Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mama Maggie by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn


Mama Maggie
by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn
$24.99
Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-7180-2203-7

I like books that tell me about other ethnic cultures, especially about the struggles of Christians in other cultures. If the story involves hardship in anyway, then I'm totally going to love it. When one considers all the books published by American Christian publishers, there are relatively few books for the general public that explores Christians in other cultures.

Within the past ten months, I've reviewed books on Vietnamese refugee Christians, and one about a young Christian woman who started an orphanage in Haiti. This time around the book is about the religious and social suffering that Coptic Christians in Egypt have endured.

Christians of all faiths will probably like this book. It's an inspirational story about a Christian doing good in this world. And the world is full of Christians doing good things that many people are unaware of. In this case, it's about Maggie Gobran, Egypt's Garbage Slums, the daily martyrdom Arab Christians endure, and inspiration.

The writers really give a good historical background of these slums and why many Coptic christians from the countryside --many of whom don't really understand their faith-- have ended up living in such poverty. This is where the book shines.

The book is about the work of Maggie Gobran, a woman who was rich and educated and who gave it a up to (wear all white) and work among the poor Copts in an Egypt slum. In vignette after vignette and chapter after chapter, we see how difficult the lives of young children in the slums were and how much Mama Maggie, the "Mother Theresa of Cairo," has improved their lives and their self-esteem. No wonder she was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.  

I mentioned the wearing of the white because I feel it's important. Christians in other cultures are not like western Christians and I suspect the wearing of white is a good external image, especially in the Middle East where Islam and Christianity are so obsessed with the Virgin Mary and with female purity. If a woman is going to do good in such a culture, I don't think it's a bad thing to wear white. White nun-like flowing robes are iconic and the power of the iconic in such a culture -- and among many uneducated people-- is powerful. I could only think of God telling John the Baptist to wear the outfit of a prophet.

I really liked this book. Sometimes we Christians in the west cannot even conceive of what sufferings other Christians are enduring.  I will say though that I had a few struggles getting past the actual cover and writing style of this book.

The full title of this book is Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman's Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt's Garbage Slums
by New York Times Best-Selling Authors Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn

A round pseudo seal appears on the cover which states The Authorized Biography of Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Maggie Gobran.

The book is published by Thomas Nelson.

That's one unwieldy title, isn't it? Seriously, book covers like this tend to turn me off because I tend to dislike the way that Christian publishers promote books. Simply looking at the cover makes me think of several things:

1) The best-selling authors were hand-picked by the publishing house because they are best-selling authors.
2) Why does a book need two authors? To erase all personality from the writing and to make the book fit into the same exact mold of all Christian memoirs and biographies?
3) Is there an un-authorized biography coming around soon?
4) Mama Maggie was a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee? Who is Maggie Gobran and Why don't I keep track of Nobel Prize Nominees anymore?
5) I didn't know there were Forgotten Children in Egypt's Garbage Slums. I should've known shouldn't I?
6) Why is this woman wearing white with a big cross around her neck? Is she a nun?
7) How am I going to make it through what promises to be a very very very overy-reverential book?
8) If I, a Christian, is cynical about the presentation of this book, how would a non-Christian cynic feel about it.

Yes, it is I, Carole the cynic, reviewing yet another modern Christian memoir. And you can imagine what it's like reading this book after pushing past all those questions.

It's a good book, though. Of course it's reverential to an almost canonizing degree. Maggie Gobran is praised by these two writers in amost every line so that even when they try to humanize her she hardly sounds human at all. But here is a case where my feelings about the writing has to be divided from my feelings about the object of the writing.

True, Maggie is saintly and is to be praised for all the wonderful programs and organiations (such as Stephen's Children's) that she created. But the continual praise the writers throw at her can be off-putting for some readers.

I received this book for free in return for a fair and honest review.


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