Elizabeth Passarella, a contributing editor at Southern Living, spent years writing stories on food, travel, home design, and parenting with titles such as My Toddler Threw Out My Silver Polish, and I Don’t Care. Meanwhile, she gathered material for her first book, Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York (Nelson, Jan. 19).
Jessica Wong, associate editor for Nelson, tells PW their team was so delighted with “her winsome voice” that Nelson signed a two-book deal with Passarella. Wong expects Good Apple to be a hit for them this winter because, “she speaks into the interesting middle place our country is in right now where widely different people can find a place to come together.”
PW talked with Passarella about the Big Apple, the Good Apple, and the ever-growing category of Christian living books by women, for women.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
You’ve been a New Yorker for decades. Why do this book now?
It’s God’s timing. I always wanted to do a book but I am not a multi-tasker. Now, I’ve been married 15 years, I’m 43, I have three children, and I have something to say. I have the time and the motivation to talk about what I’m passionate about – being a committed Christian in the city.
You describe the city as overpriced, inconvenient, even shocking (that rat on the eighth floor) yet still uniquely loved. What’s New York like right now?
It’s a difficult time but there is a real solidarity here. The stores may be boarded up but there’s energy and commitment and hope in banding together to love our city and love our neighbors.
In the book’s introduction you alert readers that if they are “weary of reading Christian Living books where women talk about their failures in sonnet form and gloss right over the ugly sin part, please know that I once threw a remote control at my husband’s head.” So, who is this book for?
I wrote for all the people in my life, the moms I know, the school moms, the folks in my building, my neighborhood. We are all going through the same struggles. I just look at them through the lens of my own faith. I wanted to write a book that a non-Christian woman will pick up and think, ‘I didn’t think this is a way a Christian lives or talks or votes.’ And I want people to lose themselves in the storytelling. There are a lot of women out there who want to laugh.”
Who are women writers in the Christian space you admire?
The more inspirational/self-help-y world of Christian Living is not a genre I’ve dipped into much, although it is sweet and useful. I like reading women teachers because I’m not a teacher: Jen Wilkins’ and Jackie Hill Perry’s Bible studies; Jen Hatmaker, who always make me laugh; and Beth Moore, particularly when she is cutting loose on social media.
Threaded through Good Apple is a message of God’s love and forgiveness and a focus on “who we are in Christ.” What does this mean?
I know so many people whose identity is wrapped up in their work or in being the best, most crafty mom, or proudest New Yorker, or having a wonderful marriage. I wanted to push against that because all those things at some point are going to let you down. If I put my identity in my parenting or my job (or election results), they are going to let me down. If anything I want to give hope to people in my life. If you feel disappointed, it’s not the end all be all. I can deal with being an average mom or being a jerk, it’s not everything.