Sister Freaks: Stories of Women Who Gave Up Everything for God
Rebecca St. James knows how to inspire an audience. Having received both Grammy and Dove Awards, she's been called "the definite voice in today's contemporary Christian music." She has a particular interest in encouraging teens and young women to claim and act on their Christian faith. In the introduction to SISTER FREAKS, she says, "I admire the bold women, the ones who stand up for something, the sisters strong enough to be considered 'freaks' for the cause of Christ."
After the short introduction, the book loses the personal touch of St. James, and in a third-person voice presents profiles of young women --- in their teens or early 20s --- who have found purpose and, yes, boldness through their faith. The 60 profiles, each about four pages long, are organized in 12 groups of five, suggesting that the selections be read devotionally, over the course of three months. Though the book's sections (Week 1, Week 2) aren't topically titled, the journaling questions at the end of each section suggest the segment's common theme, such as servanthood, acknowledging and overcoming fear, being secure in God's love, and distinguishing between lies and truths.
A few women discussed early in the book are saints of a different era: Joan of Arc, Clare of Assisi, the early martyr Perpetua, Katherine von Bora (who became Mrs. Martin Luther) and Amy Carmichael.
Sprinkled throughout are international stories of great courage, often set in countries where Christians are in physical danger. Most of these are contemporary; some are historic. One particularly moving story is of Manche Masemola, a South African teen of the Pedi tribe martyred in 1928 at the hands of her own family, which disapproved of her desire for baptism. Several profiles such as this model a faith based on allegiance to God that is more radical than a cursory command to obey one's parents.
Most of the stories are of young women who've grown up in the U.S. Some involve facing and overcoming obstacles all too familiar: peer pressure, poor self-image, unwanted pregnancy, abandonment. Some are inspiring stories of women who've dedicated their lives to loving service to others, in inner cities, in restrictive countries, in African orphanages, in pregnancy centers, and in college student ministries.
This is a book for women who are young in physical years but seasoned in faith. On one hand, the book requires little of its reader, explaining, for example, that malaria is "a disease passed through mosquitoes" and cholera is "a very deadly disease from contaminated water." On the other hand, it sometimes relies on a Christianese that the uninitiated may not connect with. One high schooler is quoted as saying that God "gave me beauty for ashes and called me out to go forth and allow Him to use me." And one chapter begins, "Eight years ago, God lit a fire for missions in [Jaime's] soul."
In her introduction, St. James explains that all the women profiled in this book "held true to God, and they all inspire me to live a bigger, greater life." In some circles, SISTER FREAKS may become a modern hagiography. Should I explain the word? An idealized biography, especially of saints.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on October 5, 2005