It’s no mistake that two friends, of two different perspectives, launched two very important books in back-to-back weeks. Last week, you read about privilege from a black, Christian, southern woman writer, Natasha Robinson, and this week you’ll read about privilege from a white, Christian, southern and northern woman writer, Amy Julia Becker. No matter the color of your skin, it’s imperative that we identify and talk about the roots of privilege and supremacy …and for many of us, identifying our privilege is also how we start to color outside the lines. Enjoy this interview with Amy Julia about her new book, White Picket Fences.
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? Hello! I’m Amy Julia Becker. (Yes, it is a double first name, which comes from my Connecticut parents moving to rural North Carolina before I was born and getting swept away in the romanticism of southern culture. Lots of people call me AJ.) I now live in rural Connecticut on the campus of a co-ed boarding school where my husband Peter is the Head of School. We have three children—Penny, William, and Marilee. I have a Masters of Divinity, and I also have a daughter with Down syndrome (Penny), so I tend to do a lot of writing and thinking about faith, family, disability, and culture. That’s in addition to spending hours shuttling children to ballet, soccer, and piano lessons!
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? White Picket Fences: Turning toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege is a memoir about living a life of unearned social advantage (aka privilege). I tell my story—growing up in a small, beautiful, and functionally segregated town in the south, attending private schools and reaping the benefits and harms of an achievement-oriented culture, and giving birth to a child with Down syndrome and coming to receive her as a gift. The book is about the tension between gratitude for what we have been given and sorrow over the injustices of those gifts and how we might respond to these realities not with shame, guilt, or fear, but rather with hope and love. One central message of the book is that love is stronger than fear.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? This book was SO long in the making it is hard to isolate an inspiration. Growing up in North Carolina and then moving to Connecticut meant that I was thinking about, and very troubled by, racial divides from a very early age. Certainly Penny’s birth caused me to rethink the concept of privilege and the role hard work had played in getting me to Princeton, for example! And then as our kids got older and I recognized the ways I was offering them a very similar childhood to my own—with neighbors behind white picket fences included—I wondered about both the goodness and the limitations of what our community had to offer. And of course the conversation we are having on a national level about all of these topics caused me to believe it might be helpful for other affluent white people to read a story that invited them to explore their own privilege and consider whether there was any way to offer a positive and loving response.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? This book has humbled me like nothing else I’ve ever written! I so wanted it to end triumphally, with some savior narrative of us selling our big white house and moving into an urban neighborhood where we were serving people in need. Instead, I have only seen my own need more clearly. I’ve been prompted to pray. I’ve learned more about confession. And wow has writing this book deepened my belief that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (from the Bible, Galatians 5:6).
How and where can we find you on the internet? I just started an Instagram account (@amyjuliabecker), and I’m on Twitter and Facebook under that handle as well. I blog weekly at amyjuliabecker.com, and there’s lots of other information there about White Picket Fences and my other writing!
So, what say you? I LOVED Amy Julia Becker’s newest book and have actually read it twice now …which you know says something not only about her writing but about the content OF her writing. If you want to win a copy of White Picket Fences, leave a comment below or head over to Instagram on Thursday and Friday of this week for another chance to win. Winner will be drawn on Friday, October 12th. Good luck!
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