Ohhhhhh, snaps. I’m so stoked about today’s author AND today’s book. Katey Zeh is rad …and there’s probably a better descriptive word for her, but it’s also all-encompassing in an early 90’s sort of way. I LOVE her heart behind Women Rise Up, and I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be all in as well. Enjoy this interview with her!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I’m a Baptist minister and a gender justice advocate. I call myself the Compassionate Pragmatist because I’m all about changing the world for the better by helping passionate people navigate how to break down their visions for justice into practical steps and achievable goals.
I grew up in Georgia and live in North Carolina, but my advocacy work takes me to Washington, D.C nearly every week. Right now I’m serving as interim Executive Director of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Most weekday mornings I’m up at 5:00 am to teach a group fitness class at the local YMCA. Moving my body keeps me grounded in the justice work I do.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Women Rise Up is a timely take on the tenacious women of the Bible. Each chapter focuses on a particular sacred text, and I examine it through the lens of today’s struggle for gender justice. For example, I talk about Hagar from Genesis as a survivor of human trafficking.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? Most books tend to portray women in the Bible as either unrepentant sinners or helpless victims. I wanted to contribute a more nuanced take on these women’s lives that would explore both their flaws and their strengths. My hope is that in giving these ancient narratives some much-needed breathing room, I also extend that grace to the reader—the permission to be fully human. Women Rise Up is a call to action—to honor these sacred stories, to speak our truth courageously, and to rise up together for the dignity and well-being of women and girls everywhere.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words, and also, how have you been changed by writing the book? I hope that this book sparks their curiosity about these women and others in the Bible who found ways to survive, resist, and thrive, and that this exploration of sacred stories leads to sacred sharing, both in and outside of our faith communities, about our own lives. But I also hope this book moves us all to take action in meaningful, sustainable ways by sharing our resources and voices with the movements and organizations led by those most impacted by systems of injustice. Like the women of this book, they will lead the way for us all to rise up.
As for me I’m working on asking more thoughtful questions, especially when I encounter someone who holds a viewpoint that differs from mine. As I reflect on my spiritual growth over the years, I attribute much of it to the exchanges I had with thoughtful people who were willing to listen attentively to what I had to say and who gently challenged me to consider other perspectives. For a long time I thought my activism always had to be relentlessly bold, but I’m learning the power of gentleness in conversation.
We oftentimes talk about “coloring outside the lines” on this blog: so, how do you hope your book will help readers color outside the lines? My book is an invitation to set aside what we think we know about the Bible and read the stories with a fresh perspective. I hope we’ll be bold in our questions and imaginative in our readings.
How and where can we find you on the Internet? You can find me on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And you can listen to the podcast I co-host called Kindreds about faith, feminism, and friendship.
I know. Real deal Holyfield. If you enjoyed this interview with Katey like I did, leave a comment below. Better yet, head over to your favorite bookseller and pick up her book …also, a reminder, by leaving a comment here, you automatically enter to win a copy of Women Rise Up. Otherwise, be sure to check out my Instagram account in the coming days for more chances to win!
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