Every story is birthed by the life of its author. In this blog post, I will be sharing some of the life behind my debut novel, The Death of a Songbird.
I grew up in a loving home, surrounded by parents and siblings that were involved in my life, and truly cared about me and my growth as a person. I also grew up in a home that was centered around a conservative/traditional view of Christianity. On one hand I was encouraged to think critically, ask questions, and explore. On the other hand, I was told what to believe, to have faith, and settle into the traditions of my family’s church. Over time, these two trajectories began to rub against one another. I began asking my Sunday school teacher questions like, “If sin didn’t exist before Eve ate the apple, then why was Adam lonely?” While I don’t remember the exact answer I was given to this question, it was usually around the lines of, “just listen to the story, and save your questions for later.” I did. I listened hard. I listened well after the lessons stopped, picking apart what I knew to be true and what questions still lingered. One question always lingered the longest, “If God loves us all, why are some people treated so differently just for being who they are?”
I carried this question with me throughout my childhood, into college, and beyond. As I met new people and heard their stories, this question grew. The first real challenge I laid before the beliefs of my past was regarding the inequality of men and women in the church. Men tended to be seen as spiritual leaders by default, while women were “permitted to teach minds under 18.” These types of disparities seemed to revolve around nothing more than the sex of the person despite how wise, intelligent, or gifted the individual was.
As I grew in my confidence to question the assumed beliefs of adults around me, I started to see some other startling differences between myself and the girls around me. I was taught that even a single sexual thought was equal to adultery. The girls were taught to watch how they dress, so they don’t cause one of the boys to “stumble”. I was taught to love and respect women, as Christ loves and respects the church, placing me in direct authority over them for no apparent reason. The girls were taught to be submissive helpers, destined to serve the needs of their future husbands before they even met them.
As I grew older the beliefs of my past began to sit irreparably next to how I viewed the world. I sought out more information. I craved deeper thoughts. More informed opinions. This led me to Seminary. Surely a masters degree in theology would mend these broken streams of thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Around half of the students taking classes alongside me were women, yet the messages I heard taught to them were the same as I heard as a child. The only difference was how intelligent the sentiments were worded. As the years in seminary went by I had the chance to speak with many of the women in those classes. I heard countless stories of their worth and leadership being questioned. Why would a woman go to seminary? Are you going to be a children’s pastor? What does your husband think?
More often than not, the minds I was most impressed with belonged to the women whose value and leadership were questioned constantly. Their combination of intelligence, introspection, wisdom, humility, leadership, and critical thinking in spite of men in positions of authority pushing them down was inspirational to me. It made it that much more heartbreaking when I would watch them get shut down in class. It was rarely anything openly hostile, or direct. It was more like an overall attitude that just because they were women, their ideas were “cute” rather than profound. Instead of seeing an entirely new perspective to learn from the men around them were finding ways to keep them in their place. Helping. Serving. Supporting. A precious thing to keep pure.
This was my first profound struggle with my childhood worldview. It shaped who I am today, and has brought me through countless discoveries about the true inequality in our world. I needed a way to vent these frustrations. To create a place for people who grew up in this bubble of inequality to see it for what it is. I grew tired of intellectual debates, and sought other outlets. I have always had a deep love of the fantasy genre, and decided to start brainstorming a fictional story that could express things that no other medium could.
I wanted to create a story that was full of magic and wonder. A world that was exciting to get lost in. I also wanted it tell the story of so many of the profound female leaders I had encountered in my life. Stories of their astounding gifts held in check. Stories of their families treating them like second class citizens. Stories of the pain and heartache that came with being treated like a sexual possession. Stories of being bound to ideals like; a man’s helper, a submissive wife, and a being whose soul purpose was to remain pure.
This is the drive behind my novel, The Death of a Songbird. To tell the story of a girl born with incredible gifts. Gifts that are controlled and managed by the men around her for fear of what she could become. To show the story of how deeply purity culture adversely effects women of all ages. To show how benevolent sexism can be just as damaging as hostile sexism. To show how the world is always a better place when we stop and consider the true value of lives that are distinctly different than our own.