A NEW RELIGIOUS AMERICA: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation
Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, delivers a stunning tour de force that may forever change the way Americans claim to be "one nation, under God." Drawing on her work with the Pluralism Project, an ongoing study of religious diversity in the United States, Eck focuses here on the explosion of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities in America, particularly since 1965. How has the growth of these religions changed the American landscape? And just as important, how are the religions themselves changing because of America? Eck's travels take her (and us) to major cities, but also to places such as Greenville, S.C.; Portland, Maine; and Toledo, Ohio. Eck is a highly skilled ethnographer who delicately balances the challenge of interpreting events while also participating in them. The success of this portrait lies in the details: in the Nikes and Reeboks that adorn the shoe racks in Sikh gurdwaras, Islamic mosques and Hindu temples; in the Muslim Girl Scout who promises to "serve Allah and my country"; in the consecration rituals at a Massachusetts Hindu temple, where the waters of India's sacred Ganges River are mixed with the Mississippi and poured freely over the building. Eck does far more than simply document the presence of religious diversity in America; she places it in historical context and illustrates the ongoing challenges it presents by describing legal battles and pivotal court cases. The last chapters address the rise of religiously motivated hate crimes and, conversely, the innovative ways some communities have welcomed religious pluralism. This is not just a book; it is a celebration. Agent, Jill Kneerim at Palmer & Dodge. (June)
Forecast:Because it combines impeccable scholarship with memorable storytelling, this book should find a strong trade audience as well as academic readers. Harper San Francisco plans an initial print run of 50,000 copies and an eight-city author tour. PW will run an interview with Eck in the July 2 issue.