River of Fire

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Death penalty activist and perhaps the most well-known nun in the world, Sister Helen Prejean recounts her origin story and the passions that drive her in her latest book, River of Fire: On Becoming an Activist.

The most welcome surprise of this book was the deep and sustained humor in it. Despite her fame and the difficult work of her life, Prejean does not take herself all that seriously. The early chapters, which recount her entry into the life of a nun, are filled with small episodes of her silliness and joy—two emotions often viewed as inappropriate for sister of the cloth. And the level of honesty in the book—about her own early feelings of racism and a rejection of the idea that a woman must be with only one man for life—is revolutionary.

If you’ve seen the film Dead Man Walking, in which Susan Sarandon plays Prejean, you may know something about this writer. But reading River of Fire is a far better window into the soul of the full woman. While the title suggests the book is about Prejean’s rise to activism, I’d argue it’s also about becoming your full self by acknowledging who you are, what you want, and what you don’t. It is a brilliant book—the kind you read and mark up in the margins and share with friends for years to come.


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Author Sister Helen Prejean
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Vintage
Publish Date 2020-Aug-25
ISBN 9780307389039
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue January 2021
Category Biographies & Memoirs
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