Knocking on heavens door

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

American Religion in the Age of Counterculture

What happened to American religion during the cultural revolution of the 1960s and early 1970s? The era has long been associated with the ascendancy of Eastern religions and fringe cults. But in this provocative book, Mark Oppenheimer demonstrates that contrary to conventional wisdom, most Americans did not turn on, tune in, and drop out of mainstream religious groups during the Age of Aquarius. Instead, many Americans brought the counterculture with them to their churches and temples, changing the face of American religion. Introducing us to America’s first gay ministers and first female priests, to hippie Jews and folk-singing Catholics, Oppenheimer demonstrates that this was an era of extraordinary religious vitality.

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Dan savage

Dan Savage

The First Gay Celebrity

There are many Dan Savages: the author of the Savage Love advice column, syndicated around the country; the radio essayist beloved by This American Life fans; the author of a best-selling book about his gay marriage, and another about his son’s open adoption; the prankster who ruined Rick Santorum’s life; and the founder of the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign. But never before have we glimpsed Savage’s whole life, from his Catholic-school days, raised by a Chicago cop and a housewife, to his current role as a unique American character. For he is unique: while there are many gay and lesbian celebrities, nearly all of them, from Ellen DeGeneres to Elton John, began their careers in the closet. Savage, on the other hand, has always been out and proud. He is thus a pivotal figure in LGBTQ history—and a fascinating man, brought vividly to life in this thrilling e-book.

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Wisenheimer

Wisenheimer

A Childhood Subject to Debate

Millions of children do it: join the debate team. It’s the breeding ground of lawyers, judges, and—God help us—politicians. Ted Cruz was a college debater (alas). A champion high school debater on two continents, Mark Oppenheimer lived and breathed this super-competitive subculture of wordfreaks, fast-talkers, and other assorted nerds. In this memoir, Oppenheimer recalls the elation and the heartbreak, the friendships and the romances, and the poetry—yes, sometimes poetry—that debate gave him for four years. Until, that is, it didn’t, and he left debate forever. “Mark Oppenheimer’s journey from loquacious preschooler to smart-ass grade-schooler to champion high-schooler is funny, painful, and brutally honest,” says Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak. Wisenheimer may focus on the small, strange world of competitive debate, but its message is much broader: that words, properly harnessed, can set you free.” 

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Thirteen

Thirteen and a Day

The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America

Since its emergence here a century ago, the bar or bat mitzvah has become a distinctively American rite of passage, so much so that, in certain suburbs today, gentile families throw parties for their thirteen-year-olds, lest they feel left out. How did this come about? To answer that question, Mark Oppenheimer set out across America to attend the most distinctive b’nai mitzvah he could find, and Thirteen and a Day is the story of what he found—an altogether fresh look at American Jews today.

Beginning with the image of a party of gaudy excess, Oppenheimer then goes farther afield in the great tradition of literary journalists from Joseph Mitchell to Ian Frazier and Susan Orlean. The two dozen Jews of Fayetteville, Arkansas, he finds, open their synagogue to eccentrics from all over the Ozarks. Those of Lake Charles, Louisiana, pass the hat to cover the expenses of their potluck dinner. And in Anchorage, Alaska, a Hasidic boy's bar mitzvah in a snowed-in hotel becomes a striking image of how far the Jewish diaspora has spread. In these people's company, privy to their soul-searching about their religious heritage, Oppenheimer finds that the day is full of wonder and significance.

Part travelogue, part spiritual voyage, Thirteen and a Day is a lyrical, entertaining, even revelatory look at American Jews and one of the most original books of literary journalism to appear in some years.

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Zen predator

The Zen Predator Of the Upper East Side

Nearly 50 years ago, a Zen Buddhist monk—fleeing a cloud of suspicion—arrived in Manhattan, penniless and alone. Eido Shimano would quickly build an unrivaled community of followers: Zen students he culled from the heights of New York society to form arguably the most prestigious Japanese Buddhist organization in the country. Authors, entertainers, and scions of vast fortunes, all questing for spiritual enlightenment, flocked to study and live in his spacious compound. But always there were whispers that things were not what they seemed. This is the extended e-book version of the Atlantic article. 

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