Book Review: Unnoticed Neighbors by Erina K. Ludwig
The subtitle of this book, "A Pilgrimage Into the Social Justice Story" and the accompanying note on the back cover stating "This isn't a book. It's a pilgrimage" could be seen as marketing fluff to move the reader beyond another title on social justice. However, from the beginning of Unnoticed Neighbors (2011, House Studio) Erina Ludwig comfortably and compassionately takes the reader by the hand and walks them through the minefield that is the contemporary landscape of injustice on planet Earth. A quote, simple and forthright, sets the table from the beginning:
The deepest journey happens in the secret parts of us, where the questions and hopeful answers meet. (16)
Throughout this work, Ludwig walks with the reader and turns over stones along the way revealing the deep and painful injustices regarding health, water, food, sex, literacy, war and all other areas where there is a significant segment of the world's population either being exploited or ignored. She appeals to the Biblical narrative of the God of the Exodus who hears the cries of His children as well as the many different contemporary efforts being made to end the systematic and situational injustices that exist in every corner of the globe.
Perhaps as compelling as the statistics is the way in which Ludwig calls the reader to actions that are not only available but possible for the ordinary reader to accomplish. Each chapter ends with practical plans and organizations that provide a pathway for doing justice that is accessible regardless of our own economic or geographical location. Ludwig never preaches, never berates, never attempts to overwhelm the reader with guilt - instead she simply presents the realities of injustice which are in and of themselves overwhelming. The chapter on sex slavery - "Sex, Slaves and Sales" is especially helpful because Ludwig is able to treat a very explicit subject with language and decorum that is honest and stark while at the same time accessible to readers at any maturity level. The reality of sex slavery is presented in all it's ugliness without the need to spell out every detail and for that reason I could recommend it to both adults and teenagers to help open their eyes to realities of injustice exploding in their generation.
The call to justice in this book is even without being soft, Biblical without becoming expository, statistically-based without becoming bureaucratic - with it's flowing prose and generous doses of Ludwig's own energetic and colorful personality this is one book in the field of Christian social justice writing worth owning and sharing with others. If for nothing else than the closing salvo launched from Ludwig's peaceful pen:
Social justice is not about self-flagellation, for everyone is equal in His sight. It's not about guilt and blame; it's about leveling the playing field. Social justice isn't here to make us panic either. Panic only causes more madness and injuries. Social justice is here to say we can do something now, in our time, in the mundane and in the massive. (209)
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