Why “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is a NYT bestseller…


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
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Things are finally returning to normal over here at the Evans household (normal = no hurricanes, Whoopi encounters, or mad dashes through Terminal E for Eternity in the Charlotte airport). This means we’ll soon be getting back to our regular posting schedule here on the blog, so look for the Esther series and “Ask a…” series to return after Thanksgiving. 

As we wrap up the initial launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I wanted to say thank you. Your ideas, enthusiasm, support, and mad networking skills helped catapult the e-book version of A Year of Biblical Womanhood to #18 on the New York Times Bestseller list. This is a dream come true for any writer, of course, but even more meaningful than making the elusive “list” has been hearing the stories of readers impacted by the book. My heart swells every time I see women celebrating one another with hearty declarations of “eshet chayil!” or hear from readers who, for the first time in many years, feel drawn to the Bible again. And when I look ahead to upcoming books from first-time authors like Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther, Glennnon Melton, Micha Boyett, and others, I feel so privileged to be part of what I consider a movement. The book is starting conversations, not because of me or because of you, but because of US! Your voice matters. My voice matters. And together we can make big changes happen. 

I’ve especially enjoyed seeing the more creative ways in which you have interacted with the book—making your own challah, discussing hermeneutics, retelling the stories of biblical women, forming book clubs, even getting tattoos! So below is a compilation of just a few of my favorite responses to the book. Please feel free to add your own, or another favorite, in the comment section. (Special thanks to my amazing Launch Team for helping keep track of all these reviews!) 

Again, I don’t know what else to say besides thank you. 

So…thank you. 

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“…For the first time in my life I feel like a Proverb 31 woman. I feel like I may actually make the cut.”

“In each chapter, I found myself searching my own heart and remembering that whether I do it from the end of a spatula or a scalpel or a pen, my true calling as a woman is to bring glory to God.”

“Ladies, do you hear this? Becoming like the Proverbs 31 Woman is not about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it…I was so buoyed up by this idea and have kind of been floating on the liberating feeling of it and the power of the blessing of ‘Eshet Chayil’! I shared this with Mr. Ford and the first time he called me a Woman of Valor after a particularly grueling day working with 3 little ones, I nearly burst. And I began to think about all of the incredible, brave, strong, valorous women in my life and felt an overwhelming urge to run around shouting ‘Eshet Chayil’ over all of them, because I want them to feel empowered to continue to live out their Womanhood in the valorous ways that they ALREADY are. So I'm just gonna do that right here on my little blog…"

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“The results are really, truly funny. And it’s the best kind of humor, too—you know, when a brilliant storyteller tells you about some hilarious incident, and you just can’t help but laugh out loud in spite of yourself. I read portions of this book to my very ill mother, who can barely speak, and even she laughed out loud. This is a book that makes you feel good.”

This is a fierce and fearless book.”

This book made me want to run to my Bible with a renewed sense of excitement to find the stories of women rarely mentioned in the Sunday-morning service. It made me want to do further research into several theological concepts mentioned. It made me want to meet a bunch of friends at Starbucks and have a lengthy conversation about our roles in the church and life. However, it did not make me want to start calling Charlie “master,” about which he was only mildly disappointed.”

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In the past year, I've gotten really into canyoneering.  Last spring, I went to Phoenix to visit some friends.  My friend Kristin and I met this guy Jason (in a canyon, actually), and he took us through a few canyons in the area.  We did this one called Zig Zag that ended in a 500 foot rappel.  At the time, I was not a fan of heights (canyoneering has since gotten me over that fear) and had only rappelled one other time.  I rocked that 500 foot rappel and sang a song while doing it.  

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As we walked to the car, helmets in hand, harnesses jangling, the sun setting behind us, I thought, "Eshet chayil.  I need that tattoo."   I talked to Rachel, my best friend and female soulmate, about it the next day. She'd just gone through a really rough patch in her marriage, and now that tattoo will always be a symbol of that.  So we made sure we got the Hebrew right and got the matching tattoos a few days later.  

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Both of us agree that it is our favorite of our tattoos.  I've been on this whole "Fearless" kick lately, and it's a powerful reminder for me.  And I've gotten so many compliments on it, from a theology student at a line dancing place in Indiana, to a woman from Jerusalem on a trail at Yosemite.  I even met a guy in Vegas who kept trying to communicate how powerful it is.  He was afraid I didn't know what it meant.  

One of the girls in my small group was just talking about how Proverbs 31 makes her feel so inadequate... I can't wait for her to read what you have to say about reclaiming it!

-  Erin Bramscher

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“With a word we can kill one another. With a few more words, we can resuscitate one another. The words in A Year of Biblical Womanhood are resuscitative.”

“Let me tell you something: Dan challenged me to be a better husband to my wife far more than any literature from Focus on the Family or Desiring God could ever do. Dan is the ultimate team player. He supports Rachel. I gain from the book that he makes Rachel a better person and she makes him a better person. One can critique egalitarian marriages, but the fruit of the Spirit seems to be blossoming in the midst of their relationship, so do what you will with that. As I read his thoughts he made me ask myself if I am doing all that I can do to help Miranda become all that God has made her and whether I have supported my wife in her giftedness. Someday I’d like to meet Dan, give him a big handshake, and thank him for existing.” 

“While reading the book, I felt the need to define roles to be less and less important, and my desire to become like Christ to be more and more significant.”

From Brooke M. Jackson on Facebook:  Made some challah to share with friends; and won over a hesitant reader this week who was inspired to join our Dec. 1st discussion after reading a "review" by someone who didn't read the book.

From Brooke M. Jackson on Facebook:  Made some challah to share with friends; and won over a hesitant reader this week who was inspired to join our Dec. 1st discussion after reading a "review" by someone who didn't read the book.

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“This book did for me what so many books about being a Christian woman have failed to do. It reminded me that I am not broken, that it was with purpose that God designed a loud mouth like me for this time and place. It managed to honor all women for all gifts, and all places in life.

“So, imagine my surprise when I opened up A Year of Biblical Womanhood, to find that it was a fun and yet very thoughtful read about what it means to be a woman? Nowhere was there an attack on the Church or the Bible. Rather, it was one woman’s story about her journey to both make sense of what the church has told us the Bible calls us to be as women, and to truly understand what God’s Word actually has to say about women. Where there were differences, Evans handled them with Grace.”

“While I was already dipping my toes into the egalitarian waters, Rachel’s journey invited me to dive in. In her book, she invites all of us, women and men, to dive in.”

From Allyson Szabo on Facebook: "It all began with my sister and I going shopping, and ended with me laughing hysterically in the produce aisle... *grin* I saw these and began to giggle so loud she came running over. Since I'd read her the passage about these just yesterday, she started laughing, too! I'm guessing they suspect we're off our meds.."

From Allyson Szabo on Facebook: "It all began with my sister and I going shopping, and ended with me laughing hysterically in the produce aisle... *grin* I saw these and began to giggle so loud she came running over. Since I'd read her the passage about these just yesterday, she started laughing, too! I'm guessing they suspect we're off our meds.."

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Rachel clearly takes the Bible seriously.  She makes every effort to understand the original context of the Scriptures while not ignoring the modern-day applications.  In each chapter, she discovers a way in which she can honor God and the Bible without resorting to strict, legalistic readings of the text.”

“For some reason, many people are horrified that anyone would write a book that might possibly come to the conclusion that perhaps June Cleaver, as wonderful as she was, is in fact not the standard for biblical womanhood.”

As a woman of faith, a single person, and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, church and ministry can be an incredibly hard place to be. I found this book to be tremendously freeing, encouraging, and convicting. I was reminded of ways I do not serve God in my life that must change. I was also encouraged to press on in ways that I do serve in ministry that others, including some of my closest friends, do not celebrate or agree with. These words were especially liberating to me, ‘deep in the recesses of my heart and mind, I think I was looking for permission— permission to lead, permission to speak, permission to find my identity in something other than my roles, permission to be myself, permission to be a woman.’"

"Rather than a rant against the Bible, readers will quickly see that Evans has found some deep source of wisdom in this process, and the big lesson learned is applicable to everyone: Taking the Bible seriously does not mean “do what it says.” No one lives that way, even hardened literalists. Taking the Bible seriously means reading it with discernment and living it out responsibly, and no biblical injunction concerning women is immune. Tracing what the Bible says or implies about women brings to the surface this unavoidable hermeneutical process."

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The book is a game-changer, a turning point, and it’s a damn good read. Fascinating, funny, erudite, wise, complex, I couldn’t put it down.” 

“But God is not honored by infighting, and this book is not intended as ammunition is anyone's battle. Rachel writes not to fan flames but to loose chains.” 

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“Like so many evangelical women, I've faced hurtful accusations when I push back against the status quo. Sometimes I don't have the words or the grace-under-pressure to articulate what I believe. And many other people in the church who are not white straight men fight a similar battle. Thankfully, you do have the ability to speak so clearly when others are still tending to their wounds and can only offer a quiet ‘Me too.’” 

“Because if you listen, you will begin to hear the marked silence of so many people who feel voiceless. You will hear the grace in Rachel’s words. You’ll hear Proverbs 31 not so much as a to-do list, but as a poem. You’ll begin to understand that soundtrack to A Year of Biblical Womanhood, to the Christian life in general, is love.

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“Valor can be expressed through many callings, and men like myself should be honoring whatever ways our sisters are valorous instead of trying to pigeon-hole them into specific roles.”

"Rachel Held Evans is not just another woman using the Bible to write about women’s experiences. She actually is quite adept at Biblical interpretation and has done some good reading and research and exegetical spade work when she is dealing with any kinds of Biblical texts, including the so-called ‘texts of terror’. Whether you agree with her interpretations or not, they are always possible, and often plausible and fair and deserve respect and close scrutiny."

from Joy Bennett

from Joy Bennett

“I got the book, began reading and immediately got nervous. I would label myself a fairly conservative, evangelical Christian who relishes her job as a stay at home mom and housewife. Is this the exact kind of person Rachel’s book was going to be speaking against? My feathers started getting ruffled, but I kept reading. I kept reading because I honestly couldn’t stop…

“Rachel Held Evans tells the stories of women who overcame much in order to improve the lives of those around them. I want to do that.

“So perhaps Rachel isn’t hiding in your church right now, but you’d better believe that everything Rachel writes about is out there in our churches. It’s not like Rachel is some lone voice in the wilderness stirring up trouble. She’s putting into words the very conflicts, struggles, and desires that are pulsating throughout many congregations.”

“really, the best gift we can give rachel is to live the solution, to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. to try, to experiment, to engage, to rock the boats in our churches & our circles of influence, to gain strength & courage from God to step into places we’re not used to stepping, to say things we’re not used to saying, to live out our faith in ways we’re not used to living. and to let her know how she played a beautiful part from afar in inspiring change.”

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