Sue Monk Kidd is best known as the author of “The Secret Life of Bees” (Viking, 2002), which was made into a critically acclaimed movie in 2008. But before comparing the sisterhood of all women to a buzzing hive, Kidd was proclaiming a new direction for women’s spiritual search in “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” (Harper San Fransico, 1996).
Kidd was raised as a devout Protestant Christian and graduated from Texas Christian University. Let that be a lesson for all Christian parents – if you want your kid to stay Christian, do not put them into Christian education. “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” is part history, part theology but mostly an impassioned and elegant argument for why she left Christianity and embraced her own form of Paganism that she refers to as “the sacred feminine”.
Seen Through the Eyes of a Pagan
I read this book some years after I became a Pagan and before I became a Pagan atheist. There were precious few books about witchcraft, pagans or Goddess mythology in my local library, so I checked this book out. It was filed under the religious sections, but some libraries may file this under autobiography or next to “The Secret Life of Bees”.
Although I appreciated the poetic prose throughout this page-turner, there was nothing new in here that the average Pagan hasn’t already figured out. If you are already familiar with Skyhawk, D.J. Conway, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Silver Ravenwolf, Zsuzanna Budapest or Merlin Stone then you won’t find much in “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter”.
Seen Through the Eyes of a Christian
Like Kidd, I was also raised in a devout Protestant Christian household and sent to a Christian school (but not a college, thankfully.) I also dropped the faith and picked up Paganism after a long search. Part of the reason I dropped Christianity was how I saw my Mother treated after she decided to divorce my father. Church members told me to my face that only the husband could initiate divorce proceedings. I also saw the derision in which women in general were treated and found it distasteful.
Not all Christian men treat women badly. There are some progressive churches that do not take the Bible literally. But many denominations and so-called Christians do exist that firmly believe that men are better than women solely because men are considered more God-like.
Because they have been raised in this viewpoint since birth, many Christian women are so used to being treated shabbily. They may hate “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” or claim that they cannot understand it. My own (still Christian) Mother claims she couldn’t see any point in the book at all. The people who most need to read this book probably will not. They will read it when they are ready.
Seen Through the Eyes of an Atheist
Some years after first reading “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter”, I became an atheist although I still have some Pagan beliefs. This book then seemed to be quite a sad autobiography of someone mentally walking around in circles. Kidd’s answer to her spiritual quest seems to just substitute one religion for another, which isn’t really that much of an alternative.