RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksArmstrong locates our very capacity to willingly inflict so much violence on the natural world in the severed link between nature and the divine ... It is insufficient to view the collapse of the environment as a purely physical phenomenon— we must look at the spirituality, or lack thereof, that produced human beings capable of such pillaging. If we fail to do so, we remain vulnerable to the same destructive tendencies that created our circumstances in the first place. Through Armstrong’s exploration, it becomes clear that a cohesive theology of oneness, harmony, and reverence for the natural world is central to humanity’s collective religious expression. And from this theological wellspring emerged rituals and ethics for how to engage with and be in the world ... Armstrong’s book makes a vital contribution to discussions on climate change because what is required from us as a species is not only a technological transformation, but also a spiritual one ... Additionally, it is important to recognize that this is a non-specialist, non-academic book. Armstrong makes strong claims regarding epistemology, the development of Christianity, and major world religions, all of which are likely contested within academia. But her efforts and intentions here are simple: this book is not a rejection of Christianity or Western spirituality, but a rejection of the spiritual outlook that keeps us from seeing the natural world as a part of ourselves.
Jamil Jan Kochai
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... brilliant ... Kochai seamlessly weaves in and out of war, and back and forth between Afghanistan and Northern California, crafting stories that are sometimes folkloric and other times distinctly contemporary. An armed insurrection of monkeys taking over Afghanistan, and an FBI agent spying on, and developing an emotional attachment to, an unsuspecting suburban Afghan-American family both feel completely inevitable and unextraordinary because of the measured, almost casual prose with which the stories are crafted. The result is a collection that has the aura of an oral tradition of storytelling; as if you’re hearing them directly from an elder or cousin who has lived these stories and feels no need to sensationalize the details, no matter how sensational they are ... It’s not often you read stories featuring former mujahideen, a college student willing to die for love and Palestinian liberation, or even sympathetic FBI agents for that matter. And that’s what makes Kochai’s masterful collection so refreshing and riveting. We’ve been told such boring, distorted, and harmful stories about Afghans, Muslims, and the War on Terror. It would be easy for a writer to fall into the trap of taking those lazy, bad-faith stories seriously and to try to write against their current, attempting to offer a correction of sorts...But Kochai doesn’t fall for it ... Kochai penned a collection of highly original, enchanting stories on his own terms, decentering the narrative debris of the War on Terror, and opting to create his own spectacular worlds instead. He honors the multifaceted and rich cultural, familial, and spiritual lives of Afghans and Afghan-Americans without robbing them of moral complexity, reducing their lives to how they interact with bland, vicious stereotypes, or casting them as a monolith ... Lighthearted yet powerful and oftentimes funny, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak is an incredible work of deep empathy and care, with witty writing and sharp stories that take unpredictable turns.