Reviews - What do customers think about Vashti's Victory: And Other Biblical Women Resisting Injustice?
Speaking for the silent... Jul 29, 2004
Queen Vashti is perhaps my favourite 'minor' character in the Bible; indeed, given the etymology of the word 'vashti' in Persian, we're not even sure if this is a name or a description ('beautiful'). Vashti is enigmatic, making an appearance only in the first chapter of Esther, and the little we know of her includes her refusal to follow lock-step the commands of the king when she knew that it was unjust. She was 'put aside' in short order, and never heard from again in the scripture. However, she has become a heroine of sorts to modern liberation and feminist interpreters of the bible. Vashti's strength came from her refusal to obey the hierarchy, her insistence on being treated with justice as a human being.
Laverne McCain Gill, the author of this text, knows a bit about that. In the introduction, she recounts her experience as a seminary student at the time of the O.J. Simpson trial, and how the racial tensions were running high on campus, including an incident in one of her classes with a professor who made what at best would be considered inappropriate and ill-advised comments. Because Gill's position in the seminary was less fragile than the average student's (she was not on scholarship; she was a generation older, closer in age and life-status to the professors than the students), she was not easily intimidated when the professor challenged her. Perhaps the spirit of Vashti came upon her.
Gill uses what she terms the Justice Reading Strategy for her framework here. This means that this text is no mere retelling of the stories of famous women and men. It is a means for discerning the movement of God and the will of God in the narrative. In many ways, this is a classic Womanist theological approach -- it deals with issue of patriarchy, gender, race and class as means of oppression, both for women in the biblical texts, as well as women in our own society and recent history. The resistance of these women is not characterised here as against society as much as it is seen as resistance for God and God's purposes in the world.
Gill intends four things from her text: providing a new way to read the bible; providing new context for looking at God's action in the world; to look at personal experiences of faith in this context; and, open up new areas of interpretation for readers of the biblical texts. Gill uses women often overlooked, and presents them in new light. In addition to Vashti, she draws upon the examples of Susanna, the daughters of Zelophehad, Michal (David's wife/Saul's daughter), and the women of the Moses story (the midwives, his mother, Pharoah's daughter, and Miriam, his sister). She parallels these stories with more modern-day examples, such as Ida B. Wells, Nigerian women who resisted the Western corporations, the Japanese 'comfort women', and others who have been oppressed and worked through the oppression for greater justice.
After each section, Gill provides information and questions for theological reflection and discussion. This can also be used for individual/private study. A short book with crisp, interesting writing, the book can be finished in one sitting, but it is a book whose value will come in the returning to it again and again as 'minor' characters show up in the lectionary or regular bible reading.