You’re Not Enough and That’s Okay

“If your self is the problem, how can your self also be the solution?”

Allie Beth Stuckey is a podcaster who speaks mostly to Millennial and Gen-Z aged women from a reformed Baptist perspective. She wrote this book to counteract the essentially Gnostic messages that are constantly being sent from all quarters to this demographic.

When Allie became a mom, it became obvious to her that young moms struggle with feeling inadequate as mothers and as people. There are a lot of reasons for this. One is that in our culture, motherhood is denigrated as a calling. Simply being a mother is not considered enough to make you an interesting, capable, intelligent person. Mothers are criticized no matter what they do. Another reason is that they are, in fact, inadequate. No one is really adequate to care for small children well while also maintaining a good relationship with a husband, and this problem is made worse by the fact that young women rarely receive any training in the domestic arts. Finally, we tend to feel overwhelmed when we are hormonal and sleep-deprived.

In response to this, a cottage industry has arisen that exists to affirm moms as follows: You are already doing great! This message comes from both secular and Christian sources. (Nominally Christian, though of course their theology leaves something to be desired.) Obviously, it’s a good business model to tell people they are already doing great. People like to hear that, and when the dopamine hit from the message inevitably wears off in the face of reality, they will come back for more, sometimes several times a day.

Allie uses her own experiences (being a mom, before that struggling with bulemia, and talking with hundreds of women) to apply some good Reformed theology to the following five myths. (She calls them myths, which is sort of polite. I would call them lies.)

  • “You Are Enough”
  • “You Determine Your Truth”
  • “You’re Pefect the Way You Are”
  • “You’re Entitled to Your Dreams”
  • “You Can’t Love Others Until You Love Yourself”

Obviously, these lies are not directed only at young women in our culture, and it’s not only young women that they are damaging.

Allie systematically shows how each of these creedal statements promises comfort and power, but ultimately, if we buy into it and try to implement it, delivers despair. She does so in her signature kind, personable way that is perfectly suited to her target audience. She quotes pertinent passages of Scripture (of which there are many) and shows us how the belief that we are enough in ourselves will trap us in an endless cycle of self-improvement and prevent us from turning to the one who is enough and who has the power to save and transform us, namely Christ.

Quote: Overheard During Labor

As the next contraction starts building, I grip onto Kate again. I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by wave after wave of pain, each one getting bigger and longer and stronger.

An eternity passes, then [labor nurse] Ann comes in again, this time accompanied by a male student midwife.

“Hmm. Still only four centimeters dilated,” she says to the student after examining me. “Minimal progress. Of course, there’s a much greater risk of a long and difficult labor with older ladies. The muscles of the womb don’t work so well.”

“Is everyone deliberately trying to undermine me?” I shout. “Has anybody got any positive words of encouragement here?”

“You’re doing a great job,” Ann says, unsmilingly.

The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood, p. 361

Book Review: Prepper’s Natural Medicine by Cat Ellis

pictured here with leaves of Mullein, which the books says is an analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, and mild sedative (page 100)

I bought this book to use a reference for my character Zillah. She has a built-up knowledge of herbal medicines and of emergency field medical procedures, but I don’t. I used this book to make sure that when she was using a remedy, I had the right plant. (I also had to look up whether the plant in question was native to the region of the world in which she was traveling.)

It turns out that, for almost any over-the-counter medicine and many prescription ones as well, there is a plant that will help with the symptom. God put this stuff in the world for us to find and use. He’s smart that way.

The book is great as a quick look-up reference, but as it turns out, there is also a benefit from reading it front to back. Then you will learn about the methods of collection, storage, and preparation, such as the difference between a tisane (used medicinally) and a tea (just for drinking); an infusion (made by steeping the delicate parts of the plant) and a decoction (made by boiling the hard parts of the plant). There is also basic medical and first-aid information, though obviously, to really know your stuff about that, you will need a much longer volume (such as Where There Is No Doctor), and ideally years of experience and a ton of luck as well.

I am already regretting not reading it front to back before using it as a resource in writing my novels. (It turns out that to make a tincture, you need to steep the herb in alcohol. Where on earth did Zillah get alcohol? She’s full of surprises.)

Speaking of surprises, it might be best not to wait until the apocalypse and then just go out and grab an herb for medicine (although in some cases that might be better than nothing). You’ve got to collect, dry, label, store, and refresh your collection, and also of course you’ve got to know what you’re doing. So, this is a very useful book for understanding the steepness of the learning curve.

Book Review: The New Trail of Tears by Naomi Schaefer Riley

Life is very bad on our American Indian reservations.

People on the reservations experience rates of corruption, unemployment, depression, drug addiction, sexual assault and child abuse that are as high or higher than any other place in the nation.

But why?

Those with overly simplistic views of American Indians tend to oversimplify in one of two ways: your average American Indian is seen either as Wise Noble Victim, or Worthless Lazy Drunk. My instincts have always put me in the Wise Noble Victim camp, but I recognize that neither of these oversimplifications explains conditions on the rez. American Indians are people, which means they are sinful but not worthless. As Schaefer Riley puts it, “Indians, just like all people, respond to the economic incentives and political conditions around them” (page 178).

I have occasionally spoken with people who seem to resent all that American Indians receive from the government. Tribal governments are “sovereign.” Tribes have the right to operate casinos on their land (in most states no one else can), and in many cases, tribal governments or even individuals receive direct payments of federal dollars. None of this is false, but what has been the effect of it? It has not led to a cushy life for tribe members; quite the opposite.

The Incentives

Here’s my quick summary of the “economic incentives and political conditions” created by the way the federal government has handled the tribes:

  • Law enforcement on the rez is a nightmare. Since Indians are not considered as being under the jurisdiction of the state in which they live, if there is a serious crime, it is considered a federal crime, and you could have three or four agencies involved. “He became especially concerned ‘with the lack of coordination between the tribal police and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI and the Justice Department.'” (page 164) Often, other law enforcement agencies defer to the tribal police, who often, because of nepotism, don’t prosecute. This creates a lawless situation on the rez, with high crime. It gives victims the impression that nothing will be done.
  • It is difficult for Indians to own land; or, if they happen to own some, to develop or sell it. Most land is not individually owned, but belongs to the tribe. A combination of tribal politics, environmental concerns, and federal red tape tends to block any attempts at development. This means that it is very hard to create or find jobs on the reservation … except jobs in tribal government.
  • While casinos provide some jobs, the linking of the casinos with tribal membership has introduced all kinds of corruption. Some tribal governments run their casinos essentially as cartels. The effect is that tribal membership is “commodified.” A common political move against a rival would be to get them declared no longer a member of the tribe.
  • Schools on the rez tend to be as bad as the worst inner-city schools. Schaefer Riley profiles a few schools that have bucked this trend, at least for a few years. One is a Catholic school. There are also Teach for American volunteers who are very motivated to give Indian kids a better education. But these people are usually met with mistrust and actively undermined or driven out because they are outsiders and because of the bad experiences that the older generation had with residential schools trying to forcibly assimilate them.
  • While it is important for Indian kids to learn about their traditional language and culture, “this is not a good first step.” Schaefer Riley points out that those tribes that have done the most to preserve their language and culture are those that have done the best economically. When no longer just struggling to survive, they use the money and the energy they now have to create museums and cultural centers.

In short, massive amounts of government money and regulations have had the same effects on the Indian reservations that they always have elsewhere. The red tape is at least tripled compared to the red tape faced by other Americans, which pretty much brings any kind of enterprise to a grinding halt. The infusion of government money through the tribal government incentivizes corruption. The lack of private property and actual employment makes people depressed. The white guilt (and the red tape) have made a lost cause of law enforcement.

Possible Solutions

Schaefer Riley ends with a call for American Indians to be treated like all other American citizens. She points out that American Indians have had very high rates of serving in the military.

Indeed, despite centuries of broken promises from the federal government, despite the bitterness that often pervades Indian communities, and despite years of being told by their own leaders and by Washington’s that they must remain a people apart, American Indians largely see themselves as Americans.

pp. 175 – 176

There has to be a way to ensure that Indian crime victims have the same rights under law as other crime victims … that Indians can own land and start businesses as individuals, not just as members of the tribe … that Indian families have access to a choice of schools that will prepare their kids to succeed. It has been suggested that the larger reservations be made into their own states. Then the people who live there would be considered full citizens who happen to reside in that state. This might not be feasible politically (although I think it would be really cool), but there are a few bands in Canada who are trying to get their tribal lands incorporated as cities. This would allow them to do development that they can’t do now, and the tribal leaders would be like city governments. Failing all this, a good step would be to drastically reform (or, ideally, eliminate) the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is known for being the one of the most corrupt and inefficient government agencies in a field where the competition is stiff.

I sincerely hope that Schaefer Riley’s book catalyzes a move in this direction. It should, of course, be read by anyone with the slightest interest in American Indians’ living conditions in these modern times. But it should also be read by anyone who is concerned about the effect of government micromanaging of citizens’ lives.

A Cautionary Tale

I see at least three ways in which the federal government’s treatment of Indians serves as a sample of what it would like to do with all citizens:

  • It’s coming from good – or at least utopian – intentions. In the case of the Indians, many people feel that the government owes them lots and lots of money and special rights because of the ways that same government mistreated them in the past. (Turns out, the money and “rights” are a new kind of mistreatment.) There is also an assumption that less development is better, because we don’t want to impact the environment at all. In the same way, there is a strong movement to put all citizens in the same position: “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.” Putting the most charitable interpretation on it, the idealists believe that this would bring about a utopia in which everyone has a high (but more importantly, “equal”) standard of living … there is no family loyalty or private property to cause conflicts … and everyone’s lifestyle is perfectly “green.”
  • It features forced assimilation. Schaefer Riley points out that Indians are in fact assimilating culturally to the United States, but forced assimilation is a very different story. A few generations ago, Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their own language. This idea that, if the parents don’t share the government’s value system, the government has a right to separate children from their parents and re-educate them, has not died away. The idealists have not yet gained enough power to practice forced assimilation on all American children, but they are trying.
  • It is collectivist. The degree to which Indians have been denied private property and individual initiative is the exact degree to which they have been brought to poverty and despair. In their case, this has been brought about partly from a sort of Rousseauian “noble-savage” myth about the way the Indians lived before Columbus (spoiler: they weren’t collectivists then either). In the case of other Americans, there has been an attempt to demonize private property, small business, and intact families as the problem with humanity. In fact, these things are key to human flourishing. Sin certainly shows up in them, but that is because it is present in human nature and shows up in whatever humans do.

The Big Five Personality Traits … and My Characters

I’ve posted before about the “Big Five” personality traits. Though I like personality typologies such as the MBTI, almost all of them come from a pre-existing theory the researchers have and then seek to impose on the data. The Big Five are the closest thing we have to traits that emerged from almost pure data … that is, from casting a very wide net (in this case over adjectives used to describe people), and then seeing if those adjectives “clumped” around certain traits, and then eventually finding biochemical analogues to these traits in the brain. So says Jordan Peterson.

Since the Daily Wire made all of Jordan Peterson’s old materials available on their web site, I’ve been watching my way through a psychology class he taught about the Big Five. His lectures are always so rich and insightful, even if they do get a bit Jung-y, that they never fail to fire my imagination. And the traits never fail to remind us of people we know who are particularly low or high in each of them. Today, I thought it would be fun to name a character from my series who exemplifies each of these traits. All the technical information about these traits in the paragraphs below comes from my recent viewing of Peterson’s lectures.

Extraversion

Extraversion, according to Peterson’s lectures, basically means the person has a very active incentive/reward system in the brain. The basic impulse of extraversion is “There’s a good thing … I’m going to go and get it.”

Nimri (later, Nirri), the main character in The Long Guest, is high in extraversion. Though paraplegic and living basically as a prisoner of people he can’t communicate with, he remains as active as he can, doing arm exercises, keeping a journal, and continually seeking to expand his sphere of activity and influence as much as possible.

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is the technical term for “high sensitivity to negative emotion.” In Peterson’s evolutionary terms, this is the brain system that keeps prey animals alert and hence alive. Statistically, women tend to be higher than men in neuroticism. There are obvious reasons for this: they need to be hair-trigger sensitive to the distress of their babies, and in fact, the world is a more dangerous place for a woman, especially if she is caring for an infant.

However, in my books, Exhibit A for neuroticism is a man. Enmer is 30 years old when an apocalypse hits his society. His father is killed, and Enmer becomes the new head of the family. He feels the burden of keeping them safe very keenly, and when subsequent disasters hit the family, Enmer enters a deep depression with which he will struggle for years.

Enmer is also high in conscientiousness, but we have another character to exemplify that for us.

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is made up of two sub-traits: industriousness and orderliness. Industrious people feel bad if they are not working on some task. The evolutionary (or design) usefulness of this trait to the community is obvious. Orderly people like things to be in neat, known categories. This plays on the fear system in the brain, where the unknown or chaotic constitutes a threat.

Though it might seem that being very conscientious would be a miserable experience, under normal circumstances conscientious people have lower levels of anxiety than less conscientious people. Peterson’s theory is that this is because conscientious people tend to order their environment well, which reduces levels of anxiety compared to people who live in a disordered environment (even if they think they like it). Conscientiousness is also a good predictor of overall life success.

Hur is a very conscientious character. He is small, fair-haired, and not very prepossessing, and he starts the series as a slave in Enmer’s household. But he has all kinds of skills, including being a good shot with a bow and knowing how to make bows and arrows. He takes advantage of the apocalypse to demand his freedom and soon becomes the tribe’s go-to guy for both hunting and security. Eventually, he becomes tribal cheif.

Agreeableness

Agreeable people like to please other people and keep relationships good. In any given situation, they will not necessarily ask themselves what they want (or even, in some cases, be aware of it), but will just do what other people want them to do. Statistically, women tend to be higher than men in agreeableness. Being very agreeable is a necessity when you are caring for an infant, as the infant’s needs must always take priority over your own. It does not, Peterson points out, prepare you well to function in an out-of-the-home work environment. You tend to get taken advantage of.

Sari, one of the main characters in The Strange Land, is an agreeable wife and mother. She spends years living with an abusive husband, trying to keep the household running and to mother her children as best she can. When a crisis hits, she does not know how to ask for help and does not want to inconvenience others.

Openness (to new experiences)

Open people are adaptable. If there is a major crisis, you want some people who are high in openness around, as they will handle it better than someone who is very high, for example, in orderliness. Openness plus fluid intelligence is a good predictor of a person’s creative output.

Zillah, who is a main character throughout my entire series, is high in openness. She is the one who encourages the family to take in the injured foreigner Nimri when they stumble upon him as they are fleeing the Tower of Babel apocalypse. She adjusts to the new reality and accepts it far more quickly than Enmer, who never really comes to terms with it.

Though Zillah is not a “creative” person in the sense of producing visual art and music, she shows a great deal of creativity in the way she cares for her extended family, responding to crises, delivering babies, and bearing the brunt of caring for Nimri, including learning to speak with him. She becomes the tribe’s medicine woman and builds up a store of medical knowledge, and she is always on the lookout for someone who needs help.

Book Review: The Brides of Maracoor

This book was a pleasure to read.

This review was originally posted by me on Goodreads and has been edited for clarity. The book is by Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked, and is part of the same universe. It is the first book by Maguire that I have read. I gave it four stars.

The prose is almost like poetry, but not purple. Not hard to plough through; it draws you through. The psychology is amazing. So is the portrayal of a sort of ancient-Greece-based world. I picked up this book for the brides, who are sort of like pagan nuns (Vestal Virgins?) living all alone on a remote island, performing bloodletting and weaving rituals in order to guard a sacred artifact.

Every morning, the “brides,” who range in age from ten to about eighty, troop down to the seaside where they use sawgrass to cut crosshatched lines into the soles of their feet. Then they sit with their injured feet in the salt water and tie seaweed into a net. This ritual supposedly “weaves time” so that the world can go on. The brides are almost entirely self-sufficient, keeping gardens, goats, chickens, and an orchard. None of them have ever seen the mainland. They are brought to their island, called Maracoor Spot, as babies. There are always seven brides, so whenever one dies, a baby is brought to replace her.

The way Maguire introduces all this information is magical, as if he were weaving a spell. There are lyrical (but not sappy) descriptions of the island’s weather, the sea, the rain, the clouds, interspersed with descriptions of the brides’ suffering at their morning ritual. This slowly expands to show us their names, ages, personalities, and daily routines. They sleep in the outer part of a small marble temple, the inner room of which houses the terrifying artifact.

By the time Maguire was finished showing us the brides and their way of life, I was hooked. I knew I was going to finish this book.

The moral lessons, at least to which the story seemed to be heading, weren’t ones I could completely get on board with, however. So now let’s to spoiler town (though I should add that there are vast swathes of this book I haven’t addressed, so this is not a complete spoiler).

Rain, who seems to be the character we are most supposed to identify with considering that she is the one who comes from a beloved earlier series, makes the argument that Acaciana (“Cossy”) can’t be tried for murder because she is a 10-year-old child who has been raised in the very restricted environment as a Bride of Maracoor, not having a natural family, not having been given any chance to develop a conscience. She argues that the whole setup with the brides living on an island and ritually mutilating themselves every day, in service of the country’s religion, is inherently unjust and oppressive, and thus Cossy can’t be expected to know right from wrong.

It’s true that there are some troubling things about the “brides,” who are brought to the island as foundling babies and know no other life, being deprived of the chance to marry and have families and live in normal society. However, I can’t tell if this is a critique of ancient pagan customs such as the Vestal Virgins, or of there being traditions or religion at all. Obviously some religious customs are more oppressive than others. The brides are better off on Maracoor than if they had been made into temple prostitutes, for example.

It’s also not entirely true that Cossy was raised without any family at all. Cossy had a grandmother figure in Helia, who did some significant parenting, both good and bad. She had a sister in Scyrilla, and aunts in the other brides. Though there are only seven of them, the brides form a definite human society, with all the benefits and problems that come with that.

This raises the other point that Rain overlooks: no one gets to choose what family, society, or social station they are born into. The brides’ life might be more restricted than most people’s, but no one’s life is completely unrestricted. No one has infinite choices, and everyone has obligations placed upon them that they didn’t choose and don’t at first fully understand. These can be just or unjust, and we can argue that on the merits. But we should remember that they are not unjust simply because they are restrictions, obligations, and unchosen. Since the brides are all foundlings, we can assume that if they had not been brought to the island of Maracoor Spot, they would have either died of exposure (the fate of so many unwanted Greek and Roman babies), or been raised in some kind of institutional environment like an orphanage, where their lives would have been just as restricted, but without any sacred purpose.

Actually, I happen to agree that Cossy isn’t entirely responsible for the murder she committed, but it’s not because she was raised in an odd, isolated environment. It’s because Helia, her beloved grandmother figure, implicitly encouraged her to do it, told her exactly how to do it, and almost physically walked her through the steps. Helia is morally responsible, not only for the death, but also for taking an impressionable ten-year-old girl who is curious about death and making her into a murderer … and then throwing her under the bus. I don’t blame “the system,” I blame Helia.

That said, you can’t argue that Cossy absolutely did not know right from wrong or that she was in no way responsible. Witness how she falls apart after the death. She knows that she has done a terrible thing from which there is no going back. If she herself had not really committed murder, thus really changing her own character, then what Helia did to her would not have been such a terrible thing.

This book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. There are lots of unanswered questions, such as the nature and fate of the Hammer of Mara, whether Maracoor is going to continue sliding into paranormal chaos, and whether Rain is going to get back to Oz. For me, there are also unanswered questions about Rain’s back story, though I suppose those answers are already known to faithful readers of Maguire’s previous books.

Honor’s Reserve by Michael La Ronn: A Book Review

I’m sorry. This just did not hold my attention.

More than a year ago, I read Phantom Planet, which is the second book in the Galaxy Mavericks series but came out before the first one. Near the end of that, Grayson, the main character in Honor’s Reserve, shows up to rescue Keltie (he’s in the space equivalent of the Coast Guard). At the time, the vibes I got were definitely eyebrow-raise-what-have-we-here-man-in-uniform-potential-romantic-interest-alert. So it’s disappointing to find that Grayson’s back story is, so far, more boring than Keltie’s.

I don’t have a problem with the fact that this space opera takes liberties with science. In fact, the author includes a hilarious disclaimer at the beginning announcing that he is planning to do just that. Some other Goodreads reviewers actually DNF’d this book because of perceived inaccuracies with hyperspace travel and the like. I would just like to remind my fellow science-fiction readers that hyperspace travel, no matter how convincingly it is “explained,” is FICTION. Travel that even approaches the speed of light probably physically destroys the object traveling. All hyperspace travel is fiction. So is evolution. And boy, is there some fictional evolution in Honor’s Reserve!

Scientists think that the nanocraft [carrying a selection of DNA from humans and various animals] collided with an asteroid that had some kind of molecular life on it, and that that asteroid crashed onto an Earthlike planet that supported carbon life. The two life forms mixed, rapidly evolved, and Arguses were born.

Honor’s Reserve, p. 36

Arguses are aliens that basically have human bodies and the heads of pigs. And this entire, intelligent species evolved in … how long? “Nine hundred and fifty years.” Actually less, if you count the transit time for the nanocraft. Wow, that really gives a new meaning to “rapidly evolved.” But frankly, if you look into molecular biology, an intelligent species evolving from bacteria at all is just as unlikely as it evolving in 950 years. So, why not? Remember, this is science FICTION.

I also don’t mind the things in this series that might be considered anachronisms. The year might be in the 3000s, but human nature remains the same. So, Grayson and his fellow crewmembers getting onto a private spacecraft and giving it a bureaucratic-style safety inspection seems refreshingly realistic. I’m sure bureaucracy is not going to decrease with the advance of technology. And, perhaps my favorite moment in the book is when the heroes are trying to jump into hyperspace to escape the villains, and the computer keeps asking them, “Are you sure you want to jump into hyperspace?” and making them click a bunch of permissions, causing them to get caught by the people chasing them.

So then, why did this book keep losing my interest and why did I nearly DNF it at about 40%? Maybe it’s something about the writing. Although I am willing to put up with unrealistically easy jumping into and out of hyperspace, I do like the logistics of my action scenes to be nice and clear, and in Honor’s Reserve, they often weren’t. For example, it was sometimes not clear to me that a character had put their helmet back on (or never taken it off) before, say, the airlock was depressurized. That seems kind of important. There’s a scene near the beginning where Grayson is holding on to the outside of a space ship (or the edge of the airlock door, which is open? Not sure?) where the logistics were just not clear. The scene moved too fast. Show, don’t tell is great, but sometimes with sci-fi we need a little telling, or the scene actually loses drama.

Speaking of losing drama, there was definitely some untapped potential for character development here. I am speaking of Rina, the female villain of the story. [spoilers ahead] She is found to be human trafficking: helping the odious Arguses to kidnap people so they can enslave them. Then we find out that she is doing this in exchange for a promise from the Arguses to protect her and her family. She was at first enslaved, and she has the burn marks to prove it. Well, even if it’s not ultimately excusable, this seems like a pretty understandable motivation. It might bear looking into a little further. Rina has evidently been through some pretty heavy trauma recently and is in a desperate situation. We might want to examine that, no?

No. Rina is consistently portrayed as a sociopath. “You can’t trust anything she says.” She even comes right out and says, “It didn’t really bother me to enslave a bunch of other people, as long as it wasn’t me.” So Rina is thoroughly bad and we can safely hate her and turn her over to the Arguses.

Even this character arc might have been OK if it had been written with a little more complexity: if, say, Grayson had been tempted to feel sorry for Rina when he heard her tragic back story, had tried to turn her, and had then been double-crossed and we find her doubling down on her evil. But that’s not how it goes down. It’s as if Rina is barely a character at all.

To sum up: a bland, one-dimensional villain (and consequently, hero); aliens that don’t seem spooky, just like grosser, evil-er people; and action scenes that sometimes felt rushed and inadequately explained are all the reasons that I found the author’s notes at the end, about his philosophy of space operas, much more interesting than the book itself, and the reasons I am sadly giving this book two stars.

I will say that Phantom Planet, while it had some of these same problems on a smaller scale, was better than Honor’s Reserve. It had some spooky, unexplained things that promised more terror later in the series. I might give this series one more book before I give up on it.

Metroplex Monsters: A Book Review

This one was pure fun.

What, I ask you, could be more of a romp than a book about cryptids, urban legends and paranormal experiences, set in a metro area in which you once lived and even taking place in parks you have walked in?

Almost nothing, expect maybe gifting same on Father’s Day to your husband, who lived in said metro area longer than you did and who knows it even better.

Or, enjoying the fact that the book is illustrated in a retro, pulp-fiction style by the author, who is also a graphic artist.

All of these minor delights are now mine.

The D/FW metro area is not the first place one would think of when hearing the word “Bigfoot,” or the word “spooky.” Even as a city, it is not very attractive. The area is sprawling, and tends to be unwalkable, with wide streets, vast parking lots, hot temperatures, and glaring daylight. It gets lot of Wild West points for its cowtown/railroad/cotton growing local history (all documented in the book), but it gets almost no gothic points.

However, despite being a vast metro area, D/FW is seamed through with green spaces around the Trinity River and its tributaries. As the book points out, the brushy edge of this greenspace is so dense that it could really be called a “green wall.” As is alleged to have happened, surprisingly recently, you could drive by this “green wall” and be unaware that Bigfoot was quietly standing 40 feet from the highway.

The area also has a quite a few large lakes, such as Joe Pool Lake (I’ve been there!) and White Rock Lake (I’ve been there too!). These are man-made, created by damming various tributaries of the Trinity River. They are popular recreational areas, but also big enough and old enough to have spooky urban legends associated with them and to allow people to have hard-to-believe encounters.

Finally, because of the river system and the associated lakes, the D/FW area has a lot of large birds, such as egrets and blue herons. I can confirm that it is very common to see these feathered creatures while simply driving from place to place in the metro area. One really fascinating contention in this book is that some of these “herons” are actually, on a closer look, featherless and are in fact a kind of small pterosaur. A few people have gotten a good enough look to realize that the “heron” looked more like a lizard, but they have understandably kept quiet.

About the Author

Jason McLean, the author of Metroplex Monsters, is the founder of the SIRU papers podcast on YouTube. I found out about him, and his book, when the two of us were on yet another podcast discussing the weirder elements of the Old Testament. So, this book, while I have described it as a romp, is actually in deadly earnest. McLean traces the origins of various Dallas urban legends somewhat in the style of Snopes, though more along the lines of let’s-find-out-the-actual-history rather than whatever-it-is-we-will-debunk-it. Though you can’t tell from Metroplex Monsters alone, he has a worldview that allows for quite a few paranormal phenomena to make sense within a biblical, and entirely rational, framework. If you are interested in that sort of thing, I encourage you to check out SIRU papers (and of course, The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser, Giants: Sons of the gods by Douglas Van Dorn, and The Scattering Trilogy by a distinguished novelist. But SIRU papers is even more hair-raising). If you are not interested in how a Christian could possibly countenance the paranormal, but just want to laugh and shake your head over how even a seemingly banal metro area like D/FW can have cryptids, feel free to read, and enjoy, Metroplex Monsters at face value.

Mind Blown Again by Thomas Sowell

The following paragraph sums up several pages of data:

In short, major social transformations within the black community were having an impact in their economic condition. It would hardly be surprising if it also has an impact on how whites viewed blacks, as had happened [in a previous wave] in the nineteenth century. The civil rights legislation of the 1960s may well have been an effect of the rise of blacks, rather than the sole or predominant cause of that rise, as it has been represented as being, by those leaders — black and white — with incentives to magnify their own role in racial progress.

Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, p. 51

If you want to see the reactions of those with incentives to magnify their own role, go find this book on Goodreads and check out the 1-star reviews.