Hear the author on WGN Radio with Rick Kogan on "The Sunday Papers."
The Chicago Tribune
"The Real Story Behind the Habit"
By Julia Keller
March 28, 2010
The sweet-faced gatekeepers at convents, it turns out, share at least one crucial attribute with slit-eyed, cigar-chomping Hollywood producers: Both are obsessed with youth. That's one of the surprising facts in "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns" by Cheryl L. Reed, a 2004 book that was recently republished by Berkely Books.
Hear the author on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation"
Listen to the author on NPR's Leonard Lopate Show in New York
I read Unveiled with both sorrow and joy, sorrow over the decline of the religious orders of women and joy at the vitality which still exists. Cheryl Reed makes the current crises in the religious orders come vividly alive. It also persuades me that the church simply cannot do without the nuns.”
- Father Andrew Greeley, author and columnist
“What an adventure it is to read Cheryl's book. Of course, initially I was extremely curious just to discover who she met, find out if I knew anyone (!) and get a sense of her approach. Then I got pulled in and stayed up late reading! She brought me to tears, chagrin, empathy, and a deepened respect for "us nuns."
Cheryl Reed tells nuns' stories with honesty and respect for women's voices and struggles. Faithful to her own quest of soul, she offers insights for anyone, including us nuns, passionate about living life to the full.”
- Sister Marya Grathwohl, OSE, writer, lecturer, community organizer/activist
The Library Journal
"The Reader's Shelf—The Holy Sisterhood: Nuns in Black and White"
By Neal Wyatt
November 1, 2008
Nuns can seem a mysterious lot, even to lifelong Catholics. In the last few years, a number of memoirs have been published, as well as books by journalists who immersed themselves in the world of the convent to examine this way of living and determine why it is disappearing. In honor of All Saints Day (November 1), spend some time inside the cloistered walls of the sisterhood and explore how modern nuns both accept and work against the stereotypes so often used to classify them.
In Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns (Berkley: Penguin Group [USA]. 2005. ISBN 978-0-425-20029-2. pap. $13.95; o.p.), journalist Cheryl L. Reed examines a variety of religious communities across the country. From strictly cloistered nuns who rise in the middle of the night for prayer to sisters who live in noisy urban neighborhoods, Reed tells the stories of generations of women who answered the call. The sisters candidly share thoughts on their vows, their way of living, and their place in the church.
"Today's Nun Has A Veil--And A Blog"
By Lisa Takeuchi Cullen and Tracy Schmidt
November 13, 2006
“Newer nuns see the veil as a public expression of faith, says Cheryl Reed, author of Unveiled: Inside the Hidden Lives of Nuns. "You can understand why a woman who has given up sex, freedom and money would want to wear her wedding dress--which is what they consider their habits to be. You want to say, 'I'm special. I gave this up.'"
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Faith & Values: Author attempts to demystify the world of nuns"
By Maria Elena Baca
February 28, 2004
“Growing up in a fundamentalist Protestant family, Cheryl Reed wasn't allowed to date Catholics. She was taught that Catholics were miscreants who went to mass on Saturday afternoons so they could go drinking and sleep in on Sundays. And nuns, in their long, black habits and severe-looking veils and wimples, haunted her nightmares. She might have been content to believe the lessons of her childhood, but Reed grew up to be a reporter.....”
Dallas Morning News
Review: Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns Cheryl L. Reed
May 22, 2004
Many of the newly released nun books are formulaic. They either trash nuns as hopelessly archaic or put them on a pedestal that's unrealistic. Ms. Reed's book stands apart. This remarkable project, a labor of five years, neither trivializes nor stereotypes, but poignantly portrays the lives of women who chose this spiritual path.
Ms. Reed, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, traveled the country to observe more than 300 nuns from 50 religious orders. She lived with hem and followed their routines, even when it meant community prayer during the wee hours of the morning. She met habited nuns and feminists, lipstick nuns and social justice advocates, stern autocrats and warm, welcoming women. Many of the nuns talked candidly about obedience, faith, sexuality and the male hierarchy. Some saw themselves as models of holiness. Many more said they were striving to lead lives of holiness and were not necessarily better at it than others. Ms. Reed shares telling moments with the sisters, but doesn't sensationalize. It's masterful storytelling built on painstaking research. With the number of nuns declining, Ms. Reed's work will remain a lasting chronicle of a significant moment in the American Catholic Church. S.H.A.
“Lifting the Veil”
Reprinted with permission
Cheryl Reed grew up terrified of nuns. The long, black dresses they wore looked spooky and her fundamentalist family told her they were evil idol worshippers. As an adult, she met a nun for the first time and asked her about the monastic life of women. I would begin a journey that would span years and result in this spring’s Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns (Berkley).
Although the title of this book hints at a possibly salacious expose, Reed offers a generous, loving and thorough treatment of contemporary North American nuns. What is most arresting about her portrait is the tremendous diversity among the women she profiles. In one chapter, we meet habited, cloistered Passionist nuns who rise at 2 a.m. to pray, flog their bare skin, and speak for only one hour each day; they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with activist sisters who teach in universities, work as prison chaplains or minister to drug addicts in urban safehouses. Reed acknowledges that the numbers of active women religious are down to almost a third of what they were in the mid-1960s, and that their average age today is a superannuated 69. However, she doesn't allow these grim statistics to tell the entire story, introducing us to sisters so dedicated and fascinating that we become optimistic about the future of women religious. Reed, a non-Catholic, writes from the best tradition of investigative journalism, but she doesn't pretend to be unmoved by the stories of everyday heroism displayed by the women she describes, and chronicles her own spiritual journey throughout.
Booklist of the American Library Association
"Irrevocably shattering the stereotypical, cookie-cutter image of saintly women, she provides an enlightening glimpse into a vibrant female subculture that is richly diverse, faith-filled, and often supremely rewarding..."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Five years among nuns fills reporter's book"
By John McGuire
March 16, 2004
Author Cheryl L. Reed spent five years researching the lives of nuns around the United States. What author Cheryl L. Reed experienced in Ellisville sounds like something involving Halloween, that spooky night before All Saints Day, a Roman Catholic holy day.
Actually, Reed's account is merely the beginning of a chapter in a book about Catholic sisters - "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns" - by the award-winning Chicago Sun-Times reporter and a former fundamentalist Protestant. Reed's five-year journey across the country to spend time with nuns ranged from secluded cloisters in Ellisville and Alton to joining free-wheeling religious sisters who are untraditional, radical and outspoken, with serious feminist passions.
Wisconsin State Journal
"A Look at Nuns' Lives"
By William Wineke
March 21, 2004
"If you see a title like "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns," you might be forgiven for assuming the book would contain exposes of some lurid sort. Actually, author Cheryl Reed was just interested in how nuns live. She interviewed more than 300 of them living in 50 different orders and produced an interesting book that anyone with any conceivable interest in Roman Catholic sisters will find profitable."
East Valley Tribune
"Author finds feminism, independence among nuns"
By Lawn Griffiths
March 6, 2004
Most Catholic nuns are feminists whose education and savvy provide them the freedom and confidence to walk out of their convents tomorrow for jobs and outside opportunities, argues the writer of a new book, "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns."
Unless their age is against them: The average nun in the United States today is about 70 years old.
"The Passion Behind the Fashion: Cheryl Reed uncovers nuns' habits"
By Jason Toon
March 17, 2004
When Cheryl Reed was a little girl, all she knew about nuns was that they scared her. "They were all cloaked in black, they were these mysterious figures -- they freaked me out," she says.
Now Reed may be one of the nation's foremost authorities on nun life. The investigative reporter talked, walked and ate with more than 300 nuns to write Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns.
The Tucson Citizen
April 1, 2004
"Unveiled... is a fascinating narrative that documents the extraordinary experiences she encountered while researching her book. They included the nights she slept in a homeless shelter run by the feisty nuns of inner-city Chicago, visits she made to a strictly habited cloister near St. Louis and the day she assisted in the delivery of a baby at a nun-operated birthing center on the Texas-Mexico border. This is an honest, thoughtful, well-written book. More than just the story of nuns, it is about living life to the fullest."
The Catholic Spirit
By Julie McCarty
April 15, 2004
Although I have known many nuns personally, I have never quite appreciated the wide variety of personalities, spiritual approaches, and ministries of religious sisters until reading Cheryl Reed's "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns."
As a child raised in a fundamentalist Protestant home, Reed feared nuns: They looked "so spooky in their long black cloaks and starched wimples that pulled their skin unnaturally from their faces."
As an adult, however, Reed encountered a nun whose gentle, graceful manner piqued her curiosity. She started questioning her assumptions. Could it be that the "nun lifestyle" is really a "profound way of life?" What is "nun spirituality?" Could a woman really forsake money, a prestigious career, sex, and having children and still be happy?
Reed's hunger for answers plunged her into a four-year quest involving 300 nuns from 50 orders. Rather than merely interview sisters, she engaged in what she called "immersion journalism," actually living with the nuns, "observing their daily lives, eating their food, rising in the middle of the night for silent worship, celebrating their saint's days, mourning their deaths, witnessing their vow ceremonies."
The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana
"Book reveals wide variation in lives of nuns"
By Stefanie Scarlett
May 8, 2004
Is becoming a nun an act of rebellion? It just might be. Nuns might take the same vows, but they can lead very different lives - from running schools and missions to protesting and working for social justice, as journalist Cheryl Reed discovered.
Staten Island Advance
"Brings the casual reader inside convent walls-and beyond-to meet real women committed to a radical way of life...bold...intimate.”