So much thanks to Chuck and Brady of The Life After podcast for the opportunity to do this interview. We talked about sex from every angle, laughed a lot, and discussed elements of my memoir, The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid, that I don’t often have the chance to delve into. Click the link below to listen.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HUGE SPOILERS AND INCIDENTS OF ALL CAPS.
Seriously, this is a review for people who have already read this book. And you should definitely read this book.
Several friends suggested I read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert-one went so far as to come to my house and hand me their copy. I found City of Girls, a refreshing story of female autonomy, engrossing from page one. It’s amazing, fantastic even, and I couldn’t put it down, but I do have some bones to pick.
The main character’s voice jumped off the page into my ear and I rooted for her every step of the way, even when she was being awful. Vivian is helped by being tall, skinny, and beautiful and for having the foresight to get really good at sewing in her youth. Looking like a supermodel and having superior skills in fashion design isn’t a bad set-up for life in the big city. The vibrant setting-New York City showbiz in the 1940s-makes you want to visit that time and place, in fact, I almost felt as though I had. Gilbert seamlessly weaves real-life events and people into the story, which enriches the historical context.
City of Girls explores nontraditional ways to live a woman’s life by showing how other women did it when alternatives were not readily available, and it is glorious. We see the benefits of hard work, natural talent, good looks, and learned courage. We see what a woman’s life looks like when she chooses self-determination and abandons norms: fulfillment of sexual desire on her own terms, loss of family connections, missteps that cause real pain to other people, freedom.
My issues with the story are as follows:
Young Vivian is the third party in a sexual threesome comprised of her best friend and the husband of a famous theater star. She is kinda coerced and kinda dumb and also really drunk when the tryst occurs. Unfortunately, the make-out session that led up to the encounter happened on the street and was photographed. Long story short, Vivian learns not to have sex with married men, but still spends the rest of her life sleeping around at will. That, of course, is not my problem. My problem is that even though she vows to never sleep with another married man, she picks up men in bars and beds them whenever she feels like it. I have bad news for Vivian and Elizabeth Gilbert-those men were probably ALL MARRIED. Men in bars who jump into bed with you ARE MARRIED, even in the 1940s. This seems like a significant oversight to me, especially since sisterhood is a main theme.
The star whose husband cheated dumps Vivian, but keeps the husband and the whole thing unfolds like Bill and Hillary. This dynamic goes unexplored, but it shouldn’t. IT SHOULDN’T, damn it. I don’t believe that unfaithfulness must automatically lead to divorce. How great would it be to spend some time mulling over how and why some couples stay together? And why the star forgave her husband, but not her friend?
And another thing, Vivian develops a long-term, secret friendship with a married man that can only be described as an emotional affair. How is that any better than having sex with him? Hell, its worse. This also goes unaddressed. The man and his wife lead separate lives and he is incapable of sex, so that makes it ok. Then why is it secret? Its secret because that goes to the main plot structure of the entire book. There, I have just about completely wrecked it for you.
All of my gripes aside, I loved this book because it’s about female desire, resilience, and how we can be when we decide to live the way want to. It shows the power of sisterhood while, perhaps inadvertently, admitting it’s shortcomings. Gilbert is a trailblazing voice for autonomy, not only in her writing, but by her willingness to share the details of her own life and loves. And I love her for it.
A couple of weeks ago Dr. Clint Heacock of Mindshift Podcast interviewed me about The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid. The interview was a great experience because he put me at ease right away with his thoughtful curiosity and willingness to let our conversation unfold, despite the fact that the husband had to ransack the snack cupboard in the middle of recording!
Here it is: Interview Link
I am THRILLED to share ChickLit Cafe‘s 5 star review of The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid:
The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid by Ronna Russell is a compelling, engaging and unrestrained memoir about the author’s journey toward acknowledgement, self-discovery and ultimately acceptance. It is a candid, straightforward and personal account of her intimate exploration to realize herself as a woman and mother, and to discovering and accepting her sexuality. With frequent refreshing humor, Ronna Russell recounts her memories from childhood, emerging adulthood, and her past as she relates to readers her rearing by a Pentecostal preacher, within the church and with all its stringent rules and practices. It details her shocking experiences with a controlling, oppressive religious father and a closeted homosexual husband, and her search for genuine authenticity. She writes with honest, eye-opening and jaw dropping description. Her confessions are those that most keep secret, but in doing so, she has brought readers a relatable and inspirational read that ultimately empowers women with the ability to survive and flourish.
The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid is written in such brilliant, insightful way, with many pieces of the puzzle beautifully woven together to bring absolution to the reader. Ronna Russell’s truthful, passionate and unique voice shines through as she chronologically recounts her life from childhood to the most recent past. Heart breaking, yet inspiring, this memoir had me in tears as I turned the pages quickly to find out more about her indescribable and sometimes horrific life.
The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid by Ronna Russell reveals how one woman was able to overcome her past, beat the odds and go on to live a fulfilling life in all areas, while now helping other women in turn. Chick Lit Cafe highly recommends this raw, tender and well written biography to women that desire to be inspired, empowered and understand their own struggle surrounding sex —that leads to freedom.
The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid by Ronna Russell is a must read, 5 star memoir that is revealing, rich and filled with inspiration.
Purchase The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid by Ronna Russell today!
I have a few books left in the box! I can ship a signed copy for a flat $20. Email me at email@example.com for details!
I am so grateful to the authors who took the time to read my manuscript in its painfully pre-edited state and still said nice things! Links to their books are included below-they are all great reads!
From Valerie Tarico:
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
From Steph Auteri:
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
From Lara Lillibridge:
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
From Lisa F. Smith
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
From Claire Robson:
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
From Cami Ostman:
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
From Amber Garza:
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
From Anneliese Kamola:
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