When it comes to books for women, religion and spirituality publishers are relying on female authors with strong credentials who also have firsthand experience with the topics that they write about.
“Now more than ever, readers are looking for credible authors who can help them heal and grow,” says NavPress acquisitions editor Deborah Sáenz Gonzalez. “Especially in the area of faith and mental health, education and experience are critical for writing a book that will make an impact on readers’ lives.”
The power of experience is also important to Laura Barker, v-p, publisher at WaterBrook & Multnomah, who says readers are looking for “authors whose voice and content reflect their own experience and struggles.” But Barker adds that readers “appreciate gaining wisdom and insights from someone who’s a little farther down the road, whether that’s a fellow mom whose children are older or someone whose work is informed by professional expertise.”
One new title that gathers expertise and experience for readers is NavPress’s Does God See Me? How God Meets Us in the Center of Our Trauma-Healing Journey (May 2024), by trauma recovery counselor and minister Dieula Magalie Previlon. The book brings Previlon’s professional background to bear on the biblical story of Hagar, as well as her own experiences with shame, grief, and abandonment. And from WaterBrook, Stronger in the Difficult Places: Unraveling Complex Shame to Heal Your Relationship with Yourself (Oct. 2024) by clinical psychologist Zoe M. Shaw explores the author’s experiences with shame related to her racial identity, a teenage pregnancy, and a forced adoption.
Susan Tjaden, executive editor at WaterBrook, was drawn to the combination of Shaw’s personal story and her professional background in Stronger. “The book gives the reader tools to recognize and address shame that has taken root in her own life,” Tjaden says. “Utilizing these tools empowers women to change their shame stories, forgive themselves, and transform their relationships—including their relationships with themselves and with God.”
At Thomas Nelson’s W Publishing imprint, publisher Damon Reiss stresses the value of books by women authors that embrace individual convictions with honesty and insight. “In so doing,” he says, “they reach the deep cords of faith that sustain us all.”
One such book from the publisher is Power Moves: Ignite Your Confidence and Become a Force (Apr. 2024) by Sarah Jakes Roberts, the founder of Women Evolve, an organization dedicated to helping women find their purpose. “I think the temperature of the culture is finally ready to unpack the unrest of the last three-to-four years,” Reiss says. “Sarah Jakes Roberts’s new book is a juggernaut—helping readers who are hungry to lead change to grow in their lives, careers, and families.”
And for more spiritual readers, Bill Krause, publisher at new age press Llewellyn, points to titles that offer “spiritual power, comfort, and healing in books and rituals developed by and in the company of other women.”
The publisher’s Empowerment Through Witchcraft: A Wiccan Guide for the Magickal Practitioner by Linda Murphy (out now) encourages readers to grow into their most powerful selves through traditional witchcraft tools—namely spells, rituals, and meditations.“We have seen a rise in women looking for resources to develop their personal practices and spiritual development,” Krause says. “This phenomenon has grown and become much more visible since the pandemic. We will see more of this in the coming year as women create hope in this present-day world.”
Books as expert testimonies
Women writers are chronicling their trials and triumphs in an effort to lift up readers with hard-won lessons about a range of issues.
In Black Women, Ivory Tower: Revealing the Lies of White Supremacy in American Education (Broadleaf, Jan. 2024), Jasmine L. Harris, an associate professor of African American studies at the University of Texas, San Antonio, describes her experiences as a student while offering resources to other Black female students.“By laying bare my own traumas, and those of Black women before me,” Harris writes in the book, “I am providing them the tools to protect themselves, with an understanding of how deliberately many institutions will try to undercut them.” Harris includes a chapter that looks at how faith can be used as a tool for women engaged in this journey, according to the publisher.
Lisa Kloskin, an acquiring editor at Broadleaf Books, describes Black Women, Ivory Tower as a powerful resource for Black women. “ ‘Listen to Black women’ is a common refrain right now, and rightfully so,” she says. “But especially powerful is when Black women are writing for other Black women, rather than tailoring their work for white audiences. Harris is not writing primarily to the white institutions she describes in the book, but to the Black women who will enter them after her.”
The book presents teachings based on Momwell’s workshops and courses, which are dedicated to empowering moms. “I want readers to feel validated in their experience,” Ventimiglia adds, “and know that these tools can actually provide some relief.”
Additional books on motherhood include Groaning in Labor, Growing in Hope by Jessica Mannen Kimmet (Liturgical Press, out now). In it, the mother of three children shares how she found solace in prayer during early parenthood when she was struggling with postpartum depression. The book features scripture readings and reflections related to raising young children and “the upheavals of this season of life,” according to the publisher.
He Gives More Grace (The Good Book Co., Dec.), by mother-daughter authors Linda Green and Sarah Walton, addresses pressures, joys, and disappointments of motherhood in an effort to shift the focus away from the perfect mother and toward Jesus, “a perfect savior,” the authors write. Another mother-daughter duo, Sandra Stanley and Allie Cooney, aim to improve communications between moms and tween or early teen daughters with Meet Me in the Middle: 8 Mother-Daughter Conversations About Life and Faith (Zondervan, Aug. 2024).
Finally, pastor and Full Spectrum Parent podcaster Jessica Hurlbut addresses overwhelmed mothers about hindrances such as exhaustion, distraction, and disillusionment in Unlimited Motherhood: Overcome 12 Limits That Overwhelm and Conflict Our Hearts (Bethany, Mar. 2024). “What if we could experience the abundant life that Jesus promises us,” Hurlbut writes, “instead of the just-getting-by-life that we’ve settled for?”