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When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over Paperback – October 15, 2013
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Praise for When We Were on Fire
"With its luminous prose, Zierman’s memoir reads like a novel, threaded with imperfect faith, doubt, deep searching, love and friendship and loss and depression…A book to savor to the very last page.” –Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Fire provides light and warmth, or it can bring pain and destruction. Addie tells us a story in which her fiery faith sparked both outcomes and how she’s worked to contain those flames. She walks the reader through this process with such grace, humor, and utter transparency that I couldn’t help but see my own faith journey in hers. A refreshing, hopeful book from an expert storyteller.”
—Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith
“Addie Zierman’s unflinching candor and tender vulnerability make When We Were on Fire a must-read memoir. I ached for the wholesome, eager young girl seeking to serve God with all her heart, and wept for her—for all of us—who have experienced that particular keening heartbreak of being consumed by zeal. Addie walks through fire and still comes through shining with hope.”
—Elizabeth Esther, author of Girl at the End of the World
“Addie Zierman is a poet with a lion’s heart. When We Were on Fire is a memoir of such sophisticated and witty grace, it reads as the laughing prayer of a vagabond saint. Zierman’s words take root in you, grow slowly, and push outward into a ring of endless light. Would that in my own days of fire, youth groups, and See You at the Pole rallies, I had been given this book with the single word: ‘Hope.’”
—Preston Yancey, author of SeePrestonBlog.com
“Addie speaks for an evangelical generation who came of age in the American teen ghetto of youth group short-term mission trips and longings for revival, contemporary Christian music, and WWJD. Her journey through the disillusionments and then her rebellion against the false boundary-markers and empty language of an “on fire” faith culminate in her ongoing journey of hope and redemption. There is a wise sadness to her words, a depth that disarms. Addie is a beautiful writer, but she’s also bold and honest as she tends the wounds of consumer evangelicalism on her old self, and then bravely gathers up all these disparate pieces of the painful and lovely obsessive faith of her past with new grace and gentle strength to move forward.”
—Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
“For all of us who found our way while steeped in evangelical culture, Addie has written us a love letter. Hilarious and heartfelt, passionate and poetic, her take on growing up evangelical reveals a classic coming-of-age story with an evangelical twist. Through clean and messy faith, confusion, love lost and gained, she reflects deeply on each experience with enough humility and humor to keep you turning pages through this easy and beautiful read. You will love When We Were on Fire from beginning to end, as did I.”
—Grace Biskie, author of Converge Bible Studies: Kingdom Building, contributing author of Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and writer for DeeperStory.com and Prodigal & Prism magazine
“Reading When We Were on Fire was like reading my own story. It’s an insightful, unflinching look at growing up evangelical. Addie recounts her misplaced zeal and resulting crisis of faith with humor and poignancy…ultimately discovering that a relationship with God is less about following Christian culture norms and more about following Him.”
—Kristen Howerton, blogger at Rage Against the Minivan, and psychology professor at Vanguard University
“It’s rare that a storyteller comes along with the ability to address important issues of life and faith with strength and profound openness. Addie Zierman is that kind of storyteller, and she does just that with her debut book When We Were on Fire. With a keen grasp on the intricacies and absurdities of Christian subculture, Addie bravely tells her story of a real, honest, and vulnerable faith that will resonate with readers of all ages. When We Were on Fire is a true pleasure to read.”
—Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, and editor-in-chief at DeeperStory.com
“Addie Zierman is a master storyteller whose sharp wit is matched only by her disarming sincerity. When We Were on Fire introduces her as one of this generation’s most promising new voices. Prepare to laugh out loud and nod along as this book delights, challenges, tickles, and inspires. For those of us working to reconcile the faith of our youth with the faith of our adulthood, it’s such a joy to have a friend like Addie along for the journey.”
—Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood
“The best kind of memoir is so deeply personal that it tells a universal story. In Addie’s memoir you will find funny, messy, cringe-worthy, and beautiful moments that cut close to home—those experiences that we would like to relegate to youth but in truth lurk not far beneath the surface of every phase of life. If you are weary of sanitized and teetotaling stories, and are hungry for honest and redemptive stories, then this is your story.”
—Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church
About the Author
Addie Zierman is a writer, blogger and recovering Jesus freak. She studied creative nonfiction at Hamline University and received her MFA there in 2010. Addie blogs regularly at www.AddieZierman.com where she’s working to redefine her faith one cliché at a time. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Andrew, and their two young sons.
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Readers of AddieZierman.com might find themselves handling this book gently, turning the pages with extra care, because these feel like the words of a good friend. She writes here the same way she writes on her blog: with a powerful intimacy.
When I reluctantly finished the book, I texted a friend: Telling our stories saves us. It seems like telling her story helped save Addie. I think reading her story might be helping to save me.
The first time I read it, I finished it within 6 hours (staying up much too late, if I'm honest!) I related to so much she had to say. Even down to the church boyfriend that treated me poorly and made me feel bad about myself. Mine was not a budding missionary, however; and mine was more of a physical abuser than her "Chris" - but I definitely saw some of the same qualities and feelings of worthlessness associated with her manipulative and emotionally abusive church boy.
I too have felt judged by "church people" (as I am sure most people have at some point or another) and she describes the feelings associated with this kind of judgement and how it can affect your self esteem and sense of worth perfectly. I read a couple reviews that were bothered by her blaming her adult problems on the church, but I read it differently. Yes she had issues with church people - but the biggest influence that stood out to me was "Chris." When someone like that treats you a certain way when you are at an influential age (she seems to be about the same age as myself) it can affect you for a very long time. Behaviors can become ingrained in your personality when you don't even realize it.
Eventually she came back to the church. It was not an awe inspiring break through event with the holy spirit or anything that brought her back... but she went back nonetheless. I related with her in this aspect as well.
Our experiences growing up were very different, and yet the same. Addie tells her story in a way that a girl that grew up in the 90s evangelical culture could definitely relate to.
The book is well written as it begins, really fleshing out the struggles the young woman faces, painting them in a way that she knows are present, even at the time, although she can not pinpoint exactly what the disturbance is. It does lose steam however, once the descent into depression really continues. Like the experience with Kim, it is angst driven by angst, and then the angst suddenly disperses with the arrival of her first son. And although this is a memoir, I feel a little lost, or as though the author played it safe, as her forays into depravity were so safe. The cheek kiss. The long walks. The chaste arrival at marriage. There is no mention of the marital struggle to adapt outside of her experience as it pertains to her faith struggle, and this is probably not realistic. Although maybe it was her reality.
I would probably give it a 4 1/2 star rating if that option was there, because I liked the voice, the history, and the honesty. I would have liked to see Rachel's role fleshed out more. I would liked to have seen her understanding develop deeper, instead of just the anger. Why? Because I have my own. And I understand it now, and surely there are others in the same place who would like to read the same, and feel normal.
My life ran parallel with Addie's, down to watching the Towers fall my Freshman year sitting in the auditorium at my Christian College. I've experienced all the hurt with a lot less alcohol, but not as much healing.
I'm so glad she find her faith. Maybe someday I'll find mine again.
To those who says she needs to experience some real problems, you obviously don't know what it is like to be emotionally and mentally beaten down. People don't feel sorry for you unless someone injures your body, but the mind and soul can be badly hurt too.