Sunday, January 09, 2022

Favorite Memoir-ish Books I read in 2021

Out of the 202 books I read in 2021, 20 were in the Memoir/Biography category. 
Here are 10 of my favorites: 

  1. Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans with Jeff Chu (the first part of this is more of her theological memoir style, the second part is less memoir from what I remember.)
  2. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd                                                           ["The truth may set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live." See more quotes I loved here.]
  3. Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story by Julie Rodgers
  4. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
  5. As a Woman: What I Learned about Power, Sex, and the Patriarchy after I Transitioned by Paula Stone Williams
  6. One Life by Megan Rapinoe
  7. Save Yourself by Cameron Esposito
  8. Leather & Lace: A Gay Man, Lost Love, and a Road Trip With His Dead Sister by Matt Bays
  9. Affirming: A Memoir of Faith, Sexuality, and Staying in the Church by Sally Gary
  10. Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey

I pre-ordered Wholehearted Faith on audiobook and ebook because it is the last book (for adults) by the late Rachel Held Evans. The audiobook dropped into my audible app sometime after midnight on November 2 and I listened to the Foreward, the Introduction, and the Prologue before I fell asleep that night. I listened to chapter one on the way to my church internship that morning. (Which, by the way, if it wasn't for Rachel's earlier writings, I'm not sure I would even be pursuing my MDiv right now and working as a pastoral intern right now.)

I listened to chapter 2 on my way to my preaching class that night where I was preaching my very first sermon!

I listened to chapter 3 on my way home. Then between that night and throughout the day on November 3, I finished listening to the audiobook and highlighting so many passages in the ebook. I wanted to savor and devour this book at the same time. I wanted to cry, a lot.

Rachel's words continue to inspire me and resonate so deeply with me. Her heart for the marginalized is God's heart for the marginalized. I follow Rachel as she followed Jesus, with her whole heart. And my heart still hurts that she is no longer with us on this earth in physical form. Reading this book brings up my grief and my thankfulness for her life and work, for what God has done and continues to do through her words.
"For better or for worse, there are seasons when we hold our faith, and then there are seasons when our faith holds us. In those latter instances, I am more thankful than ever for all the saints, past and present, who said yes and whose faith sustains mine. They believe for me when I’m not sure I believe. They hold on to hope for me when I’ve run out of hope." - Rachel Held Evans

"My desire is that you face all your questions, all your conundrums, all your contradictions, boldly. I cannot guarantee you will retain the faith you inherited—I know that mine is not exactly the faith that my parents helped to instill in me—and honestly, a static faith or an unchanging one isn’t and shouldn’t be my prayer for you, because as we learn and as we grow, faith should evolve." - Rachel Held Evans


This is what I wrote right after I read Leather and Lace by Matt Bays:

I see some of my own story in Matt's. It's not the same exact story, obviously. I am a gay woman, for starters. But there were some things that resonated deeply. Like this quote: "hiding from yourself makes things all the more difficult to find. Nearly impossible. [...] Looking back, it's easy to see the truth. But when you are in an all-out war to be straight, you’ll forage for any clue that points in that direction. [...] I spent years complicating what would’ve been easy to know. But I didn’t have the tools to be honest with myself or others."

And this:

"My walk out of evangelicalism happened over a very long decade. At first, it was like coming out of a coma. Then once I was awake, there was sifting to do—fear to let go of, educating myself, new friends to find, and ultimately, the breaking away. When your entire life is defined by something this powerful, it becomes an amputation with ghost pains that can last a lifetime. Standing at the precipice, something was calling me forward. But leaving the place where I had lived for so long—that I was entirely familiar with—was a terrifying leap. Because there are some leavings we cannot get back to. While walking out on them, we are also abandoning a part of ourselves. And there is something sad about that. Because nothing in our lives is exclusively one thing or the other. In each segment, there is good and bad. Love and loss. And inhabiting the new places we’ve never been demands that we find out who we are there, what we will become, and how we will live." (Matt Bays)
So, what were your favorite memoirs you read this past year?

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