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John Lewis made popular the concept of making “good trouble.”

The noted civil-rights leader who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 until his death earlier this year, tweeted in June 2018, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Rep. Lewis is not included in Daneen Akers’ 2019 book published under the title Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, but perhaps he will be included in the second volume already planned.

Some of you may know of Mike Morrell. He was the sub-author of Richard Rohr’s 2016 book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation.

Among the many hats Morrell wears, he curates the Speakeasy network, which is a collective of bloggers who, among other things, review books.

I have received and reviewed a few books for Speakeasy, and that is how I came to read Akers’ book about “holy troublemakers.”

I didn’t know when I requested it that it is a book for young readers, but the stories of 36 “troublemakers” were of sufficient interest to this old man, although I didn’t need the 16-page glossary at the end.

Akers’ attractive book tells the story of a wide variety of people, beginning with Alice Paul and ending with Wil Gafney.

After a bit, I caught on that the people are introduced in alphabetical order by their first names, and later I found out that Rev. Gafney is a former student of Michael Willett Newheart, a former student of mine.

Some of the “holy troublemakers” and “unconventional saints” included are some of my favorite people about whom I have written about in this blog – people such as Francis of Assisi, Florence Nightingale and Gustavo Gutiérrez.

The book also includes many people whom I learned about for the first time, such as Ani Zonneveld (a Malaysian Muslim), Irwin Keller (a Jewish rabbi) and Lisbeth Melendez Rivera (a Puerto Rican active now with Rainbow Catholics).

As described on the HolyTroublemakers.com website, “Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints is an illustrated children’s storybook featuring the stories of people of diverse faiths who worked for more love and justice in their corner of the world, even when that meant rocking the religious boat.”

Many of the people introduced in this book grew up as conservative Christians, as did author Akers herself.

On page two, Akers shares that she “grew up in a deeply loving family with five generations of roots in a conservative Christian denomination,” which I found out elsewhere was the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Akers quite apparently grew into embracing a broad ecumenical religious worldview and a warm, accepting attitude toward other people, especially those who suffer discrimination or societal mistreatment.

As we are informed on the website, Akers’ book “emphasizes the stories of women, LGBTQ people, people of color, Indigenous people and others too often written out of religious narratives.”

Two-thirds of the people introduced in Akers’ book are women, and just over half are people of color.

Moreover, even though she is a white Christian, Akers includes Jews, Muslims and Buddhists in her book – and also a chapter on Valarie Kaur, a remarkable Sikh woman.

At least 10 of the 36 troublemakers/saints are LGBTQ people, and six or more others are allies.

Akers informed me there are so many profiles of LGBTQ holy troublemakers and unconventional saints in the book because that’s “a demographic that’s too often been excluded from religious narratives.”

The book’s emphasis on LGBTQ people might limit its audience, but I believe it should be recommended for a wide reading public.

In particular, I especially recommend this book to two types of families: to those who have family members or close friends who are LGBTQ and to families who harbor negative feelings toward LGBTQ people.

The book is a bit pricey, but it is a beautifully done and valuable book. It could certainly be a good investment for parents to buy and to read and discuss with their children over 36 days.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on Seat’s blog, The View from this Seat. It is used with permission.

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