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About the Author

Sharman Apt Russell lives in southwestern New Mexico and teaches writing at Western New Mexico University and Antioch University in Los Angeles. Her books include Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist; Hunger: An Unnatural History; An Obsession with Butterflies; and Anatomy of a Rose: The show more Secret Life of Flowers. Her work has been widely anthologized and translated into nine languages. Her awards include a Rockefeller Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. Visit www.sharmanaptrussell.com. show less

Works by Sharman Apt Russell

Associated Works

Sisters of the Earth: Women's Prose and Poetry About Nature (1991) — Contributor — 403 copies, 4 reviews
The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing on the Green World (2001) — Contributor — 90 copies, 1 review
Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening (2004) — Contributor — 35 copies, 1 review


Common Knowledge



Very informative. Exceeded my expectations.
Very good.
Den85 | 4 other reviews | Jan 3, 2024 |
This could be considered a book about pantheism, as it is labelled. And in a way, it is. She writes of different forms of pantheism throughout history with what appears to be considerable familiarity. Not being an expert on the subject myself, I can't fairly judge.

But for me, it read more as a memoir than a description.

(Aside: I'm not sure how other reviewers were so confused by this fact. The subtitle says "My Life as a Pantheist." If you didn't know going in that it was going to be mostly about her, maybe check your reading comprehension skills, because you were warned.)

Sharman starts off with a basic problem that is probably very common, though not much discussed:

She wants to have a faith. She wants to belong to a religion. She feels that she would be a better, happier, more connected person, and kinder to others, if she did.

But she can't bring herself to believe in gods. Not truly. The concept doesn't make sense to her.

Where she finds meaning in her life is as a naturalist and environmentalist, and so this is where she locates her spiritual meaning as well. Hiking, bird banding, gardening, trying to save the river.

And so what follows is a few hundred pages of (to my mind) well written prose describing this. What is scientific pantheism? Does it really make sense? Does she really believe it? What does that even mean? If she doesn't--or at least, not always--believe, what then? Does it matter? How to find community? How to deal with evil and ugliness and pain?

What I loved about it was that she proposes no answers, not for others and not even for herself. It's a long series of questions, partial answers that change over time, making do, and finding a way of being in the world that gives her life greater meaning and satisfaction despite all of the doubts, unanswered questions and imperfections.

I loved it. Enough to be sad that I have to give it back to the library. Her honesty, self-reflection and searching were all grand.
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andrea_mcd | 5 other reviews | Mar 10, 2020 |
Standing in the Light by Sharman Apt Russell is a true blend of the writer’s experiences of nature and spiritual growth. Russell described her life as being a Pantheist, a word coined by John Toland in the 1700s. In beautiful prose she captured the joys of nature especially with bird watching and banding. In the text the writer reviewed the tenets of Eastern religions that she learned from books, companions, and during her travels as a younger woman in Asian countries.
Interestingly she put into context the lives and experiences of Pantheists like Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Giordano Bruno, Baruch Spinoza, Henry David Thoreau, D. H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman, and founder of the World Pantheist Movement Paul Harrison. Russell explained while being a Pantheist how she continued an on-and-off basis to have ties with Quakers. She wrote glowingly about her husband’s and family’s love for nature, work as a creative writing professor at two universities, philosophy, religious life, living in Silver City, and her friends that were involved in conservation efforts in New Mexico.… (more)
erwinkennythomas | 5 other reviews | Feb 11, 2020 |
This was a fun read. Right off the bat it was interesting to learn about string theory and the idea that there are ten dimensions, butterflies being one of them. But, Russell goes on from there. Recounting mythologies, symbolisms, scientific studies, pop cultures, history, evolution, obsessions, butterflies play an enormous role in our lives, sometimes in the center of it, sometimes on the periphery. Russell has a way with words that is pure magic.
And. And! And, who doesn't love an author who can compare the antics of caterpillars to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, with the line, "This is a sprint, the ultimate chase scene" (p 25). There is such a witty humor to Russell's writing.… (more)
SeriousGrace | 1 other review | Oct 14, 2019 |



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