She’s My Dad: A poignant memoir of finding one’s self and one’s faith in the midst of heartache
Title: She’s My Dad- A Father’s Transition and a Son’s Redemption
Author: Jonathan Williams with Paula Williams
Genre: Christian Nonfiction/ Memoir
Length: 200 Pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Synopsis from Goodreads
Jonathan S. Williams was three months into pastoring a new, evangelical church plant when his father confessed a secret: he was transgender. His father, Paul, a prominent evangelical pastor, soon became Paula, and Jonathan’s life and ministry went into a tailspin. Feeling betrayed by his mentor and confidante and scared that his church would lose funding and support if Paula’s secret was exposed, Jonathan sunk into depression and alcoholism.
She’s My Dad explores Jonathan’s long and winding journey toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and acceptance of his father as well as his church’s journey to become one of the few fully LGBTQ-inclusive, evangelical churches in America. Jonathan and Paula offer insight and encouragement for those with transgender family members, empathizing with the feelings of loss and trauma and understanding that even being LGBTQ-affirming doesn’t mean the transition of a family member will be easy. Jonathan writes of his family’s continuing evolution, the meaning of remaining loyal to one’s father even when she is no longer a man, the ongoing theological evolution surrounding transgender rights and advocacy in the church, and the unflinching self-scrutiny of a pastor who lost his God only to find God again in his father’s transition.
As soon as I saw the advertisement for this book in my inbox from WJK Press, I knew I had to read it. I believe in making space for the narratives of people who would normally go unheard in our society. As soon as I knew this book was available, I knew that it was important for me to hear Paula’s story.
I am a person who has made my home and my life in the church. I love the church very much; however, I know that the church has deeply hurt many people in many different ways throughout history. Reading Paula’s story broke my heart. I found myself racing through this relatively brief book in only two days. I needed to know what happened to Paula.
The majority of this book is told from the perspective of Paula’s son, Jonathan. At certain points, Paula has the opportunity to respond. Her writing is full of strength and grace. I was deeply moved by her words.
In contrast, I had a very difficult time identifying with Jonathan. I was intrigued to hear what it was like in his church and in his world. It was enlightening to learn about what goes on behind the scenes in megachurches. I was fascinated by Jonathan’s honest explanation of what it takes to make a new church start successful. Sadly, though, there were many times when I wanted to reach through the pages and shake Jonathan because I disagreed with his choices or his actions.
This was a beautiful book with an important story that needs to be told; however, I would have preferred it if the story was entirely told through Paula’s perspective. This book makes me want to read more of Paula’s writings and hear more about her own journey of faith.
Note: I received a free digital copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.