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Christian Bookstore Says “No” to Troublesome ‘V’ Word


The literary world is no stranger to authors attempting to follow the bible’s instructions to the letter: stunt journalism poster boy A.J. Jacobs, an editor at large on Esquire Magazine did it in The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. But for a different perspective, try Rachel Held Evans’ upcoming book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which details Evans’ yearlong attempts to live the bible’s instructions for women as faithfully and specifically as possible, down to the last detail.

The endeavor behind the book (whose full title is actually A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”) included making her own clothes, covering her head, not cutting her hair, obeying and “submitting to” her husband, rising before dawn, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church, and even camping out in the front yard during her period.

Throughout her research, Evans engaged in enlightening and fascinating correspondences with other women of other faiths, including an Orthodox Jewish woman and a polygamist wife belonging to the Mormon church.

Evans approached this project as just that – a project. A temporary, voluntary, short-lived experiment by a modern woman, and one she was free to cease at any time (except in violation of commitment to herself and her book). So there is perhaps a bit of irony, of humor, of good-natured tolerance in the book, of humoring the archaic and often barbaric requirements, because they are naturally so outlandish and far-fetched today.

Less funny but absolutely fascinating is the jump back to the real, modern, contemporary world, in which Evans, a devout, vocal Christian woman exploring and writing about Christian issues and ideals, finds backlash and resistance from the Christian community because her book contains an offensive word: “vagina”. Not abundantly and not titillatingly, but the word is there nevertheless: twice, both times simply in reference to anatomy. Evans’ editor even suggested she removed the word from the manuscript in an effort to dodge problems and comply with the strict standards set out in Christian bookstore content requirements. Evans blogged about it, initially intending to comply, as the idea of book sales suffering was frightening. But after contemplating the issue, and after feedback from fans, she ultimatey refused, and the word vagina remained. Fast-forward to Lifeway, one of the most prominent Christian book outlets in the United States, refusing to carry Evans’ book as a result, as reported by Slate.com.

While the offending ‘V’ word has been claimed the official culprit, Evans isn’t so sure. Her stance on feminism within Christianity has not always sat well with some members of the church and Christian community regardless.

” “I don’t know if they were more offended by my vagina or my brain,” she says with a laugh. “The only thing I know is that my editor said, if you leave this word in, there’s a good chance LifeWay won’t carry it.””

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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