Cover image for Meeting faith : the forest journals of a black buddhist nun
Meeting faith : the forest journals of a black buddhist nun
Adielé, Faith.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. W. Norton & Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
288 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Killing faith -- Birthing faith -- The edge of the forest -- The anthropology of place -- Orchids, half sacred, half profane -- American girls -- Going to hell -- Harvard rules -- Anthropology of myself -- Fieldwork -- Pilgrims -- The body of woman -- Hungry ghosts -- The Naga princess -- Lessons in lying & killing for the black buddhist nun -- Open doors -- Flying igbos.
Personal Subject:
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BQ940.D34 A3 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Reluctantly leaving behind Pop Tarts and pop culture to battle flying rats, hissing cobras, forest fires, and decomposing corpses, Faith Adiele shows readers in this personal narrative, with accompanying journal entries, that the path to faith is full of conflicts for even the most devout. Residing in a forest temple, she endured nineteen-hour daily meditations, living on a single daily meal, and days without speaking. Internally Adiele battled against loneliness, fear, hunger, sexual desire, resistance to the Buddhist worldview, and her own rebellious Western ego. Adiele demystifies Eastern philosophy and demonstrates the value of developing any practice--Buddhist or not. This "unlikely, bedraggled nun" moves grudgingly into faith, learning to meditate for seventy-two hours at a stretch. Her witty, defiant twist on the standard coming-of-age tale suggests that we each hold the key to overcoming anger, fear, and addiction; accepting family; redefining success; and re-creating community and quality of life in today's world.

Author Notes

Faith Adiele, a graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

By her own reckoning, Adiele is an unlikely candidate for Buddhist spiritual enlightenment. Neither Asian nor disciplined, she doesn't fancy meditation; despises tofu; and, raised Unitarian, isn't particularly religious. Yet the Nigerian-Scandinavian ex-Harvard student from eastern Washington became the first black Buddhist nun in northern Thailand. She first went to Thailand at age 15, after winning a Rotary Club International Exchange Program scholarship at a time when most Americans could barely find Thailand on the map. Although used to being different--she wryly notes that, every day, she was an exchange student in her own country--she wasn't prepared for life in a tiny rural Thai community, in which she was the first black anyone had seen. But something about the country and Buddhism appealed to her and she chose to return, though she was as surprised as anyone else when she decided to become a Buddhist nun. A warm, witty account of an unusual woman's spiritual journey and search for identity between the vastly different cultures of East and West. --June Sawyers Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jan Willis meets Anne Lamott in this funny, observant memoir by Adiele, an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Burned out by the pressure of undergraduate studies at Harvard, Adiele took a year off to get her head together and do field research in Thailand, where she had once spent time as a Rotary exchange student. She became fascinated with Buddhist nuns and began soliciting their stories, a process that led to her rather impulsive decision to seek "temporary ordination" as a nun herself. The nominal-Unitarian-turned-Buddhist is humble about her spiritual insights: "Where I should be ?ber-nun, I'm not even what is perceived as a practicing Buddhist. I don't meditate regularly; I nurse anger; I despise tofu. Dammit, I don't appear to have learned anything! So how can anyone learn from me?" But readers can and will learn from Adiele, who parses out her second stay in Thailand with a comic's timing, a novelist's keen observations about human idiosyncrasies and an anthropologist's sensitivity to issues of race and culture. Her main narrative is almost talmudically surrounded by commentary: all along the outer margins of the book, quotes from Buddhist luminaries mingle with excerpts from her own very raw journals from that year. As she admits her fear of the rats that infested her meditation cave or chronicles her pride in gradually increasing her meditation hours, we are privileged to see an unvarnished vulnerability. (Apr.) Forecast: Adiele, who will do author appearances in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, will appear on the upcoming PBS documentary The Journey Home. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As Buddhism has been firmly established in the West as an alternative spiritual path to Christian dogma, dharma texts elucidating traditional practice and traditions have become abundantly available. Filled with fluid prose and bracing personal revelation, this book is a wonderful companion to the existing literature. The title aptly combines the metaphoric and literal, referring both to the author and to her experience as the first Western black woman to be ordained in northern Thailand's Theravada Buddhist forest community. Initially a challenge to her resolve, as well as an opportunity to study intimately the experience of a female initiate (maechi) from a sociological perspective, her Buddhist training gradually prods her toward discovery of a more personal perspective: her own. Broader concepts of cultural diversity, race, and social caste give her enlightenment context, and the presentation of basic Buddhist tenets provides invaluable counterpoints to this vivid example of "applied Buddhism." While the somewhat cumbersome format (journal snippets and various miscellany cram the margins) makes this challenging to read, ultimately it is well worth the mastering. Recommended for all public libraries.-Dina Komuves, Collingswood, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.