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Struggle Central: Quarter-Life Confessions of a Messed Up Christian Paperback – April 29, 2013
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About the Author
Thomas Mark Zuniga usually just goes by Tom. He is a twenty-something tutor, wanderer, and lifelong struggler currently residing in Orange County, California, but probably wandering elsewhere before too long. He blogs regularly about traveling and trials, faith and frivolity, and striving and strength. His writing has been featured on People of the Second Chance and other blogs. He is an avid runner and hopes to complete a marathon someday. He also longs to touch every continent and ride a camel and/or elephant. His favorite color is midnight blue, and his favorite struggle is incompetence. Struggle Central is his first book.
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I am reminded of Romans 3:23.... For all have fallen short of the glory of God. The nobody's perfect verse. Tom invites us into various and pivotal stages of his life where he is uprooted from his precious "Eden" to a foreign land. He later has to endure and maneuver the social jungles of school and church while harboring a sort of social anxiety in his attempts to interrelate with people especially men coupled with longing for some degree of normalcy. He experiences a gamut of emotional struggles like fear, despair, sadness, guilt and his own battle with SSA (same-sex attraction). The author opens up his audience showing that he is as messed and broken like the rest of us, but at some point takes solace in his struggles in how God uses them to mold him internally. This is no self-help book with a divine or revolutionary answer to life's mysteries, yet it is one man's humble account demonstrating his own hardships can yield reflective and edifying milestones.
Right from the beginning, TMZ makes one thing clear: Although Struggle Central is his story, it isn't really about him. The book is meant neither to shock nor impress its readers with his mistakes and triumphs. Its purpose is to encourage. It tells its readers, “You’re not alone!”
In Struggle Central, TMZ is remarkably honest, seeming to hold back nothing, making some heavy confessions. This is a book about loneliness, insecurity, fear and isolation. It deals with pornography, homosexuality, shame and doubt. If I wrote a memoir, I doubt I could be so vulnerable.
In all its confessions, Struggle Central tempers honesty with its strong sense of purpose. The book could easily have been a pleading, self-conscious cry for attention. It could have been a halfhearted attempt at openness, gilding its mistakes with excuses and rationalizations. Struggle Central is neither of those things. Its confessions are made as evidence of the book’s fundamental message: “You are not alone; there is hope.”
A number of the confessions in the book resonated with me. As an introvert, I relate to TMZ’s failed attempts to connect with people in churches. As a sinner, I understand the rationalization, shame and self-loathing in TMZ’s struggles to overcome pornography. As an insecure person, I know TMZ’s discouragement at how everyone else seems to be talented, successful or perfect. Struggle Central may not touch all of its readers, but it sure touched me.
On a literary level, Struggle Central has a surprisingly strong narrative. It recounts not a random string of events, but a structured story. TMZ doesn't merely spit out facts. He highlights certain experiences, adding digressions and flashbacks wherever necessary to keep his story flowing smoothly. In the book’s story and structure, nothing is wasted.
The style of Struggle Central is a different matter: the book is packed with modifiers. If I had a penny for every qualifier, adjective and adverb, I would probably have enough cash to buy coffee at Starbucks.
Despite its many modifiers, the writing in Struggle Central isn't bad. It’s engaging, readable, informal and crammed with sentence fragments and one-sentence paragraphs for emphasis. All the same, my nitpicky sensibilities were rubbed the wrong way by the constant use of modifiers and dramatic sentence fragments. The more they were used, the less impact they made. There were also a few puns and pop culture references that made me roll my eyes.
In the end, though, the writing takes secondary consideration to the book’s message and purpose—and these are excellent. Struggle Central has a clear and positive purpose, and it does a fine job of sticking to it. It could use a little polish, yet Struggle Central is a touching read for anyone who struggles—that is, for any human being on Earth.
This book has a message that most Christians need to hear about struggles and redemption. You see it is OK to be messed up and Christian! Through Thomas's story, you will also see that healing and help for life's messes will be found in community--the body of Christ working as it should work.
Most recent customer reviews
Tom set out for “greater transparency and deeper empathy with others – to be known...Read more