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Evangelicals are supposed to be experts at telling their story. From an early age you are expected to have a testimony, a story of how God saved you from a life of sin and sadness and gave you a new life of joy and gladness. What happens if you don't have such a testimony? What if your story just doesn't fit the before-and-after mold? What are you supposed to do if your vo Evangelicals are supposed to be experts at telling their story. From an early age you are expected to have a testimony, a story of how God saved you from a life of sin and sadness and gave you a new life of joy and gladness. What happens if you don't have such a testimony? What if your story just doesn't fit the before-and-after mold? What are you supposed to do if your voice is not one usually heard? In these offbeat, witty, and often bittersweet essays, up-and-coming writers tell the truth about growing up female and evangelical. Whether they stayed in the church or not, evangelicalism has shaped their spiritual lives. Eschewing evangelical cliches, idyllic depictions of Christian upbringing, and pat formulas of sinner-to-saint transformation, these writers reflect frankly on childhoods filled with flannel board Jesuses, Christian rap music, and Bible memorization competitions. Along the way they find insight in the strangest places--the community swimming pool, Casey Kasem's American Top 40, and an Indian mosque. Together this collection of essays provides a vivid and diverse portrait of life in the evangelical church, warts and all. List of Contributors: Jessica Belt, Paula Carter, Kirsten Cruzen, Anne Dayton, Kimberly B. George, Carla-Elaine Johnson, Megan Kirschner, Anastasia McAteer, Melanie Springer Mock, Audrey Molina, Victoria Moon, Shauna Niequist, Hannah Faith Notess, Andrea Palpant Dilley, Angie Romines, Andrea Saylor, Nicole Sheets, Shari MacDonald Strong, Stephanie Tombari, Heather Baker Utley, Jessie van Eerden, and Sara Zarr


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Evangelicals are supposed to be experts at telling their story. From an early age you are expected to have a testimony, a story of how God saved you from a life of sin and sadness and gave you a new life of joy and gladness. What happens if you don't have such a testimony? What if your story just doesn't fit the before-and-after mold? What are you supposed to do if your vo Evangelicals are supposed to be experts at telling their story. From an early age you are expected to have a testimony, a story of how God saved you from a life of sin and sadness and gave you a new life of joy and gladness. What happens if you don't have such a testimony? What if your story just doesn't fit the before-and-after mold? What are you supposed to do if your voice is not one usually heard? In these offbeat, witty, and often bittersweet essays, up-and-coming writers tell the truth about growing up female and evangelical. Whether they stayed in the church or not, evangelicalism has shaped their spiritual lives. Eschewing evangelical cliches, idyllic depictions of Christian upbringing, and pat formulas of sinner-to-saint transformation, these writers reflect frankly on childhoods filled with flannel board Jesuses, Christian rap music, and Bible memorization competitions. Along the way they find insight in the strangest places--the community swimming pool, Casey Kasem's American Top 40, and an Indian mosque. Together this collection of essays provides a vivid and diverse portrait of life in the evangelical church, warts and all. List of Contributors: Jessica Belt, Paula Carter, Kirsten Cruzen, Anne Dayton, Kimberly B. George, Carla-Elaine Johnson, Megan Kirschner, Anastasia McAteer, Melanie Springer Mock, Audrey Molina, Victoria Moon, Shauna Niequist, Hannah Faith Notess, Andrea Palpant Dilley, Angie Romines, Andrea Saylor, Nicole Sheets, Shari MacDonald Strong, Stephanie Tombari, Heather Baker Utley, Jessie van Eerden, and Sara Zarr

30 review for Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I read Jesus Girls with my pastor and a few friends, and gathered with them to talk about what it means to grow up evangelical and a woman. For me, this book brought about a great deal of nostalgic memories from bouncing around the different streams of evangelicalism as a child. The stories rang true to my experiences and the ones of my peers. One of the things that struck me was how many of the authors found refuge in more liturgical churches as adults. Also, how messed up messages of sexuality I read Jesus Girls with my pastor and a few friends, and gathered with them to talk about what it means to grow up evangelical and a woman. For me, this book brought about a great deal of nostalgic memories from bouncing around the different streams of evangelicalism as a child. The stories rang true to my experiences and the ones of my peers. One of the things that struck me was how many of the authors found refuge in more liturgical churches as adults. Also, how messed up messages of sexuality are promoted to women in evangelicalism. There were a few truly weak essays that could have been cut or reworked. Difficulty reading them decreased my overall enjoyment of the book, but it's still a worthy read for those who want to process through their childhoods in the evangelical church or understand women who grew up evangelical. It gave me a lot of food for thought as a parent about raising my daughters in the church, and what message we send them about their place in it as women. I'll be pondering that for a long time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Jack Jeffries

     The title made me think that the authors intended to spend most of their pages complaining about the treatment of women in evangelical Christianity, a “Festivus: Airing of Grievances” for evangelical and post-evangelical women. Here, I thought, I would find tales of heartache over bad teachings on submission, being silent in church, and hyper-modesty. Here attention would be given to how overwhelmingly androcentric evangelical thought, worship and life can be and how that can make women feel ma  The title made me think that the authors intended to spend most of their pages complaining about the treatment of women in evangelical Christianity, a “Festivus: Airing of Grievances” for evangelical and post-evangelical women. Here, I thought, I would find tales of heartache over bad teachings on submission, being silent in church, and hyper-modesty. Here attention would be given to how overwhelmingly androcentric evangelical thought, worship and life can be and how that can make women feel marginalized and undervalued. I could certainly sympathize with such a message, and perhaps my expectations say as much about my own biases as they do about evangelical culture in general. The good news is, I was wrong. Delightfully, happily wrong. Jesus Girls provided a treat for the heart and soul quite unlike any work on evangelical Christianity I had ever read. In the book’s introduction, editor Hannah Faith Notess lays out the concept of the “un-testimony.” Evangelical Christians are widely expected to develop a testimony narrative for which the basic formula is, “I was a sinner doing all kinds of awful things, I found Jesus, now life is better.” According to Notess, “The basic narrative of evangelical experience has survived virtually unchanged in this form for several centuries, longer if you count the famous conversion stories of Saints Paul and Augustine. When I was growing up, the best testimonies came from ex-angry young men, ex-drug addicts, ex-fornicators, et cetera. The more spectacularly wicked you had been, the better Jesus looked for having saved you.” (xi) However, not everyone who comes into the fold of evangelicalism has such an experience, and often those who lack one feel out-of-place and forlorn. It is in that regard that Jesus Girlsis a volume of un-testimonies: stories of life as an evangelical Christian that do not follow the traditional formula. The book is divided into five topics with four or five essays devoted to each: Community, Worship, Education, Gender & Sex, and Story & Identity, with a different author behind each essay. All sorts of backgrounds are covered, from Southern Baptist to African Methodist Episcopal to Mennonite, and there’s even an essay on Catholics which provides a beautiful example of Krister Stendahl’s “holy envy.” Not all of the essays come from those who are active evangelicals today. Some of them end with the author finding her way out of evangelicalism or out of Christianity altogether. And what of those “women’s issues” I listed in my first paragraph? Well, they are covered. Some of the essays cover them more directly than others, such as “Feminist-in-Waiting” by Kimberly B. George or “The Journey toward Ordination” by Heather Baker Utley. More often the authors touch on them briefly in passing, though most of the essays make no mention of them at all.  And hey, what volume by female evangelicals or post-evangelicals would be complete without mentioning a few of Elisabeth Elliot’s stinkers on gender and sexuality? For the most part, however, Jesus Girls is not about women in evangelical Christianity. It’s about evangelical Christianity as seen through the eyes of women. These women are clever, they’re sassy, they’re innovative, and they know what good writing is. Back in April of 2007, when LDS filmmaker Richard Dutcher announced that he was leaving the Mormon faith, he complained that Mormon cinema too often gives the audience a “polite, remedial and not-so-factual recitation of Mormon History” when Mormon stories ought to be “the most powerful films on the face of the earth,” that “[v]iewers should leave those films weak in the knees, their minds reeling, their spirits soaring.” I’ve often (but not always) felt the same way about reading evangelical narratives: polite, remedial, and not-so-factual, when evangelical narratives ought to be some of the most powerful stories in the world. That’s why I’m so pleased to report that Jesus Girls serves up a robust helping of the latter. It made my mind reel and my spirit soar. There’s no getting around the fact that this book highlights a number of evangelical Christianity’s failings, especially concerning its treatment of women. These failings are real and they are painful to ponder. However, I firmly believe that talking about these problems is the first step toward remedying them, and so Jesus Girls is commendable in that regard. Beyond its focus on problems and doubt, Jesus Girls still manages to provide a breathtaking glimpse of evangelical Christianity’s beauty. It is that beauty that continues to captivate me and keep me in the fold despite my own feelings of disappointment and doubt. Whatever your interest in evangelical Christianity—whether you are an outsider who wishes to understand us better or an insider who is still defining the parameters of your own evangelical identity—if you fail to read Jesus Girls, you are missing a treat.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Rosenberger

    These days, the word 'evangelical' often has a negative connotation, bringing to mind a mass of brainwashed believers. This book balances that reductive view of Christianity by looking at 22 women who were raised in evangelical churches, some of whom eventually left, others who stayed, but all of whom have stories to share. As with any multi-author collection, some of the essays are much better than others, but on the whole, this is a fascinating look at growing up Christian. There are plenty of These days, the word 'evangelical' often has a negative connotation, bringing to mind a mass of brainwashed believers. This book balances that reductive view of Christianity by looking at 22 women who were raised in evangelical churches, some of whom eventually left, others who stayed, but all of whom have stories to share. As with any multi-author collection, some of the essays are much better than others, but on the whole, this is a fascinating look at growing up Christian. There are plenty of cliches that recur in several stories (the hip Youth Group leader, the ubiquitous testimonies, etc), but what makes this book valuable is its recognition that when you get right down to it, all Christians really have in common is their belief in Jesus. Everything else about them is completely variable, making every story different. Whether they're talking about faith or doubt, having an abortion or the artistic merits of DC Talk, these personal stories combine to shed some light on the diversity and messiness of modern Christianity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    We need more books like this: Testimonies about personal faith that are as honest about difficulties and doubts as they are about insight and inspiration. Kudos to editor Hannah Notess who gathered these frank accounts. This book would make an excellent gift to any high-school or college-aged young woman who is exploring issues of faith. It's not a book that preaches at you; it's a book that kindles questions and emboldens the reader to investigate those questions with confidence.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karissa Sorrell

    I loved the concept of this book. After years of growing up in the evangelical world that required a fancy, I-came-to-Jesus testimony, all of these girls write their un-testimonies. Their stories of confusion, doubt, discomfort, and challenged faith. A lot of these stories are un-stories. They don't have a beginning, middle, and end. There's not a story arc. They are just moments. Moments in these girls' lives when they started to unravel all the cliches that had been given them. Moments of wres I loved the concept of this book. After years of growing up in the evangelical world that required a fancy, I-came-to-Jesus testimony, all of these girls write their un-testimonies. Their stories of confusion, doubt, discomfort, and challenged faith. A lot of these stories are un-stories. They don't have a beginning, middle, and end. There's not a story arc. They are just moments. Moments in these girls' lives when they started to unravel all the cliches that had been given them. Moments of wrestling, hesitating, and sometimes, of finding a new way. This book tackles issues like missions, music (think DC Talk!) women in ministry, sexuality, holiness, super emotional experiences, and other religions. It shows how the evangelical subculture of the 80s and 90s gave us messages that didn't quite add up when we became adults. This is exactly what I'm going through right now, and I found these essays very moving and truthful.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    The first 2/3 of this book was saddening to me; the last third was what I expected from the entire book; as a whole I love how it made me think deeper about my own experiences. A variety of women share experiences about growing up 'evangelical' and where they've traveled spiritually since. Having a solid grasp on 'growing up female and evangelical', I was surprised and saddened by overwhelming sense of negativity toward the experience. I appreciated the honesty of each voice represented. I left The first 2/3 of this book was saddening to me; the last third was what I expected from the entire book; as a whole I love how it made me think deeper about my own experiences. A variety of women share experiences about growing up 'evangelical' and where they've traveled spiritually since. Having a solid grasp on 'growing up female and evangelical', I was surprised and saddened by overwhelming sense of negativity toward the experience. I appreciated the honesty of each voice represented. I left the book with a challenge to myself to live with that same authenticity for my own sake and my children.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, and I didn't agree with everything in it (there are few books where this is the case) but I loved this collection. It was like being in a small group of women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. So many times I thought: I've lived that. It reminded me that I am not the only one who has had some of the experiences I've had, and also that there are other experiences out there that I have little to no awareness of. I'm glad I read this. It challenged me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Reba

    4.5....So close to 5 stars for me. However, as is typical in anthologies, the stories were uneven for me. Some, especially the first two, I loved! I totally identified with them, I even felt like they could have been written about my childhood/adolescence. This is a must read for any female that grew up evangelical.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    22 women share their “untestimonies” -- authentic accounts of their evangelical upbringing. Some have kept their faith, some have not. They reflect back on the awkwardness and deficiencies in their church youth subcultures, with an adult perspective that was either not understood or not allowed when young.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sheryl

    Fascinating book about women growing up in an Evangelical church. Some of the stories are heart breaking, some are filled with hope and others leave you hanging... wondering what will happen next in these women's lives. It gave me some ideas on what to talk to my daughter about as we navigate church, life and God together.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I really fascinating collection. Some others well-written, others not so much. Helpful overall in processing my evangelical/fundamentalist upbringing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Thoroughly enjoyable - great range of perspectives and final outcomes. The opposite of trite.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I found this book of essays fairly compelling. The writers are all women in their 20's and 30's who grew up in or became Evangelical Christians. They are women who are still in the church and who have left the church. Their experiences vary widely and enable the reader to see an interesting cross section of a religion where women's voices are all too frequently absent. That said, as with any collection of work, stories varied in their appeal to me in appeal. While giving us voices, it is also not I found this book of essays fairly compelling. The writers are all women in their 20's and 30's who grew up in or became Evangelical Christians. They are women who are still in the church and who have left the church. Their experiences vary widely and enable the reader to see an interesting cross section of a religion where women's voices are all too frequently absent. That said, as with any collection of work, stories varied in their appeal to me in appeal. While giving us voices, it is also notable whose voices were not heard--there was little diversity in terms of ethnicity, and no lgbt voices.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ulrike

    So many well-written essays. Very interesting, at times funny, at times sad. Full of personal insight.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The tone was more negative than I expected. Includes some really great stories, though. Loved Melanie's, of course.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    A collection of essays on various topics by women who grew up in evangelical churches. Very interesting and thought-provoking!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical is an anthology of twenty-two personal essays collected and edited by Hannah Faith Notess. This anthology collects a varied personal essays or testimonials of growing up female and evangelical. For the most part, I really like most of these contributions. Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical comprises of a twenty-two personal essays into five different sections about growing up in an evangelical church as a femal Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical is an anthology of twenty-two personal essays collected and edited by Hannah Faith Notess. This anthology collects a varied personal essays or testimonials of growing up female and evangelical. For the most part, I really like most of these contributions. Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical comprises of a twenty-two personal essays into five different sections about growing up in an evangelical church as a female under the follow topics: Community, Worship, Education, Gender and Sex, and Story & Identity. Most of the authors are in their twenties through forties, and they come from a variety of ethnic and denominational backgrounds, but the majority of the personal essays were from the Christian Evangelicals. Like most anthologies there are weaker contributions and Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical is not an exception. There were a few essays that weren’t conveyed rather well and it brought down the collection. However, it is somewhat forgivable, since these are personal essays from non-scholarly or written by professional writers. All in all, Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical is a wonderful anthology of personal essays about growing up evangelical and female.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura Howard

    Don’t judge this book by its cover, that’s for sure. Let’s be real. To a tired-of-evangelicalism mind, this book likely looks stupid. (It does to mine.) But this book is full of the stories of church-raised women who now have all sorts of relationships to those churches. Some of these stories end with gladness. Some end with confusion. Some end with bitterness. Some end with faithlessness. Some of these stories are incredibly written. Some of these stories are hard-to-get-through in a not-so-goo Don’t judge this book by its cover, that’s for sure. Let’s be real. To a tired-of-evangelicalism mind, this book likely looks stupid. (It does to mine.) But this book is full of the stories of church-raised women who now have all sorts of relationships to those churches. Some of these stories end with gladness. Some end with confusion. Some end with bitterness. Some end with faithlessness. Some of these stories are incredibly written. Some of these stories are hard-to-get-through in a not-so-good sort of way. Some of these stories brought me to the kind of tears that come about when you feel understood in a way you never have been. Some of these stories made me nostalgic. Some of these stories brewed anger. Some of these stories made me laugh. All of these stories are written by women whose voices matter. I’m grateful for having gotten to hear them. Would I recommend this? Yes—because women are worth listening to. We need more places in the church for women’s stories. This book understands that and does something about it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    This was an excellent collection of essays. Very relatable all around. I put off reading it because I went into it thinking it would be a little heavy-handed and negative, but the women recounting their experiences were as varied in their feelings and responses to being Christian family kids as their stories were.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I am most certainly the bullseye of the target audience for this, but I'm disappointed. The vast majority of the pieces are unremarkable, only a couple of standouts in 20+ essays. But bonus, it's December 31 and I've finished my Read Harder challenge!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Linda Gaines

    I thought some of these stories would be a little different. Most of the young women are still in churches.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I found myself nodding and chuckling throughout just about all of these essays, as they could nearly all have been written about me and my experience from childhood into adulthood. Despite none of the authors (as far as I can tell from their bios) identifying as part of the exact church into which I was born, I found myself identifying with many of their feelings, postulations, and experiences. Reading this collection made me feel as though I was listening to the voices of my friends, my sisters I found myself nodding and chuckling throughout just about all of these essays, as they could nearly all have been written about me and my experience from childhood into adulthood. Despite none of the authors (as far as I can tell from their bios) identifying as part of the exact church into which I was born, I found myself identifying with many of their feelings, postulations, and experiences. Reading this collection made me feel as though I was listening to the voices of my friends, my sisters, or other women in my church. They were honest, thoughtful, and brave in how they expressed concern, frustration, joy, elation, peace, doubt, and more. They asked difficult yet heartfelt questions, and faithfully, diligently, openly sought the answers. Sometimes the answers led them back into the arms of Christ--but not the church. Sometimes the answers led them elsewhere. Sometimes the answers didn't satisfy them at all. Sometimes the answers left them right where they'd been all along. At various times throughout the book I found myself excited, horrified, amused, intrigued, inspired, saddened, and embarrassed. Regardless of my feelings, I appreciated each of the essays (excepting one, which was trying too hard to be poetic and artsy and wasn't my style at all), and appreciated the messages and thoughts they gave me to ponder. I feel the subtitle of this book is a bit misleading; not all (in fact, relatively few) of the essays actually have anything to do with being female, though it could be argued that the fact that they were written by women makes them inherently about the female experience. This book gave me permission to ask questions. It made it okay for me to doubt, wonder, and get angry. It gently led me forward into learning more about who my God is, and what I need to know about him/her. It solidified some things, and opened up other windows of insight I hadn't yet approached, and made me realize I'm not the only one who's ever questioned, doubted, or seethed at the church and at God. And I certainly won't be the last. After realizing others have asked the same questions I have and perhaps not (yet?) received answers to them all, the essays in this book have caused me to wonder and begin to believe that doubt and questions come from faith, and appear alongside it, not in spite of it. This, if nothing else, made reading this book entirely worth it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Routh

    Rating a book of essays is difficult--some work for me; others don't. Some authors write genuinely, and others strive too hard for ingenuity. Overall, though, I enjoyed this collection, even though it focused less on evangelicalism in the light of feminism as I originally thought it would. It definitely brought back memories.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gina Dalfonzo

    An interesting and thought-provoking read. I had some major disagreements with some of the authors about various issues, but on the whole I appreciated the book and what it was trying to do.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    An important collection of essays that offer real and diverse voices of women who believe.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    Twenty-two different women with a wide variety of writing. My favourites were heart-breaking and/or hilarious.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cleo Reynolds

    I thought some of these stories would be a little different. Most of the young women are still in churches.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Thacker

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gillian

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