One of my favorite things to do online is share good books that deserve to find their perfect readers, and one of my favorite things to do offline is give (and receive!) books. And since Rift: A Memoir of Breaking Away from Christian Patriarchy isn’t available for gift wrapping just yet, I thought I would share some of my best recommendations for what to read in the meantime.
These books include history, memoir, and young-adult fiction, so hopefully there’s a little something for everyone. I’d love to hear your recommendations as well—I am a chronic reader and am always looking for new additions to my shelves. Find me over on the Substack Chat and let me know your favorites!
Disobedient Women by Sarah Stankorb
This is one of my favorite books to recommend this year! Sarah has done important journalistic work over the years bringing to light the stories of those marginalized and abused within evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. Her writing about Christian patriarchy and stay-at-home daughters is among the best I’ve seen. You can read my full review here.
The Color of Compromise by Dr. Jemar Tisby
I grew up in predominantly white spaces and learned American history from Christian homeschool curriculum, which whitewashed the history of slavery, saying it was better for those enslaved because they could hear the gospel. So, in my work to deconstruct the ideas of patriarchy, I’ve also had to break down the racist ideology I was given as a framework for reality. The Color of Compromise was very helpful in this pursuit because it taught me how the American church has perpetuated and been complicit in racism.
When Religion Hurts You by Dr. Laura Anderson
If you want something that is like The Body Keeps the Score but that is more accessible to survivors and more specific to religious trauma—this one’s for you. I cannot speak highly enough of the amazing work Dr. Anderson has done in the spiritual abuse and religious trauma space through her writing and speaking. She also cofounded the Religious Trauma Institute and started the Center for Trauma Resolution and Recovery, both excellent resources. This book is a great help for healing after high-control and toxic religion.
Jesus and John Wayne by Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez
It’s hard to believe this book is already three years old! I felt so seen when I first read this—it was like the story of my life within evangelicalism and Christian patriarchy. And I am only one of many who have said the same thing. If you want to understand how white evangelicalism got to where it is today with its influence in politics, this is a must-read. I’m lucky enough to live in the same city as Kristin, and she is absolutely the real deal!
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
I really couldn’t write a list of book recommendations for life after Christian patriarchy without mentioning Rachel Held Evans at least once—her writing helped liberate me from so many lies I’d been told about women in the church. A Year of Biblical Womanhood particularly resonated with me because it tells the story of how she decided to follow patriarchal rules from the Bible for a year—quite literally. I was raised with rules taken literally from the Old Testament, so it was interesting to see someone try to live this way as an adult. Her sense of humor helped me process the trauma of being oppressed for my gender, and I’ll always be grateful.
The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Dr. Beth Allison Barr
Here’s another accessible history book—this one covers the story of how the idea of biblical womanhood was created through sociocultural moments and power moves to subjugate women, and isn’t “biblical” in the way many seem to think. It helped me understand where the ideas around gender in my own home came from, giving me more information to make up my own mind about what is true about women.
Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
(2015, young-adult fiction)
Devoted is a very special book to me—so much so that I’ve written about it in my memoir. The story follows a stay-at-home daughter as she figures out who she is and whether she wants to live out the narrative of submissive women she’s been force-fed. It was powerful for me to read a story that mirrored my own, a story of leaving family to live true to one’s own self.
Quiver by Julia Watts
(2018, young-adult fiction)
This is another young-adult novel about a girl in the Quiverfull movement, but it’s also about her gender-fluid friend and neighbor who challenges her ideas of gender, safety, and love. This is such a beautiful book that shows the power of finding one’s voice and the importance of friendship in broadening our view of the world.
The Woman They Wanted by Shannon Harris
We are getting so many new memoirs of those who have left spiritually abusive relationships and churches, evangelicalism, and Christian patriarchy—and I am here for it! Our stories are all different, even though they have similarities, and each one matters. Shannon is finally taking back her narrative after decades of being used by the church to prop up their patriarchal oppression. I am so thankful she is telling her story, and I loved getting to know her creative voice.
Wiving by Caitlin Myer
I love this memoir, and I could relate to much of her experience, even though the author grew up Mormon rather than evangelical. This is a beautifully written literary memoir about bodily autonomy, womanhood, religious trauma, and patriarchy. For those who love poetic language and reflective writing!
Content warning for sexual assault.
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
This is one of the most moving memoirs I’ve read, and although it’s not directly about Christian patriarchy or religious trauma, it is a story of growing up in a world unsafe for girls and women, particularly Black girls. When I left Christian patriarchy, I thought I’d escaped into some ideal version of reality, but I soon realized how deeply rooted patriarchy is in our society. Ashley’s story is so real it hurts, and I’m grateful she’s written her experience in this incredible memoir.
Content warning for sexual assault
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Spiritual abuse survivors often lose relationships, community, and church and struggle to find a safe support system, which is why Tears of Eden works to provide free resources to survivors, including free virtual support groups.
We currently have a very long waitlist for these groups, and limited resources. Your donation will help us fund two support groups in 2024. For some, this is their first contact with support after spiritual abuse, and it is such an important resource. I was able to be in the first group Tears hosted (before I joined the editorial board), and it was truly such a healing experience to be with others who "got" it and find a sense of community. Your donation will go very far in making healing more accessible for others in a climate where, unfortunately, many people are suffering spiritual abuse.