Mark Bozzuti-Jones has written a book for young people about the life of Bishop Barbara C. Harris, concentrating on her childhood and youth, with only a few pages devoted to her adult life, her path to ordination, and her election and consecration as the Anglican Communion's first woman bishop. In terms of vocabulary and style, the book appears to be aimed at middle-school children or those in the upper elementary grades, but the production is very similar to that of a monograph for adults; I am not sure that the intended audience will easily find its way to, or into, this book.
Four of six chapters deal with Barbara's childhood in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Her feisty character is a portent of things to come. Along the way, readers are given some side trips into the history of Philadelphia, the Episcopal Church, the Civil Rights movement, and the movement to ordain women. Although this is a book about "the first woman who . . . ," its more significant lesson is about the importance of family and of the nurturing of young lives within the church. In an age of rampant individualism, a book about the first Episcopal woman bishop could have been solely a celebration of an individual, but Bozzuti-Jones does a good job of showing Barbara Harris as a woman growing up in and sustained by a believing family. The cover of the book features a photograph of Barbara at her episcopal consecration. We learn from the story inside that the modest Black woman at her right is her mother, and that her mother did not favor the ordination of women. But when, at the consecration, another priest stood up and began to scream: "This is a farce! You are not a priest, not a bishop, and no sacraments that you perform will be legitimate," Barbara's mother rose from her seat and went forward to her daughter's side. She hugged Barbara and said, "Don't worry, my child. It will be all right. I am your mother and I know" (p. 84).
Because of its rather staid format, this may be a book that parents will want to buy and read to and with their children. Its lesson of family loyalty and pride in our children would only be strengthened by a few evenings like that, and families, too—provided they are ready to welcome the idea of women priests and bishops—will be nurtured by it.