A vast number of new books are embracing female readers across all aspects of life in the Christian-living space, including categories such as self-help, parenting, finances, emotional struggles, and spirituality. The growth in the subcategory of women writing for women represents cultural shifts and interests, according to Sarah Pelz, executive editor at Atria.
“It certainly feels like we’re ushering in a new era of the female voice, and it’s about time,” Pelz says. “There’s a heightened awareness in today’s market that female voices have been marginalized, and women are tired of either being excluded from the conversation or being made to feel that their experiences matter less because of their gender.”
Kregel’s publisher Catherine DeVries agrees, telling PW, “Women are gaining a voice, whether that is in politics, business, or their personal lives.” DeVries notes that the robust category of women writing for women derives its strength from female reading habits—with most studies showing that women buy more books than men. “Women remain the number-one purchaser,” she says. “What’s interesting to see is that women are now buying more books for themselves, in addition to their usual habit of buying them for (or recommending them to) others.”
“Titles by women for women have become a critical and vibrant part of our publishing program over the past five years,” adds Dave DeWit, v-p of book publishing at Crossway. “We have discovered new voices and worked with more established authors to publish substantive content for a discerning audience.”
Titles Reflect the Times
Most notably among the books from female authors for female audiences are numerous titles relating to the #MeToo move- ment, political activism, and other topical issues. In January, IVP is releasing The #MeToo Reckoning: Facing the Church’s Complicity in Sexual Abuse and Misconduct by Ruth Everhart, which PW called “particularly instructive” in its starred review. (See our q&a with the author).
In Groomed, Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good writes, “Women today have been groomed for a lot more than just sex.” The book, which is coming from W in January, cites staggering statistics about childhood sexual abuse and pinpoints the subtle yet life-altering ways the grooming of victims takes place for such abuse. Good is CEO and cofounder of the Selah Way Foundation, which works to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation, and sex trafficking of children.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement’s momentum in raising aware- ness of injustices such as wage inequality, Lead Stories podcaster Jo Saxton calls on women to fill leadership roles in Ready to Rise: Own Your Voice, Gather Your Community, Step into Your Influence (WaterBrook, April 2020). The book blends personal reflections with stories of empowered women from the Bible, while also addressing issues such as workplace harassment, sexism, low self-esteem, financial woes, and power battles.
Evangelical Christian publishers are not the only presses focusing on the movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Anaiya Sophia, a mystic and yoga teacher based in Southern France, channels the wisdom of ancient goddesses in Fierce Feminine Rising: Heal from Predatory Relationships and Recenter Your Personal Power (Destiny, Jan.). Sophia encourages readers to draw inspiration from feminine mysticism to heal themselves and the world around them.
Fifteen Catholic women share stories of sexual abuse, broken marriages, mental illness, and more in Undone by Carrie Schuchts Daunt (Ave Maria, Jan.). In the book, each woman’s testimony identifies shame and fear as barriers to relationships, and pro- vides ways to overcome those emotions.
In Pursuit of Justice
Pastor Kathy Escobar writes in Practicing (WJK, Feb.) that women have more power to transform the world than they realize, and that it starts with inner change. The book lays out 10 actions—such as listening more, advocating for justice, and mourning with those who grieve—that Christians can take to make a difference in their lives, communities, and the world.
Kelley Nikondeha’s Defiant: What the Women of Exodus Teach Us about Freedom (Eerdmans, Mar.) highlights the courage of the women in the Exodus narrative, as well as their commitment to justice. “Our generation of women needs to see the mothers of the liberation movement who’ve gone before us with such strength and stamina,” Nikondeha writes in the book’s introduction. “Watching them, we can imagine fresh possibilities for how to engage in faithful ways amid chaotic times.”
And global social justice advocate Danielle Strickland imagines unity between men and women as they work together to embrace differences and find ways to end oppression. “I don’t want to be just hopeful, I want to be strategically hopeful,” Strickland writes in Better Together (W, Feb.). “I want to work toward a better world with a shared view of the future that looks like equality, freedom, and flourishing.”
Diversity Among Women
Though writers in the women-to-women genre are overwhelm- ingly white, publishers note an increasing number of authors of color. Among these, Chanequa Walker-Barnes’s I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation (Eerdmans, out now) argues that the Christian racial reconciliation move- ment is rooted in patriarchal forces. The author builds a case for why the voices of women of color are critical to any genuine effort to eliminate racial injustice and heal from its damage. “The exclusion of women’s racial experiences from dialogue on racial reconciliation is not simply a problem for women; it precludes any real understanding of the dynamics of race and racism,” Walker-Barnes writes. “If we truly hope to work toward racial reconciliation, the perspectives of women of color must be moved from the margin to the center.”
In May, HarperOne will publish The View cohost and NBC News senior legal correspondent Sunny Hostin’s I Am These Truths: A Memoir of Identity, Justice, and Living Between Worlds. Starting with her childhood in a South Bronx housing project, Hostin shares her life story, including experiences with poverty, intolerance, and injustice.
HarperCollins’s Amistad imprint is releasing Own the Room by Katrina M. Adams (July 2020), a former professional tennis player and the first African-American president of the United States Tennis Association. Adams, who worked to make the predominantly white “country club” sport more inclusive, reflects on the skills she used to lead the organization.
Jaci Velasquez, an actress and Christian pop singer, shares les- sons from the ups and downs of her career, a broken first marriage, and a renewed sense of faith in When God Rescripts Your Life: Seeing Value, Beauty, and Purpose When Life Is Interrupted (Nelson,out now). “Jaci Velasquez has led such an unusual life on her way to becoming a popular gospel singer, and some of that path was very difficult,” says Jenny Baumgartner, senior acquisitions editor at Nelson Books. “In her book, she describes it in the most honest terms and tells it from her distinctly female viewpoint.”
Ending the Ego’s Reign
Three new books are addressing society’s obsession with the self.Enough About Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self by Jen Oshman (Crossway, Mar.) takes a stand against self-improvement strategies as a means for finding happiness, instead calling for readers to root their identity in God. “After years of being told they can have it all, be anyone they want to be, and to just believe in themselves, women are finding that that’s just not true,” Crossway’s DeWit says. “This book is a rescue mission, and presents how the age of self got here and how to get out.”
Relatable podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey draws on scripture to argue that the pressure to love oneself only further contributes to feelings of disappointment, failure, and misery in You’re Not Good Enough (and That’s Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self Love (PRH, May). “I think there’s a huge need for a book like this now, in a time when people, especially young women, are told that self-love is the key to happiness,” says PRH editor Helen Healey. “Allie has common-sense, big-sisterly advice that so many women need to hear: there is truth that exists outside ourselves; life isn’t all about them; happiness shouldn’t be their goal.”
In Kick Ass Women series author Karen Karbo’s new book, Yeah, No. Not Happening. How I Found Happiness Swearing Off Self-
Improvement and Saying F*ck It All—and How You Can Too (HarperWave, May), she identifies “self-improvery” as a marketing
scheme intended to push women into spending time and money on “fixing” themselves. Her book is aimed toward helping readers to take a stand against the pressure to do it all, and to learn how to appreciate and flaunt their flaws.
For Spirituality’s Sake
A perennial topic among religious and spiritual books for women is how to grow in faith as well as one’s relationship with God. Kara Lawler sheds light on the spiritual aspects of everyday life in Everywhere Holy: Seeing Beauty, Remembering Your Identity, and Finding God Right Where You Are (Nelson, Dec.). The author suggests ways to observe one’s ordinary routine, family and friends, and nature as a spiritual practice that can lead to stronger connections, peace, and gratefulness.
Also reexamining the day-to-day, Glenna Marshall’s Everyday Faithfulness: The Beauty of Ordinary Perseverance in a Demanding World(Crossway, June) focuses on seasons of waiting, doubting, caretaking, and suffering—when spiritual growth seems especially difficult. Describing what daily life following Christ looks like, Marshall encourages readers to stay the course.
Sheryl Brady, Bible teacher and pastor of the Potter’s House of North Dallas, makes a case for how God is present in daily life in Don’t Miss the Moment: How God Uses the Insignificant to Create the Extraordinary (Thomas Nelson, Mar.). The book reminds Christians that “God often speaks in whispers, strategi- cally and incrementally unveiling his plans, preparations, and purposes,” according to the publisher. The key, Brady writes, is learning to be faithful in those moments.
Lisa Whittle’s Jesus Over Everything (W, Mar.) addresses the challenges women face in trying to develop and deepen a relationship with God. The book features eight statements of choice—such as commitment over mood, steady over hype, and holiness over freedom—that can aid readers when it comes to prioritizing spiritual growth against the demands of daily life.
Coming from Charisma in February, Goodbye, Yesterday!: Activating the Twelve Laws of Boundary-Defying Faith identifies principles based on the Book of Genesis intended to help women change the way they view themselves. Author Cindy Trimm, whose past books have sold more than one million copies com- bined, according to the publisher, writes: “If you want to leave behind the baggage that is weighing you down, you’ll have to learn to tell your story from a different vantage point—the vantage point of faith.”
Designed for women in midlife, Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause: An Unexpected Spiritual Journey by theologian and pastor Cheryl Bridges Johns (Brazos, Mar.) reframes the second half of life as a time of significant psychological and spiritual transformation.
Aundi Kolber, a licensed professional counselor, draws on psychology, clinical exercises, and personal experience in Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode—and into a Life of Connection and Joy (Tyndale, Jan.). Rather than relying on what the author calls the “try harder” gospel, Kolber provides ways readers can know and set emotional and relational boundaries, make sense of experiences, grow in compassion, and more.
Catholic press Loyola will publish The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God by Becky Eldredge (Apr.), geared toward readers experiencing loneliness, stress, and busyness. Eldredge explores what she refers to as the space within each person where God resides, and she encourages readers to call on God at any moment in their lives. Christine Arylo’s Overwhelmed and Over It: Why It’s Not Your Fault and How to Find Your Power to Change It(New World Library, Sept. 2020) also combats the stress and busyness in women’s lives today, this time with mantras and other spiritual techniques. New World Library editor Georgia Hughes says the book is a well-timed examination of what truly brings people contentment, harmony, and satisfaction. “Christine Arylo understands women, and her approach to interjecting spiritual feminist perspective into contemporary life can’t be surpassed,” she says.
Bible studies, devotionals, and ministry books that are specifi- cally tailored for women are also gathering steam. Sue Edwards and Kelly Matthews’s Organic Ministry to Women: A Guide to Transformational Ministry with Next Generation Women by Sue Edwards and Kelly Matthews (Kregel, out now) argues that millennial and Generation-Z women have distinct needs that should be met through new approaches to women’s ministry. Drawing on decades of experience in ministry, the authors pro- pose energetic ways to serve women from all generations and in multiple settings. In March, Kregel is publishing Shannon Popkin’s Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World, a seven-week Bible study centered on the common tendency to compare and judge ourselves and others.
Living Wisely: Believing the Truths of Scripture (NavPress, Feb.) is the latest Bible study by Cynthia Heald, author of the Becoming a Woman Bible study series. The new book combines personal stories from the author and other women with biblical insight aimed at inspiring readers to follow Christ.
The Future for Female Voices
Publishers predict that the reach of women writers will continue to grow within the Christian living segment as well as other genres. “Women are looking for strong female voices in the post #MeToo era, and we’re seeing this across all book categories— from children’s books to self-help to religious publishing,” Atria’s Pelz says. “We think there will continue to be a growing market for progressive female voices in this category.”
At Nelson Books, women writing for women is a key part of the business, according to senior acquisition editor Jessica Wong. “We’ve always understood who our primary reader demographic is and therefore looked for authors who connect most resonantly with them,” she says.
DeWit of Crossway says the publisher’s books on women’s issues “have proven successful and become solid backlist titles for us, and we plan to do more of the same.”
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