Book Review: Covered Glory: The face of honour and shame in the Muslim World
Title of Book: Covered Glory: The face of honour and shame in the Muslim World
Author: Audrey Frank
Published: Harvest House Publishers, 2019
Reviewer: C. Hine
Covered Glory is a rich story and reflection on honour and shame, done through a gendered lens. Audrey Frank weaves together her own story, stories of women who live under Islam who she has encountered, and scripture, with great elegance and insight. She creates a rich tapestry that shimmers with new insights from different perspectives.
In speaking of honour and shame as a woman, Frank shows that while it is experienced in particular ways by women it is also experienced by males. Her particular and unique contribution is to explore honour and shame as a woman but to do that across the breadth of its meaning and reality. She invites her readers to feel the emotions of that experience of shame or honour by introducing them to real people and their stories.
The book is divided into three sections: honour understood, honour restored and honour shared. Honour understood explores honour and shame through the ideas of identity and belonging. Questions are asked about false or counterfeit honour, and images and words that show the real world of shame are explained. All the time the reader is being invited to read the stories of scripture with fresh eyes. Honour restored takes us through scriptures in new ways, deciphering images and actions through the lens of honour and shame so that we see and know God more deeply. Whether it is Sarai and Hagar or Ruth, the widow of Nain, or Mary, God’s message for his people through Isaiah or the Psalms, Frank explores the message and metaphors of renewal and restoration from shame to honour. In the third section, honour shared, the good news of the gospel is explained afresh as it speaks to the honour and shame worldview.
This is a courageous book. Frank uses of her own story in a way that demonstrates real sensitivity. This is evident in the way she tells the stories of the women she has encountered. The reader meets Muslim women who have experienced shame through a range of ways as they negotiate the everyday of their lives: inability to fall pregnant, bearing a child with a disability, inability of the husband to find work and so much more. The consequences are terrible: exclusion from the community, disfigurement, prostitution.
Covered Glory offers a challenge to its readers. While the book is written, at one level at least, to help the reader understand honour and shame in the Muslim World, and particularly women’s experience of it, Frank is clear that we all are touched by the ‘shadow of shame’. While many may not relate to her story, she is able to shine light on the ways all humans experience shame. For example, sin is explored through the images of being dirty and then being clean. This touches on the issue of purity, an important issue for women, particularly Muslim women. It is contributions like this that demonstrate the importance of a book written by a woman on this topic.
I congratulate Audrey Frank for her courage to address this issue through a gendered lens and recommend the book, not just to women but to men as well. Its insights are important to help those working in honour and shame contexts re-examine beliefs and practices that shape how the good news is understood. The third section is an important one for its reframing of the good news in an honour and shame worldview. While Frank is not the first person to have done this recently, her contribution is the way this builds on the understanding she has given through the first two sections. I encourage the reader not just to go to the last section to know what to do. Read the whole book because it is a cohesive way of understanding and imaging life that is explored.
The reader is also helped into reflecting on what they are reading through questions that are provided at the end of each chapter. These take us to scripture and call for fresh listening to the Word in the light of the insights of the chapter. They make the book a tool that teams could use to explore their own context and ask questions of what the good news looks like in community.
Audrey Frank acknowledges that it is impossible to cover everything about honour and shame in one book, and so it would be unjust to draw attention to areas that are not explored. I had one concern early in reading the book. There were times when I was not sure if it was intended to be read by Muslims as well. While all of our writing should be open to all communities, there were places where the book seemed to struggle with its audience identity. This was particularly the case with the questions at the end of chapters in the first section.
This book is an important contribution at this point when followers of Jesus in honour and shame cultures are seeking to understand and enable the good news to be explained and experienced. I will be looking for a group of colleagues to read it with and explore its insights, and invite you to do the same.
(c) When Women Speak … November 2019
CH spent nearly three decades in South Asia and the Middle East working in education, community development and the Church, and was part of Interserve’s International Leadership for nine years. Her research has included women’s activism and social change in South Asia, violence against women and missiology. She is currently focussed on developing new streams of ministry among women who live under Islam and enabling women academics and practitioners to shape missiology and mission practice. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies (Australian National University).