Author: Aviya Kushner
Rating: 4 stars
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
The Grammar of God is an unexpected little book, a look at the language of the Bible through a lens I’m not used to considering: translation. It was surprising and beautiful, though weighted more towards memoir and philosophy than instruction or theory.
Author Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking household, and as an adult studying the Old Testament in English, she realized that essential tenets of her faith were challenged or changed by the act of translation. Everything from gendered language to word tenses affected the meaning, taking a book she was intimately familiar with to new places.
The book is broken up into short segments, addressing everything from Sarah’s laughter to what, really, makes up the ten commandments. (It was really interesting for me to learn that Kushner and, apparently, many Jewish rabbis and scholars, approach the commandments as something more fluid and changeable than Christian fundamentalists who want to set them in stone on courthouse lawns.)
The writing is very spare and poetic; very reminiscent, in fact, of Kushner’s oft-mentioned mentor, Marilynne Robinson. I was a bit worried going in that the book would be very dense and academic, more suited for serious Biblical scholars than a lay reader. But I found it very accessible, a memoir told through religious text rather than a deep, line-by-line reading of the Old Testament. It brought up a lot of interesting subjects I’d never really thought about before.