Rienstra, Debra 1965-
RIENSTRA, Debra 1965-
PERSONAL: Born August 7, 1965, in Grand Rapids, MI; daughter of Edward (a businessman) and Dorothy Minnaar (a homemaker) Shreve; married Ronald Rienstra, April 30, 1988; children: Miriam, Jacob, Philip. Education: Calvin College, 1983-85; University of Michigan, B.A., 1987; Rutgers University, M.A., Ph.D., 1989-95. Religion: Reformed Christianity.
CAREER: Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, assistant professor of English, 1996—.
Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness, Becoming a Mother, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: A poet and professor of English, Debra Rienstra turned to a deeply personal subject when it came to writing her book, Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness, Becoming a Mother. The inspiration was her third pregnancy, and she decided to chronicle all the facets. "Great with Child reveals not just the physical part of Rienstra's pregnancy, but also the spiritual, emotional and intellectual aspects. It's deeply honest, full of the raw fear and emotion and joy that accompanies this greatest of all miracles," wrote Grand Rapids Press reviewer Ann Byle. There are also meditations on the treatment of the Virgin Mary in medieval artworks, quotations from Milton and St. Augustine, and other reflections on the wider spiritual world's relevance to her own personal creation story.
In the midst of pregnancy, and with two small children to care for as well as a full-time job, Rienstra found time to write, even if it was just fifteen minutes after the kids had gone to bed. Although she edited the manuscript in more leisured moments, much of the immediacy remains. "A new or expectant mother is much more likely to find herself, and thereby solace, in these pages than in how-to books written by those for whom the sleeplessness and tumult of infant care is a distant memory," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Books & Culture reviewer Lauren Winner concluded, "By about page ten, most readers will wish they could sit down with Rienstra and have a heart-to-heart, and most readers will feel a little bit of awe: here is the woman who seems, profoundly, to have her act together."
Rienstra wrote in Calvin News online: "While I have always been a writer in one way or another, I was trained in graduate school to do academic writing, and my primary area of study is religious poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly by women. However, when I became pregnant with my third child, I found myself preoccupied with the spiritual and body experience of pregnancy and so decided to write about that. In a sense, I wrote the only book I could write during this period in my life. I found the writing very satisfying, as I did not limit myself to any particular genre or tone, but allowed the experience itself to create the prose style. The result is a book that combines intellectual, physical, and spiritual concerns along the contours of a personal narrative of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
"I have written poetry in a rather amateurish fashion for a long time, but will be working next on a book of poems as well as a kind of imaginative orientation to the Christian faith, to be published in fall 2004 by Jossey-Bass. My general goal is to continue working in the area of embodied feminine spirituality, primarily for an audience interested in spirituality but not necessarily experienced in an organized religious life. I would like to bring the literary and cultural insights of the Christian faith to a broad audience in whatever way I can."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books & Culture, May, 2002, Lauren F. Winner, "Still under the Bell Jar: What Has Really Changed for Women since the Fifties?" p. 25.
Grand Rapids Press, April 2, 2002, Ann Byle, "Book an Unvarnished Look at a Woman's Journey," p. C1.
Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2002, review of Great with Child, p. 60.
Calvin News,http://www.calvin.edu/ (May 8, 2002).