Women’s inspiring stories, challenging ideas, and embrace of joyful faith and authentic relationships abound on publishers’ frontlists in 2022. These writers draw from the past and the present, personal experience, scripture, magic, and myth. Diverse voices address knotty subjects such as race, gender, and abortion, and burrow deeply into the close-to-home matters in life, work, and love.

“Women are done with the status quo,” says NavPress acquisitions editor Caitlyn Carlson. “They’re over just getting by or settling for okay. They’re naming the places of ache and longing in their lives and are ready to do something about it—and that starts with advocating for themselves and finding opportunities to flourish in their relationships.” For example, she points to friendship workshop leader Bailey T. Hurley’s Jesus-filled guide to defeating loneliness, Together Is a Beautiful Place: Finding, Keeping, and Loving Our Friends (Apr. 2022).

When women know and trust themselves, they can get busy changing the world, says Kaya Oakes, a freelance journalist and author writing on religion, society, and feminism. Oakes looks at the wisdom of women mystics, and at women who have been marginalized by society because of their age or gender in The Defiant Middle: How Women Claim Life’s In-Betweens to Remake the World (Broadleaf, out now). “Change, after all,” Oakes writes, “always comes from the margins.”

No topic too tough to touch

Broadleaf acquisitions editor Lisa Kloskin says the imprint—“rooted in the progressive tradition”—looks for books from women and marginalized authors that are “defiant, intimate, honest, and inspiring, engaging with the urgent needs of women today.” One example: pro-life Baptist minister Katey Zeh, CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, addresses the controversy over abortion through stories of women who have been directly affected in A Complicated Choice: Making Space for Grief and Healing in the Pro-Choice Movement (Broadleaf, Jan. 2022).

Psychology professor Susan Harris Howell takes on the ways women have been stifled in church life in Buried Talents: Overcoming Gendered Socialization to Answer God’s Call (IVP Academic, Apr. 2022). Harris Howell uses social science research to show how “gendered messages from inside and outside the church pull men toward leadership and women away from it,” according to the publisher.

Several writers delve into the spiritual and social damage of racism with books of history and personal stories of encouragement. Candace Benbow, a theologian and writer, ranges from righteous to irreverent in her essay collection Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough (Convergent, Jan. 2022), promoting “divine wholeness for Black women,” according to the publisher.

Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love and Liberation (Convergent, Apr. 2022) is by three debut authors: psychologist Christina Edmondson, social justice activist Michelle Higgins, and theologian Ekemini Uwan—hosts of the Truth’s Table podcast. In the book, the trio explore theology, race, politics, culture, and gender.

Presbyterian deacon Therese Taylor-Stinson, founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, draws lessons for all from the steadfast faith and mystic spirituality of a legendary abolitionist in Walking the Way of Harriet Tubman: Public Mystic and Freedom Fighter (Broadleaf, June 2022). And in Carved in Ebony: Lessons from the Black Women Who Shape Us (Bethany, out now), Jasmine Holmes, a scholar, conservative Christian author, and a Black woman, examines the lives of 10 historical Black Christian women who are often overlooked in history books.

Survival stories

Several upcoming titles are personal tales of struggles with doubt, depression, and grief. Bestselling author Shauna Niequist writes that she found herself living with chaos and undiagnosed chronic pain. In her upcoming memoir, I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet (Zondervan, Apr. 2022), Niequist describes how coming to grips with her condition required curiosity, acceptance of midlife, and relying on Jesus, “who breaks boundaries and rules in order to love people who haven’t been loved by the world around them.”

Michelle Hord, a powerhouse media executive who was devastated when her ex-husband murdered her daughter, writes about finding inner spiritual strength to carry on in The Other Side of Yet: Finding Light in the Midst of Darkness (Atria, Mar. 2022). And in Life Can be Good Again: Putting Your World Back Together After It All Falls Apart by Lisa Appelo (Bethany, Apr.), the author, widowed with seven young children, addresses the need to lament, to bring God into the pain, and to find steps in scripture for moving forward.

“We are looking at the felt needs, the pain points, for our readers,” says Bethany editorial director Andy McGuire. The press hears from authors and agents that people are feeling inadequate, that “they are just not enough—that they are not getting done what they set out to accomplish and are overworked and overwhelmed,” McGuire says. “We address this angst from many perspectives, but the idea is to bring inspiration and hope from a biblical perspective.”

Been there, done that

Several authors of forthcoming books open up about the hard, messy moments in life. In Confessions of a Crappy Christian: Move from Burn Out and Hustle to Obedience and Freedom (Tyndale Momentum, Sept. 2022), social media influencer and podcaster Blake Guichet suggests women learn to trust they are good enough for God. She writes, “The world doesn’t need more perfectly presentable Christians.”

Tyndale Momentum publisher Sarah Atkinson says such titles speak to the spiritual needs of readers at various stages in their faith journeys. “We do not shy away from tackling difficult topics such as abuse or racism,” she adds. “We publish many authors who are deeply engaged in the cultural issues of our day. But regardless of the topic, we want to publish people who have their eyes on Jesus first and foremost, and who reflect that not just in what they say, but how they say it.”

Other titles in this vein include Becoming the One: Heal Your Past, Transform Your Relationship Patterns, and Come Home to Yourself (Chronicle, Apr. 2022), by popular online spiritual guide Sheleana Aiyana, and The Gap Decade: When You’re Technically an Adult but Really Don’t Feel Like It Yet (IVP, out now), by freelance magazine writer Katie Schnack. She counsels trust in God even when “broke like a joke” and having panic attacks, according to the publisher.

Suzan Johnson Cook, a bestselling author, pastor, and a former U.S. ambassador, encourages women of all ages to get a grip on God, finance, health, and more in My Fabulous Fifth Chapter: It’s My Turn Now (Judson, out now). In A Better Encouragement: Trading Self-Help for True Hope (Crossway, June 2022), Lindsey Carlson, a pastor’s wife, speaker, and mother, steers exhausted women to refresh their spirits with God’s encouragement. And Hannah Brown, who appeared in The Bachelorette and Dancing with the Stars, shares in God Bless This Mess (Harper, out now) her discovery that God has a message in every chaotic moment.

Fans of the colorful Louisiana clan from Duck Dynasty will recall family matriarch, café owner, and cookbook author “Miss Kay” Robertson, as well as her daughter-in-law Lisa Robertson. They’ve teamed up for Sister Roar: Claim Your Authentic Voice, Embrace Real Freedom, and Discover True Sisterhood (Nelson, Apr. 2022), which extols friendship among women and lives centered on Jesus. Nelson executive editor Janet Talbert says, “When a woman sees herself in someone else’s story, she knows she’s not alone. And so many women have been plagued by loneliness. It’s important to help one another move forward and focus on the light of God’s Word and His love.”

Women of scripture, myth, and magic

Women in the Bible, too often missing or miscast, are commanding fresh attention. Alice Connor, an Episcopal priest and author of the 2017 book Fierce, which explored the reputations of Eve, Deborah, Mary, and others, is back with Brave: Women of the Bible and Their Stories of Grief, Mercy, Folly, Joy, Sex, and Redemption (Broadleaf, out now). In it, Leah, Rachel, Esther, and others are shown to be much more than victims or temptresses. Writer and speaker Mary DeMuth asserts that reconsidering women such as Bathsheba or the nameless woman of virtue in Proverbs 31 can change lives today in The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible: What Their Stories Teach Us About Thriving (Salem, Mar. 2022).

There’s always a demand for titles from women touting the ineffable power of goddesses and witches. “And rightly so,” says Llewellyn publisher Bill Krause. “Both witches and goddesses have strength in themselves, and both have spiritual components, as well.” Llewellyn is publishing The Goddess Resolution: Restoring Harmony and Emotional Wellbeing Through Spiritual Connection (Feb. 2022), by writer and artist Kate Osborne, which offers meditations and ceremonies for engaging with goddess myths.

At Inner Traditions, magic is the common attraction. Among their many titles in this vein is Spirit Weaver: Wisdom Teachings from the Feminine Path of Magic (May 2022) by Seren Bertrand, who draws wisdom from her ancestry including witches, faery folk, and story weavers.

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a veteran religion and ethics writer living in Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appeared in the 11/22/2021 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Facing Up to a Messy World

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