It’s a Book Review Miracle

cover of Fuerst bookI wrote a book review! And no, it’s not like the informal ones I did during #bloglikecrazy. This book review was published at Reading Religion, the online book review arm of the American Academy of Religion. Reviewers at this site range from graduate students on up to tenured faculty. My experience publishing a review with them was a first for me in a couple of ways. It was my first refereed publication and my first time working with someone whose job title includes “Editor.” Here’s what happened.

Step 1: I found out about Reading Religion and started browsing their reviews as well as their books available for review. While browsing one afternoon, I came across Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst’s Indian Muslim Minorities and the 1857 Rebellion. I knew from the title alone that the book applied to my thesis at least tangentially. I also vaguely knew Fuerst’s name because of a blog series she and Mike co-wrote over at Sacred Matters Magazine.

Step 2: I submitted to review the book. The process was almost entirely painless, filling in a form which asked for basic details and contact information. The only part that required effort was selling myself as qualified to review the book and why it had anything to do with me. That was pretty straight forward: I’m a graduate student who says smart things from time to time and is learning how to say even more smart things. And my thesis deals with representations and narratives of the 1857 Rebellion. I’ve even now incorporated Fuerst’s book into my thesis.

Step 3: About 3 or 4 days later I got an email from Lisa Haygood, the Managing Editor at Reading Religion saying that I had been selected to review the book! I sent her my shipping address and two days later had the book in hand.

Step 4: I read the book and wrote my review. The actual writing process wasn’t so bad since I already had the practice from REL 502 (which included a book review and a digital project review) and the few informal reviews I wrote during #bloglikecrazy. After writing and revising a couple times, I sent it to Mike for his input and then off it went back to Lisa.

Step 5: A few more days passed and I received another email from Lisa, this time with edits from Cynthia Eller (the Editor at Reading Religion) and a license to publish form I needed to fill out and sign. The edits wore fairly light — some rewording here and there for clarity and cutting repetitive sentences. The form was pretty standard basically saying I retained rights as the author, but giving Reading Religion the right to publish my work. I returned the final document with accepted edits and the signed form.

Within a couple of days my review went live! People started to tweet the link and read the review and it seems to have been useful for those that read it. Ultimately, I think the experience of writing and publishing a book review was a valuable learning experience for me. Yes, it was also a valuable product for certain people, but I took a lot away from the experience itself. Believe it or not, I actually seem to be able to interact with professional adult people like a professional adult person.

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