In Brief: Deborah Theado: A Life

By Theo Mace. Self-published, 2022. 149 pages. $8/paperback.

As a combination biography and memoir written by the deceased subject’s former partner, Deborah Theado: A Life discusses Theado’s early life with her family of origin, her educational journeys and activism, and her confronting racism within the Religious Society of Friends. In addition to recollections of her cohabitation with Theado, the author gleaned insights from Theado’s journals and discussions with personal associates. Mace also included photos from Theado’s life to flesh out the biography.

The book offers a detailed picture of the subject, including her sense of humor reflected in her movie choices and how she shared her passion for mountain biking with one of her two sons. The author discusses how Theado’s evolving view of her own African American identity affected their romantic interracial relationship. Mace also mentions some abuse that occurred in Theado’s family of origin, and explores the impact that abuse had on their partnership, which ended about four years before Mace took Theado into her home to help care for her following a diagnosis of cancer. Theado died approximately a year later in 1999 at the age of 48.

Mace traces the evolution of Theado’s work, which began with the study of the psychology of dysfunctional families and developed into her research of sociology. The author recounts Theado’s experience of excitement and disorientation while living in Angola, where she began her doctoral research before fleeing the country due to civil war. She finished her PhD work in Kenya.

Readers learn about Theado’s work in the U.S. Air National Guard as well as her participation in American Friends Service Committee’s Peace Education Committee in Ann Arbor, Mich. In addition to other contributions, Theado edited the Peace Education Committee’s 1993 book A Certain Terror: Heterosexism, Militarism, Violence, and Change.

The biography details Theado’s antiracism activism at the 1996 Friends General Conference (FGC) Annual Gathering. Her witness against racism led FGC to convene the Committee for Ministry on Racism.

Readers will find this account of a determined and outspoken Friend enriching.

Kathleen Jenkins is the book review editor for Friends Journal. Sharlee DiMenichi is a staff writer for Friends Journal.

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