209 pages plus endnotes
Published by The House Studio, 2011
“Social justice goes beyond politics and their political parties or philosophies. It’s the basic human quest to do right by others and see that they have equal access to all that’s necessary.”
– Erina Ludwig, Unnoticed Neighbors
A native of England, Erina Ludwig was awarded a history degree from King’s College London and has been published in a handful of newspapers and magazines from around the world including Relevant Magazine in the United States. She maintains a personal blog at http://erinaludwig.wordpress.com and is working on a book of fiction at the present. Ludwig’s Unnoticed Neighbors is a non-fiction Christian religion book focused on spiritual growth by joining in a life of social justice. It is a creative attempt to help the reader find themselves in what the author calls a “pilgrimage into the social justice story.”
Unnoticed Neighbors is a book about human rights abuses and problems confronting the world today. It is a presentation of dozens of examples of oppression and neglect faced by various people groups, as well as, practical responses individuals may take to address these problems. It is a mosaic of stories urging Christians to join in social justice work.
In her first published book, Ludwig embraces the plight of the impoverished and oppressed from the lens of western Christian culture that often overlooks other’s challenges in favor of themselves. When the book is compared to some of her blog posts one gains a sense of her willingness to immerse into difficult situations and courageously gives voice to those she shares the pilgrimage of life with. Ludwig’s authenticity is never in doubt as she reflects her Christian belief system inviting others to join her in the journey she has undertaken to share good news with the world’s poor.
As the reader joins her on this human rights pilgrimage around the world he is forced to consider and confront the abuses both as an individual and systemically. She chooses to expose the reader to the aforementioned abuses through stories she has experienced and researched. The integration of this narrative journey works in the stories she personally experienced but falls flat assuming a more monotonous voice in those that are only researched. The reader cannot help but be astonished and heartbroken for the number of tragic accounts Ludwig turns up but she serves far too many of these over the course of the 209 pages thereby exhausting the reader from consumption.
Her passion about social justice issues is communicated throughout the book and she clearly hopes a Christian reader will be compelled by their faith to take up the plight of the oppressed. But, again, because of the quantity of human rights abuses covered, the “pilgrimage” begins to feel like it is taking place in the turbulence of an earthquake; it is both unsettling and loud drowning out Ludwig’s desire to cultivate a sense of urgency in the reader to immerse into the stories themselves and in this reviewer’s case left me exhausted. It should be pointed out that Ludwig’s theological understanding about the variety of biblical topics encompassed by the phrase “social justice” are explored at best in average depth. Terms like mercy, compassion, justice, and love are used almost interchangeably at times and lose their own stories. A reader expecting a theological education about these terms will be sorely disappointed.
While not perfect there is an audience for Ludwig’s book. I recommend it for a person wishing to have initial broad exposure to human rights abuses and practical ideas for confronting those abuses both systematically and individually. It would be a good book for the follower of Christ hoping to introduce a person of non-Christian faith to the Christian social justice conversation.