Ronna Russell

Writer. Truth-teller. Feminist.


Scold’s Bridle

Women are given impossible choices every day. This is how we got here.

Ronna Russell weaves a backward-in-time series of short stories depicting the violent oppression, complicity, and participation of white women, exposing individual choices that resulted in the abandonment of sisterhood for survival. The past is not what we have been told. Russell’s book shines a light into the dark corners of our past where, at every turn, religion holds the sharp stick, the torch, or the bridle. All events are based on true stories as seen through the eyes and participation of the main characters, the sting of which are still felt in our lives today.

Russell’s collection of short stories held my attention from the first page to the last. With beautiful prose and vibrant characters, Russell weaves a tale that is not only harrowing, and, at times, disturbing, but relatable. Engaging and smart, this is a story that carries a lot of weight and importance. I highly recommend it!
—Amber Garza, author of In a Quiet Town and When I Was You

Searing, unflinching, magical: Scold’s Bridle is a psychic journey of the body, connecting the dots between the white woman’s cruel participation in the making of the United States, cellular memory, and a blush of hope for change.
—Anneliese Kamola, author of “Counter Curses”

Scold’s Bridle is highly ingenious in the way it traces the same characters back through the centuries as they play out variations on their relationships and stories. The common thread is how women survive the patriarchy and the church, or, sadly, how they do not survive it…Every chapter is alive with rich detail—it’s hard to imagine that Russell was not actually there, and that these events did not unfold before her observant gaze.

—Dr. Claire Robson, author of Writing Beyond Recognition: Queer Restorying for Social Change


[Russel’s]exploration of the limits on women’s behavior and their tendency to take both their petty frustrations and need for survival out on other women leads readers to consider their own role in continuing this generational experience. This work is a must read for anyone interested in feminism and gender studies, especially in a post-Dobbs v. Jackson world.

—Lindsay J. Starkey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Kent State University

The strengths of the women (Rebecca, Rae Ann, Delfa) and the weaknesses of our species are on intimate display through these main characters as they highlight humanity’s capacity for inhumane treatment of one another—all in fulfillment of others’ expectations, borne from the restrains of religion in a patriarchal society. The author’s combination of riveting microscopic sensory details and panoramic themes sweep and reverberate through the centuries, to the point where we read the final story at the edge of our seats, at times reading/watching through the gaps in our fingers, partially shielding our eyes. Because of the author’s energy, which springs from the page through the careful control of every word, sentence, paragraph, and episode, we’re charmed and captivated, upset and empathetic—we want to look away, but can’t, from the final acts of bravery in the face of arcane punishment. What a beautifully woven and at times haunting tapestry, this book.

—Bob King, Professor of English, Kent State University

I have read this book twice and want to read it a third time. I love it. Yes, it has powerful, recurring themes of violence and cruelty, but it is lovely and fascinating, as well. As we learn more about the characters, we come to understand that some of them are doing the best that they can. Their observations, their interiority, teach us more about them, their motives, and about the other characters, too.,,Descriptions involving all the senses—especially sight but also sound, taste, smell, and touch—create a vivid backdrop for the narratives. Several characters experience events with a sixth sense, and this moves the action forward, backward, and sideways, quickly.

—Dr. Linda Spurlock Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, Kent State University

Scold’s Bridle announces the auspicious debut of Ronna Russell, whose voice comes to us at an essential time in American feminist literature. The characters in this collection will leave neither one’s heart nor one’s mind.

—Jacinda Townsend, Assistant Professor of Literary Arts, Brown University

The Uncomfortable Confessions
of a Preacher’s Kid

Born into an evangelical church family, Ronna grows up feeling lonely and unloved. She perceives herself as different-and thereby, unwanted-alienated by a faith hostile to outsiders. Unbeknownst to Ronna, her preacher-father is a closeted homosexual, inwardly raging at his suppressed sexuality. He raises his daughters with an iron hand, ensuring they conform to the church’s traditional values. Ronna rebels, believing she can leave her upbringing behind and walk away, unscathed.

Ronna unwittingly marries a man in denial about his own sexual preferences, caring for him and their four children almost singlehandedly. As their sex life and bank account dwindle to nothing, fear keeps her silent. When her father-previously spurned by his beloved church-dies of AIDS, Ronna is forced to reexamine her joyless existence. She finds the courage to stand on her own: pursuing her gifts and awakening to herself. In the process, she falls in love with her own life.

Caught between the archaic religious dictates of her Pentecostal family and the complexities of the world outside, Ronna Russell fights for survival and more in The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid. Loneliness, raw sexuality, unexpected kindness and cruelty, and through it all an understated endurance with solid granite at the core, Russell’s memoir is alternately hard, hungry, raw, and tender–like sex and love and parenthood and simply being. I sat down to read the first chapter on a busy day and instead read straight through. 

~Dr. Valerie Tarico, author of Trusting Doubt

For those who fear sex. For those who feel shame around it. For those who feel guilt around their own desire. The chapters in The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid are puzzle pieces that, when put together, reveal a picture of how the way we are brought up and the life we live can leave an indelible mark on the way we see ourselves, and the way we end up moving through the world. If you’re looking for insight into your own grappling around sex — and a sort of absolution — Ronna’s story is for you.

~Steph Auteri, author of A Dirty Word: How a Sex Writer Reclaimed Her Sexuality

A frank, intimate account of one woman’s search for herself as a woman, mother and sexual being. Ronna Russell’s narrative weaves together memories from childhood, young adulthood, and the more recent past as she recounts her upbringing as a preacher’s kid in the United Pentecostal Church—where she wasn’t allowed to cut her hair, wear slacks, or fraternize with non-church members—and details her journey to find authenticity. Written with the level of confession normally reserved for close friends whispering secrets over a glass of wine, Russell’s memoir is a no holds barred revelation of self-discovery and acceptance. 

~Lara Lillibridge, author of Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home

Ronna Russell takes us on a no-holds-barred ride through her unconventional childhood and how she emerged as her own person on every level. She is fighter, a survivor, and shines a light on the things we often choose to keep in the dark. And she does it with remarkable, unapologetic honesty.

~Lisa F. Smith author of Girl Walks Out Of a Bar

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid is one of those stories that you couldn’t make up as they say – a cascading series of dramas that take the reader through Ronna Russell’s rigid fundamentalist childhood, the disgrace of her preacher father, her sexual explorations, and the slow decline and dissolution of her marriage. Russell’s sparing, matter-of-fact prose is the perfect vehicle for this autobiography, offering a counterpoint to the often painful and shocking events described. Her seamless chronological shifts from childhood to adulthood and back remind the reader of the ways in which the past informs the present and abuse of any kind is sticky and enduring. Though Russell’s confessions ultimately celebrate the capacity of women to survive and thrive, they are never preachy, or self-indulgent. Indeed, the book opens with the most sizzling sex scenes I’ve ever read. This is a book to devour at one or two sittings, then pass on to your bestie!

~Dr. Claire Robson, Author of Love in Good Time and Writing for Change

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid is a brave, unflinching look at what happens when secrets go untold and questions go unasked. Ms. Russell’s no-nonsense voice carries the reader into the dark crevices of TWO nuclear families living in hypocrisy and shame. And when she finally finds her own way into the light, she gets there in the most unconventional way. Uncomfortable Confessions is a must-read for all of us who have ignored what was right under our noses.

~Cami Ostman, Editor of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religion and author of Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continent

Ronna writes with an honesty that is refreshing and authentic. Her conversational writing style draws you in and keeps you reading. Her story is at times painful, but her wittiness and raw humor shine through.

~Amber Garza author of For the Win

Something magical happened in your book. Did you do this intentionally?? After the chapter ending where the Narrator says to herself, “I want a divorce from both of you,” the VOICE of the writing catches up with the Narrator’s voice of wisdom. I’ve been admiring how seamlessly the Narrator’s voice grows through this story. I was just reading a couple chapters further and thought, “Oh hold on, wait, when did she grow up all of a sudden?”

Whether you intentionally crafted this way or not, well done, Ronna. Gorgeous lesson in showing how creating wise boundaries propel growth and maturity in a super subtle way. I’ve been so engrossed in reading your book that I’ve been playing hooky from my editing, staying up until midnight, and carrying it with me in my purse. So good. I’ve already told several people that they have to read it. That last chapter-where did it come from? I’m fucking sobbing.

~Anneliese Kamola, editor

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About Ronna

I was raised the daughter of a preacher in the cult of the United Pentecostal Church.  It was an oppressed and repressed environment that never felt right.  The experience shaped my formative years leaving me ill-equipped for life in the real world, but life in the real world happened anyway.  Like everyone, I have had some successes and some failures.  The stories I share here are my own, for no purpose other than to make sense of it all in the end.