Reviewing Shannon Gonyou’s Since Sinai

At Parisian Phoenix, we believe in supporting other authors, other publishers and other artists. To that extent, publisher Angel Ackerman participates as a reader and reviewers on NetGalley and shares what she is reading on Goodreads and social media.

The publishing world presents a lot of “us” (as small independent publishers or independent booksellers or independent authors) against “them” (the major publishers or big box/online retailers or traditionally published authors). Podcasts on publishing– whether focused on getting an agent and going traditional or doing small press or self-publishing– often talk about how readers like what they read and will continue buying books they like. And it doesn’t matter where they come from.

So, at Parisian Phoenix, we share a wide variety of information. As we learn, you learn. As we read, we share. Because the world needs more community.

Today, I (Angel Ackerman) am sharing with you my journey with Shannon Gonyou’s book Since Sinai, where she tells us her story of her conversion to Judaism and allows us to shadow her in her new marriage and as she builds not only a family, but a tradition.

Her memoir is very much in line with Parisian Phoenix’s values of highlighting unique voices and diverse perspectives.

Here is the review as it appears on Goodreads:

I don’t often give out five star reviews on Goodreads–I think the five-star label should be reserved for the absolute best and for the books with the potential to withstand time and contribute something of value to the world. And while Shannon Gonyou’s book may never offer deep historical insight or any sort of analysis or lessons for future generations, her memoir brings so much honesty about not only spirituality but about life and the different struggles we face as people. It highlights how we, as humans, wrestle with our own faith, our desires to be good people, and our internal state.

As someone who has challenged my own spirituality time and time again, I was drawn to the book because like Shannon, I have felt a pull toward Judaism but, unlike Shannon, never really explored it. So, I hoped to share her experience. And I did. I related to so much of her story and I appreciated how openly she talked about not only her conversion but about her disordered eating, pregnancy loss, anxiety, sexuality, and meeting her birth mother.

Healthy spirituality requires us to face and embrace all of these things.

The book came to me via NetGalley, at a time of my own life where typical human struggles were threatening to overwhelm me (injury, minor flood from my bathroom, an incident with flea meds that landed a personal cat and a foster cat in the hospital, and the death of a nonagenarian author who published his memoir with my small publishing company). But, the book also arrived when themes of Judaism seemed to gravitate toward me: this memoir; the author who passed away was Jewish and his memoir discusses World War II from his family’s perspective and how they rebuilt their lives here in the United States; and from a sillier pop culture perspective, my recent binge of Orange is the New Black on Netflix brought me to the storyline of Cindy’s conversion as I read this book. Shannon’s mikveh came in the manuscript only a few days before Cindy’s mikveh in the lake.

Perhaps none of this has anything to do with Shannon’s writing. Her book offers a steady and easy-to-read text of family stories and real experiences that anyone in this crazy 21rst century can understand. The peace and joy she finds in Judaism and the way she rebuilt her spiritual life as she embarked on her marriage journey provides wonderful thematic balance to the tale.

Published by Angel Ackerman

Writer, Editor, Traveler, Fashionista, Francophile, Student and Mother Publisher at Parisian Phoenix ( Author of the Fashion and Fiends series

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