In Search of Grace: A Journey Across America's Landscape of Faith

Overview

After years as a Hollywood writer and filmmaker, Kristin Hahn felt a crisis of faith: she had no spiritual group she could call her own. Setting out on a three-year journey, she began an investigation of America's religious traditions, practices, and beliefs.

Crisscrossing the nation, Hahn spent a week cloistered in prayer with convent nuns and a month of Ramadan fasting with Muslims. She went door-to-door with young Mormon missionaries and head-to-head with turbaned Sikh yogis....

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In Search of Grace

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Overview

After years as a Hollywood writer and filmmaker, Kristin Hahn felt a crisis of faith: she had no spiritual group she could call her own. Setting out on a three-year journey, she began an investigation of America's religious traditions, practices, and beliefs.

Crisscrossing the nation, Hahn spent a week cloistered in prayer with convent nuns and a month of Ramadan fasting with Muslims. She went door-to-door with young Mormon missionaries and head-to-head with turbaned Sikh yogis. She sat through marathon meditations with Buddhist masters and spent days in conversation and ceremony with an 0jibwe medicine man. Her explorations exposed her to the rich, ancient culture of the Jews and brought her into the enclaves of Christian Scientists and Amish farmers, as well as the less traditional realms of Scientology, neopagan witchcraft, and the congregations of new-age gurus.

And this was only the beginning.

Openhearted, humorous, and always thoughtful, In Search of Grace offers nourishment for our spiritual hunger -- and a myriad of ways to find a religious home.

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Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly (A-)
Praise for Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn’s Anthem:“This roaming book of diaries and dialogues is very pleasing. . . . The two are so earnest, so honest . . . you’re quickly disarmed.”
Chicago Tribune
“An adventurous and colorful portrait of what it means to be passionately American.”
Good Morning America
"Hahn and Gabel have done what most of us only dream about"
Boston Globe
“Illuminating…Elegant…Cathartic.”
Los Angeles Times
"Spirited and insightful"
Entertainment Weekly
Praise for Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn’s Anthem:“This roaming book of diaries and dialogues is very pleasing. . . . The two are so earnest, so honest . . . you’re quickly disarmed.”
Chicago Tribune
“An adventurous and colorful portrait of what it means to be passionately American.”
Boston Globe
“Illuminating…Elegant…Cathartic.”
Entertainment Weekly (A-)
Praise for Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn’s Anthem:“This roaming book of diaries and dialogues is very pleasing. . . . The two are so earnest, so honest . . . you’re quickly disarmed.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380802715
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/4/2003
  • Series: Quill
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,023,301
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristin Hahn grew up in New Mexico, then moved to Los Angeles, where she spent a decade working in the television and film industry. With Shainee Gabel, Hahn wrote, produced, and filmed the acclaimed independent documentary Anthem and wrote the book based on the film. She currently lives in California with her husband and son.

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Read an Excerpt

In Search of Grace
A Journey Across America's Landscape of Faith

Chapter One

There are more than five hundred Native American tribes officially recognized by the U.S. government, and hundreds more lost in the annals of American history. The religious practices belonging to the multitude of tribes were, until recently, actively and forcefully subverted by Christian churches and the U.S. government. It was not until 1978 that native practices were officially recognized as worthy of protection under the Native American Religious Freedom Act. This act of Congress, coming after centuries of repression, has not, however, been a panacea for Native Americans struggling to protect and revitalize their spiritual heritage. In 1988 the U.S. Supreme Court declared that sacred land central to Native American religious practices -- land whose pristine quality is so essential that the practice becomes extinct without it -- is not protected against federal development and desecration. In this opinion, the Court rendered the 1978 act a toothless expression of political goodwill.

Meanwhile, tribes and individual American Indians continue efforts to resuscitate their spiritual traditions and preserve sacred sites. Among the most active on this front are what many Native Americans refer to as "medicine people." As a leader within the community, a medicine person's role ranges from treating physical ailments, to overseeing rites of passage such as birth, marriage, and death, to guiding people, if only by example, along a spiritual path rooted in centuries of oral tradition. To these ends, medicine people call upon the supernatural assistance of spirits who work inconcert with the Creator -- an omniscient, omnipresent entity also addressed as "Spirit" and "God."

Though each tribe and reservation is unique, of the twenty-eight hundred Ojibwe Native Americans populating the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Hayward, Wisconsin, only about one-fourth incorporate traditional spiritual practices into their lives. Even fewer would be considered strict practitioners who are fully knowledgeable about the spiritual and historical meaning behind practices that are quickly disappearing.

Communing with a Medicine Man


One fall day in the eighth year of my life, my mother came into my bedroom and announced that she and I would be moving from our house in Omaha, Nebraska. Our new city would be a place whose name I could not spell, in the faraway southwestern state of New Mexico. My mother rested her forehead against mine as if to brace us both and confided that we would leave in a matter of days. Pulling a piece of paper from her pocket, she unfolded a Realtor's listing, which described in shrunken print and abbreviated terms the dimensions of our new life: its square footage, its conditions and features, and how many miles it stood from the school I would attend. Hovering in a corner was a miniature black-and-white, overly xeroxed photograph of the home my mother promised we would love, bordering the yards of new friends I would make, sheltering under its roof the fun she and I would have. In the worn creases of this one-page portrait of our future was her need for this all to be true.

People tell me I'm adaptable. Perhaps my high tolerance for change is a genetic inheritance. Or maybe it was an added feature -- along with the new appliances and view of the Sandia Mountains -- that came with that first of many desert homes. Whatever the case, I promptly accepted my new New Mexican identity, memorizing the correct, staccato spelling of Albuquerque. While my mother unpacked, I ceremoniously sheared off my long hair to mark into my own invisible calendar yet another beginning.

Little by little, our modest shell of a home was transformed into an Anglo's vision of a hacienda -- Spanish décor accented by Native American tchotchkes, ornamental leather goods, patterned rugs and blankets, portraits of Indian women in long skirts, and our own small tribe of Hopi kachina dolls. Along with our accessorizing came an awareness that we shared our desert paradise with the Apaches, the Navajos, and the Hopis, among other pueblos and tribes -- that the place we now called home had once been their own exclusive land of enchantment.

Whether motivated by intrigue, guilt, homage, or an unspoken yearning for something deeper and more authentic than anything her own past could offer her, my mother crowded our lives with emblems of our Native American neighbors. I was most drawn, out of both fear and wonder, to the vibrantly colored and mysteriously masked kachina dolls. Each foot-high wooden carving of a Hopi man in full regalia contorted its body toward the ground or sky, one knee raised in midstomp, mouth rounded in silent song. To the Hopis, the figures, however necessary they've become for tourist revenue, first and foremost represent their most sacred practice of communing with nature, guardian spirits, and the Creator. To my mother -- perhaps unconsciously -- these unmistakably indigenous objects provided reflections of something culturally rich, something with history and tradition, something spiritual. Things we did not, on our own, possess. Like many Americans, purchasing had become our religion, a practice of accumulation we believed could make us feel whole.

In my compact, mixed family of mostly European descent, no one spoke much of homelands, cultural identity, tradition, or religion, as if somehow such things had been washed away by the tides our ancestors crossed to reach the new land of opportunity. So, instead of crosses hung on our walls, or Testaments resting on our shelves, I came of age surrounded by an earlier, distinctly Native America. It required little of us in return, for unlike some non-Indians who experiment with and, in some cases, adopt Native American spiritual practices, my mother kept a reverential distance from the nativism she exposed us to. Perhaps in her mind, trying on rituals that didn't belong to her was the equivalent of shoplifting the totems and baskets and turquoise necklaces she had always paid, or traded something, for.

In time, my mother's attraction to Native America extended beyond the interior of our home...

In Search of Grace
A Journey Across America's Landscape of Faith
. Copyright © by Kristin Hahn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 2 of 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    worth the time to read

    This books was a joy to read - Every chapter was filled with insightful information regarding religion and spirituality. I learned so much about how faith is practiced across America. I highly recommend reading this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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