representation of indigenous groups;

  1. Tangible spirituality/our spirituality must be practiced. Respect everyone. Everything is sacred.
  2. Our lives are governed by harmony. Seek harmony.
  3. Community is essential. Increase your friends and family.
  4. Humor is sacred and necessary. Laugh at yourself.
  5. Feeling of cooperation/communality. Everyone gets a say.
  6. Oral communications and traditions. Speak from your heart.
  7. Present and past time orientation. Look forward by looking back.
  8. Open work ethic. Work hard but rest well.
  9. Great hospitality/generosity. Share what you have.
  10. Natural connectedness to all creation. We are all related.

What connects all this to Christianity is the idea of shalom, and the healing of creation in the vulnerable shalom of the cross. Woodley contrasts this with Western ideas of conquest, control and power.

Is this orthodoxy or syncretism? Woodley would contend that this is for indigenous believers to work out among themselves. Others are interlopers who might better listen to the stories and reflect where they are being invited to walk more closely in the way of Jesus rather than in the distortions of the Western worldview. Does that mean Western Christians have nothing to offer? Woodley would affirm that they do, owing his faith at least in part to Western Christians. But he would resist any efforts to control from the outside as opposed to engaging in the way of harmony, where growth comes in community, as we engage from the heart in sharing our stories and listening to those of others.

Other indigenous writers like Robin Wall Kimmerer invite us to listen to indigenous wisdom in books like Braiding Sweetgrass. What Randy Woodley adds to this is the opportunity in listening to indigenous believers, we might not only gain insight in living wisely on the land that was once theirs alone as a gift of the Creator, but may also walk more wisely with the Creator of the land and with one another.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.