Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: Fanny Crosby: The Hymn Writer by Bernard Ruffin

I have become such a fan of missionary biographies. They’re so inspiring! A friend gave me this one about the blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby. I honestly had never heard of her before reading this book, but I am glad I was enlightened, because her story is amazing! Born in 1820 in New York, she was blind from an early age thanks to the incompetency of a quack doctor whose “treatment” rendered her sightless. This did not stop her from doing… most anything. She never wanted to pitied or treated as an invalid, and she sought to do as much as possible on her own. Her grandmother took special interest in encouraging her, and taught her much about the world from a young age. Fanny had a sharp mind, a joyful spirit, and a great gift for music and poetry. She was one of the first students at the New York Institute for the Blind, and became their “star student” because of her incredible poetry. 

Over the course of her life she wrote thousands of poems, hymns, patriotic and popular songs, and impacted countless millions through them. She served in a variety of rescue missions and spoke in hundreds of churches. It was so interesting to read about this time period (1820-1915 was when she lived) through the lens of the life of a blind hymn writer. Really fascinating to see how her life interwove with various presidents, life in NYC (including a variety of rescue missions, Carnegie Hall, developments in Brooklyn, etc), pop culture, cholera, faith revivals, and news/literature/poetry of her day. Some of her most famous hymns include “Blessed Assurance,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and “Close to Thee.” This book is not very well written, but the story of her life is so interesting that it’s worth reading, particularly if you are at all interested in Christian music, as her writing has greatly influenced the history of Christian hymnody.

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