I’ve just uploaded a new e-book, on the subject of the popularity of first person narratives written by younger Christians. I examine the shape and source of the phenomenon and offer some thoughts in response to it.
One important recent trend in Christian, and particularly evangelical, biography has a number of distinctive features, perhaps the primary one being a focus upon autobiography and personal memoir: most of the authors in question write primarily about themselves and their own experiences. The second striking feature is the youth of the authors. The phenomenon of persons, a majority of whom are under thirty-five, writing memoirs and autobiographies seems surprising in itself, especially when one considers that few of these individuals were widely known before writing those memoirs. These are not lives that would typically seem to be inviting subject matter for biographical treatment.
Despite these seemingly unpromising characteristics, many of these writers have won a ready and deeply appreciative readership for themselves. Their memoirs are typically written in a highly engaging manner and are warmly received by readers who identify strongly with their writers and the experiences recorded in them. Through their ability to connect with their readers at a very personal level these memoirists have considerable influence over the faith of their peers and the upcoming generation. For many young readers they may be like slightly older siblings in the faith, spiritually streetwise individuals who will teach them the ropes, speak on their behalf, and stick up for them against any that try to attack them. For a number of readers of their peer groups and older, they are people whose experiences resonate with and validate their own. The extensive presence and engagement of many of these writers on social media encourages the formation of communities around them and a very close identification between writer and readers.
The influence of these writers is considerable and in many instances it has been powerfully used for good, providing accessible and welcome guidance and examples to readers whose particular concerns and struggles—often largely generational in character—aren’t being adequately addressed by their churches’ teaching. For many readers, these memoirs introduce them to friendly and approachable fellow travellers on paths that may otherwise have been lonely and isolating for them, people who have experienced difficulties like theirs and found their way through to a better place. I am sure that, as a genre, such youthful spiritual memoirs have rescued many a young person’s faith.
Read the whole thing here:
This booklet was originally written over a year ago for a Christian website (which will remain unnamed), who asked me to write for them, but never paid me for my work or took steps to publish it, while keeping me from doing anything else with it with unsubstantiated promises of action. By this point, I just don’t want to see the unpublished document on my hard drive anymore, so I thought I’d publish it myself, even though it means giving up entirely on receiving a payment I’d been assured I’d receive. It is free for you to download and pass on. If you have found it helpful and would like to donate, please follow the link at the back of the book, or use the button below.