The Girl God (© 2012 Trista Hendren, illusrations by Elisabeth Slettnes). 40 pages, paperbound; available at www.theGirlGod.com.
Review by David Weiss
The story, a simple children’s tale that will have timeless echoes in the heart of many an adult, recounts an exchange between Trista and her daughter, Helani. Inspired by a sneeze – talk about incarnational theology! – (and the Muslim blessing that Trista says after it) they explore Helani’s difficulty in feeling God within her. Along the way they discover that Helani immediately senses the Goddess within her … the Girl God.
The tale is a poignant reflection on the importance of having metaphorical references to the Divine that are accessible and empowering to all of us – of all ages, genders, and more. If we can acknowledge that the Holy (whether named God, Goddess, the Universe, etc.) is closer than our own breath and yet wholly beyond the reach of our words, we realize that the multiplicity of ways we seek to name and image the Sacred are not steps by which we stray from a narrow paths but rather a joyful dance through a garden overflowing with beauty.
If Trista’s narrative begins that dance, Elisabeth’s illustrations turn it into a frenzy of delight. Her paintings do not so much illustrate the story as they beckon beyond it. Bold and vibrant, they evoke the magical-surreal interplay of divine, human, creature, and nature. Both children and adults will see much (and I bet see rather differently) in and through Elisabeth’s art.
Finally, nearly every page of the book has a subtext of feminine/sacred wisdom. Thirty-five quotes in smaller text adorn the lower parts of the pages. Drawn from multiple faith traditions and from feminist writers, they make this a book to appreciate not simply for the story or the art, but for these invitations to linger in the words of others as doorways for our own self-reflection and growth.
This is a delightfully rich book that can spark conversation and reflection on many levels – and one worth returning to again and again.
David Weiss is a theologian, essayist, hymnist, poet, and author of When God Was a Little Girl (www.WhenGodwasaLittleGirl.com), a playfully profound creation tale.