I can’t stop thinking about The Grammar of God by Aviya Kushner. The book is on my mind because of the many narratives running right now in public discourse. Narratives that suggest some of us aren’t speaking the same language as others where C-19 is involved. Kushner’s book suggests that often we AREN’T speaking the same language. That we haven’t been consulting the same playbook, even when we might have thought we were. Though Kushner’s book isn’t about C-19, reading The Grammar of God may help you understand how our public discourse has gotten to this point.
Due to variations in translation, the Bible, the text on which we base so many of our culture’s religious and secular principles, often contains drastically different messages as it moves through languages, grammars, and cultures. For many of us who think carefully about language and how we use it, this shouldn’t be a surprising concept. But The Grammar of God is so carefully researched and grippingly told that I love reading Kushner’s explications and revelations.
After spending a lifetime diligently studying the Hebrew Bible, Kushner first read the Bible in English when she was 28. I love her descriptions of her shock on encountering some of the differences between the Hebrew and English Bibles. She becomes obsessed by these questions, consulting many translations, researching the lives of translators through time, considering what the differences in meaning and interpretation might reveal. This could all be esoteric, sleep-inducing stuff, but in Kushner’s skilled hands the research and analysis becomes the base material for a page-turning, emotionally-resonant book. The ways she weaves her personal experiences alongside those of her own family and of Biblical and linguistic scholars through time is nothing short or mesmerizing. (The story she tells of her grandfather toward the end of the book brought me to tears.)
You can get The Grammar of God most easily via ebook, so it might be the perfect book to buy if you’re avoiding deliveries because you’re worried about the virus.