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I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth Hardcover – February 2, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Talk of the rapture—the ascent to heaven of true Christians before the end of the world—surrounds Peterson (Duck and Cover), and she engages this conversation with delicacy, humor, frustration, and, at times, a begrudging respect, in this memoir about growing up among Southern Baptists and not quite fitting in. Peterson's story is told through what is really a series of vignettes, tied together by two themes, faith and the environment. She looks back at her childhood, college, and then adulthood, stopping here and there, selecting scenes from her life that show why she finds God outdoors, and why the rapture-obsessed family and community of her youth quickly loses its appeal. Her love for this world and everything in it is far greater than any promise of salvation apart from and above it. Readers interested in a story about leaving behind theologically conservative Christianity and other types of extremism will find Peterson's collection of anecdotes and remembered conversations engaging. The chapters can be read on their own, and her prologue, The Trumpet Shall Sound, and chapter In the Garden are among the best. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Peterson has been sharpening her ethos on the flinty tenets of the Southern Baptist Church ever since she was an inquisitive child enthralled by the living world. Following her fourth novel, Animal Heart (2004), she continues the inquiry into her complex heritage and ecological calling that she began in Build Me an Ark (2001). In this unusually affecting and radiant spiritual memoir, Peterson recounts her resistance to End Times teachings. Surely, life on earth is sacred, thought this “increasingly mutinous mystic” alert to the contradictions between her parents’ heaven-focused religion and her CIA-employed mother’s earthiness and her gifted father’s devotion to nature as chief of the U.S. Forest Service. With stirring immediacy, Peterson describes the traumatic awakenings during the 1960s and 1970s that inspired her to reject the concept of the Rapture and embrace the effort to preserve earthly creation. Guided by exceptional mentors, Peterson endured experiences painful, ludicrous, and profound in small towns, a “boot camp for Southern Baptists,” and the offices of the New Yorker before finding her true home on the Pacific coast. Frankly and knowledgeably critiquing evangelicalism and holier-than-thou environmentalism, Peterson seeks a meeting of church and earth in this witty, enrapturing account of a spiritual journey of great relevance to us all. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; NONE, A Merloyd Lawrence Book edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818042
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,637,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"When you write memoir, you discover the love of your life is--your life." Your Life is a Book

OPRAH.com selects YOUR LIFE IS A BOOK: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir for its inspiration and practical advice. http://www.oprah.com/spirit/New-Self-Help-Books-Advice-That-Works/4

Unlike other memoir books, this new writer's guide includes cutting-edge insights and advice on both indie and traditional publication, as well as time-tested writing prompts and exercises on the craft of writing memoir. An award-winning memoirist and her NYC successful literary agent team up to guide you every step of the way--from life story to publication.

"If I were going to write the story of my life, this is the book I'd look to first and last for encouragement, inspiration, and practical advice."

--Nancy Pearl, author of bestselling Book Lust series

LIBRARY JOURAL review: September 1, 2014

Peterson, Brenda & Sarah Jane Freymann. 
Your Life Is a Book: How To Craft & Publish Your Memoir. Sasquatch. Oct. 2014. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781570619304. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781570619311. COMM

Peterson (I Want To Be Left Behind) and Freymann (founder, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency) bring decades of experience to bear on the subject of writing and publishing a memoir. Affable, confident, and candid, the authors teach that the process, when done right, can be a journey of personal growth, illustrating their points with poignant examples and metaphors. Part 1, "Crafting Your Memoir," introduces the genre and covers an array of topics: death, abuse, family secrets, food, travel, spirituality, animals, and more. The advice on what does and doesn't work with each topic is razor sharp and is the overall strength of the book. Battle-tested tips, exercises, and prompts close most chapters, providing writers an opportunity to practice and apply their craft. The second half, "Getting Serious About Publishing," offers insightful perspectives on blogging, agents, editors, handling rejection, indie publishing, and more. Discussions of factuality, point of view, drafting, and scenes are excellent but could be expanded. ­VERDICT This is a reassuring introduction to how writers should approach their first memoir and an honest discussion of what it will take to publish one.--Paul Stenis, Pepperdine Univ. Lib., Malibu, CA

"YOUR LIFE IS A BOOK is like having a personal writing mentor and practical literary agent guide you every step of the way in telling your life story. Inspiring, instructive, and most of all, inviting, Peterson and Freymann share their own successful writing and publishing experiences with warmth and wit. I wish I'd had this book when I was writing my memoir!"
--Sy Montgomery, author of bestselling memoir, THE GOOD, GOOD PIG

We are on book tour for our Salish Sea Writers new anthology, SECRET HISTORIES: Stories of Courage, Risk, and Revelation. Here is video from our first panel discussion on finding your writing community, indie publishing, and the courage to keep writing: http://www.brendapetersonbooks.com/teaching-writing/

Step into the lives of 25 different writers and hear audio clips on SOUND CLOUD from the collection: http://www.secrethistoriesbook.com and
Sound Cloud stories: https://soundcloud.com/secret-histories-book

My new crossover YA novel,THE DROWNING WORLD, is on Sale in paperback and ebook. Publisher's Weekly feature interview welcomes THE DROWNING WORLD: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/56286-author-turns-to-self-publishing-with-help-from-podmates.html

Carolyn Turgeon, best-selling author of MERMAID, features THE DROWNING WORLD: in her blog, I Am A Mermaid: http://iamamermaid.com/2012/09/04/brenda-petersons-drowning-world/

Our new EARLY READER, Seal Pup Rescue, is just out and a Scholastic Book Fair selection. It is the Read on Your Own version of our children's picture book LEOPARD AND SILKIE: ONE BOY'S QUEST TO SAVE THE SEAL PUP, which was selected as a 2013 "Outstanding Science Book for K-12" by National Science Teachers Association. LEOPARD AND SILKIE is featured in a national NPR "LIving on Earth" story at this link:

LIVING ON EARTH: http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=12-P13-00016&segmentID=6

And please visit our new Leopard and Silkie website: www.leopardandsilkie.com

ABC NEWS welcomes Leopard and Silkie: http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/Saving-Young-Seals-161579195.html



WATCH Brenda's BOOK LUST "You Tube" excerpt on this page below or see the full interview with Nancy Pearl at this link: http://www.seattlechannel.org/schedule/programDetails.asp?title=3031103

Brenda's new website: www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com or www.IWantToBeLeftBehind.com

LISTEN to an audio excerpt from the new book on National Public Radio read by the author at: http://kuow.org/program.php?id=19037

"Unusually affecting and radiant...Peterson seeks a meeting of church and earth in this witty, enrapturing account of a spiritual journey of great relevance to us all." BOOKLIST, starred review

"A tender, lyrical account, Peterson expresses genuine love for her family and gratitude for their gifts. Peterson always seeks common ground." LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Blends her unique autobiography with compassionate and level-headed observations about family, food, religion, life and our relationship with living things. Peterson has a gift for describing her life's many adventures with disarming understatement and narrative poise." KIRKUS REVIEWS

"Brenda Peterson's picaresque memoir is a mesmerizing treat, at turns inspiring and hilarious. Her keen-eyed descriptions of the natural world, and a delicious sense of fun, combine beautifully with tales of protecting seals, whales, hope, and other wild things."
Diane Ackerman, author THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE

"A loving, luminous portrait of an irresistibly intriguing family, told by the most fascinating member of all -- the one who doesn't fit in. It's alive with stars over the Grand Canyon, scents of the sea, menus at family gatherings, and singing a descant. The story is told with such truth and tenderness that you can't help loving the whole family."
Sy Montgomery, author of THE GOOD, GOOD PIG

"I've been a fan of Brenda Peterson's novels since the witty DUCK AND COVER. But I can't think of another book at all like this memoir -- it's so odd and wonderful. Peterson writes here of family and conflicting faiths with moving and poignant humor."
Diane Johnson, author of LE DIVORCE

"Brenda Peterson, one of the most eloquent nature writers of our time, takes on human nature. Read this book and share it widely. It is that important."
Marc Bekoff, author of of THE EMOTIONAL LIFE OF ANIMALS

Visit Brenda's website at: www.literati.net/Peterson

Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," DUCK AND COVER. Her memoir, BUILD ME AN ARK: A Life with Animals was chosen as a "Best Spiritual Book of 2001" and translated into Chinese. Her non-fiction books include the classic LIVING BY WATER and the National Geographic Book SIGHTINGS. Peterson's most recent novel is ANIMAL HEART (Sierra Club Books).

For the past three decades Peterson has written about inter-species relationships and edited several bestselling anthologies, including INTIMATE NATURE and FACE TO FACE. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Body/Soul magazine, Reader's Digest, Sierra, San Francisco Chronicle, Utne Reader, and Oprah magazine. Since 1993 she has contributed commentary for Seattle's NPR stations.

Peterson's recent book, I WANT TO BE LEFT BEHIND: Finding Rapture Here on Earth is a spiritual memoir, widely acclaimed and named as a "Top Ten Best Book of the Year" by The Christian Science Monitor. Hew new children's book, LEOPARD AND SILKIE: ONE BOY'S QUEST TO SAVE THE SEAL PUPS IS JUST out from Henry Holt for Young Readers.Peterson is the founder of the grassroots citizen naturalists Seal Sitters [www.sealsitters.org] and she is also a devoted singer in a Seattle chorale. Peterson writes and teaches in Seattle, Washington by the Salish Sea.Contact her through her EMAIL: drowningworld@gmail.com

author photos by: Chris Stuvek and Deb Ching

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What I particularly liked about Brenda Peterson's spiritual memoir, I Want To Be Left Behind, is that she's gone two steps further than most of our modern thinkers do. When thinking about living a life, there are three things that must be touched upon, especially when one wants to live a good, fulfilling life.

First, is the idea that there should be harmony and what C.S. Lewis called "fair play" between individuals. Second, there is the "harmonisation" (Lewis was British) of the inner life. Third, there is the knowledge of what humanity is here for, what we're supposed to be doing, and what voices we listen to as we do it. Modern thinkers have got the harmony and "fair play" idea down pat. We've got tons of books (memoirs even) about this. It's the loudest cry of our modern world. "Hey, let's play fair. Can't we all just get along?"

While Peterson espouses this idea all throughout her book, she takes us deeper into the personal "harmonisation" of her inner self. When a hasty (probably well-meaning, but ill-advised) comment from a Vacation Bible School teacher frustrates the young Peterson, she begins to assemble her own inner life "harmonisation" at a very young age. Rather than accept the idea that God could not appear in nature (every experience she had with her Forest Ranger father and nature-loving family had taught her exactly the opposite), Peterson began a quest to live a life that fit what she authentically believed already. No one can fault her for that. That's the beauty of the book. It's a journey of inner harmony.

But it's the third point that I find the most to learn from. What is humanity here for? What are we supposed to be going? What voice are we listening to?
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I just finished reading this book last night and slept feeling very much at peace. Brenda's description of her family and reunions were such a joy to read - I instantly fell in love with her parents. There is so much I learned from this book about nature, family, animals and spirituality. My favorite chapter was In the Gardens - I couldn't imagine how the writer left her job at the New Yorker and moved to the middle of no where to look after a farm and grow corn. Once I read that chapter I cried, I understood the passion and connection she felt with nature and nurturing nature. This book transported my to various family gatherings and experiences from Brenda's life and I now have a better understanding of the Southern Baptist culture, nature, kindness and importance of family - no matter what flavor they come in.
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Format: Hardcover
In her memoir I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here On Earth novelist and nature writer Brenda Peterson explores the paradox of a family both deeply in love with nature and deeply committed to the belief that the true salvation will only come with the earthÕs destruction.

The lone liberal in a family of conservative Southern Baptists, Peterson writes lyrically about her early childhood in a Forest Service station--and in a world where God and Satan, and the impending Rapture are as real as the forests she loves. She traces her path away from her conservative Southern Baptist childhood, through the Civil Rights era, protests at Berkeley, a fledging career at The New Yorker, another career farming in Colorado, and then yet a third career as a nature writer in Seattle.

Peterson's account of a transformative period in American history is fascinating. Equally fascinating is the more intimate journey she and her family take in finding paths through the deep religious and political schisms that divide them. The climax of the book comes in an epiphany--that fundamentalists and environmentalists butt heads not because they are so very different, but because they are flip sides of the same coin.
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The writer's journey from the "rapture" of her family's religious beliefs to her discovery of rapture in nature is an intelligent, thoughtful story. The author relates her journey with honesty and gentle humor and avoids judging those around her who are true believers.
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Format: Hardcover
To understand the significance of memoir and the balance an author must try to find, Judith Barrington writes in her book "Writing the Memoir:"
Memoirists have to make peace with the possibility that there is no more an absolute truth in memoir than there is in life. When writing memoir, I sometimes reorder events to make the story work. I approximate dialogue that I can't recall word for word. While taking these liberties with factual truth, I feel honor bound to capture the essence of the interaction in the events. Toni Morrison explains that, "The crucial distinction is not the difference between fact and fiction, but the distinction between fact and truth."
We are often told than keeping quiet is a kind of loyalty, that speaking out is a betrayal of family, colleagues, friends, institutions, country. Women, especially, know that we are expected to keep the peace ... and always "make nice." Telling the truth almost always breaks unspoken laws, whether it be a family or a larger community. No matter what story you tell, there can always be someone who didn't want to be mentioned, someone who ought to have been mentioned, or someone who thinks you got it all wrong. So why risk causing unpleasantness? For some reason particular to you and your life, you need to tell the truth.
It is that unique blend of truth and art - a blend that may take years of practice to achieve - that can touch a reader's heart with immediate sorrow or lift a reader's spirits in a flash of recognition. We all learn from one another's stories, which is, perhaps, the great gift of memoir. We watch the memoirist make sense of her life and no matter how different our circumstances; we find some commonality with her and feel a little less alone in the world.
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