*See update below*
Since a lot of you have asked, (and in the spirit of Banned Books Week,) I thought I’d let you know that I recently received word that Lifeway has decided not to carry A Year of Biblical Womanhood in stores, presumably in the wake of the “vagina” controversy over the summer.
In case you’re not up to speed on the backstory, here’s what happened:
- In March, I mentioned in a blog post that my editor had suggested I remove the word “vagina” from my manuscript in deference to the standards of Christian bookstores. While I was prepared to make the edit, you guys encouraged me to keep “vagina” in. You started an Amazon petition. You contacted my publisher. You made t-shirts. You coined the term “vaginagate.” And I ended up engaged in some of the strangest conversations of my writing career.
- Bolstered by your response, I decided to put the word “vagina” back in the manuscript, though I knew this might compromise the book’s chances of being carried in Christian bookstores, which accounted for a large percentage of projected sales for A Year of Biblical Womanhood.
- In the wake of Lifeway’s highly-publicized ban of the movie “The Blind Side,” and after speaking with some industry insiders, I wrote a blog post in July about Lifeway’s influence on the Christian publishing industry, explaining how its standards not only affect the highly sanitized inventory we find on Christian bookstore shelves, but also which books are contracted by publishers, what content gets edited in the writing and editing process, and the degree of freedom authors feel they have to speak through their own platforms.
- A few weeks ago, I got word that the book will not be carried in Lifeway stores. (Although it appears you may be able to order it online or upon special request...I'm not entirely sure.)
- Update: I've heard from an unofficial source at Lifeway that it might have been something other than the word "vagina" that resulted in the book not being carried in stores. Lifeway will not be officially weighing in, from what I understand, but I thought I'd pass this information along because I don't want to leave everyone with the impression that we know exactly why the book will not be carried when we don't. All I know to do is to share my experience and the events as they unfolded from my perspective as an author. (As you can see from this article, mine is a common experience for authors in the Christian publishing industry. ) I mentioned in a previous post that it appears Lifeway allows some uses of the word "vagina" by some authors in some contexts. (Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage is an example.) However, I took out every other word or content issue that was challenged as problematic for Christian bookstores by my editor, so I am unclear as to what else might have led to the decision.
The good news is that every other major Christian bookstore plans to carry the book. Come October 30, you will be able to find A Year of Biblical Womanhood just about everywhere books are sold. If you aren’t sure if your favorite bookstore will carry the book, be sure to check with your local retailer. (In fact, actually walking into a bookstore and requesting a book makes a big difference in initial sales, so if you want to support the book—or a Christian bookstore that’s willing to carry it—that’s a great way to do it.)
I’m disappointed, of course, and not just because I’ll take a hit in sales. While Lifeway certainly has every right to choose its own inventory, I think the notion that Christians should dance carefully around reality, that we should speak in euphemisms and only tell comfortable, sanitized stories, is a destructive one that has profoundly affected the evangelical culture as a whole.
I hope that by being honest about this journey through the publishing process, we can start engaging in conversations that will bring about change.
Thanks so much for your support and encouragement! It means the world to me.