Welcome to the Name Before the Masses tour for Accidental Jesus Freak by Amber Lea Starfire. This is a powerful memoir about her journey entering into a new religion and trying to get back to her authentic self. Today she's giving us a sort of update as to how she is doing now, in addition to letting us get to know her book. Please take the time to read her words and then let her know your thoughts and any other questions. You can also enjoy an excerpt. Follow the tour for even more insights into Amber and her book, plus more chances to enter the giveaway.
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A Snapshot of Who I Am Today
By Amber Lea Starfire
Memoirs are about the past — stories of challenges and triumphs, family secrets, decisions made, and lives changed. Accidental Jesus Freak is about my journey into, and out of, a fundamentalist evangelical sect. It depicts what it’s like to live within and emerge from a dualistic and patriarchal mindset, where there is only right or wrong, good or evil, salvation or damnation. Where there is little understanding of and even less compassion for the simple condition of being human, particularly if you are female.
It is also a love story. Of a young woman who falls so far under the spell of a charismatic man, she is willing to follow him anywhere. But one day she wakes up from that spell. She looks around, sees that she has given up her freedom and even her sense of self, and realizes that it’s time to find her power and take it back.
You might wonder: What became of that woman after she made that choice and after her epilogue? What was her journey back to self like, and who is she today? These are the questions I attempt to answer in this article.
When I woke up from that deceptive, religious spell, I began exploring what life had to offer. Over time, I created a professional career, investigated other spiritual paths, expressed myself through photography and art and dance, and began writing again. I felt a great sense of urgency. I felt as though I had lost more than a decade of my life. And yet, my experience has given me a greater understand of and compassion for others who have locked themselves into rigid belief systems, who are ruled by fear, and who have subjugated themselves to those beliefs — and the “gurus” they have given themselves over to.
Today, I have a rich and fulfilling life. I am at peace with myself and do not feel the need to “believe” in anything in particular. I have a professional career (my day job) in a creative field for which I write curriculum, create videos, educational materials, and online e-learning modules. Outside my day job, I write, edit, and teach writing. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to encourage and help others who also want to write their stories. I’m learning how to play the piano. I walk outdoors every day. My children are grown, I have six wonderful grandchildren (though I don’t get to see them very often), and I have a life partner who treats me as his equal and supports me in my creative endeavors.
And I write.
Writing, in all its forms (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and essay) allows me to express myself and explore life and what it means to be human in all its strangeness and wonder and complexity.
Who are you today? Do you write or express yourself creatively through some type of artistic work? Tell me about yourself in the comments below.
Accidental Jesus FreakIn 1973, Linda was a flute player and music major at a California community college, until she met and fell madly in love with a charismatic piano player, plunging into his world of music-making and drug-fueled parties. When, just three weeks after their wedding, he reveals that he's been "born again," Linda makes the spontaneous decision to follow him into his new religion and, unwittingly, into a life of communal living, male domination, and magical thinking.
With unflinching candor, Amber Starfire chronicles her journey as Linda Carr into the evangelical church culture, where she gives up everything for her husband and their music ministry. But in the process, she loses her most valuable assets: her identity and sense of self-worth. It is only when Linda returns to live with her birth family and faces her complicated relationship with her mother that she finds new purpose and the courage to begin to extricating herself from the limiting beliefs of her past.
Accidental Jesus Freak is the story of one woman, one marriage, and one kind of fundamentalism, but it is also the story of the healing that is possible when we are true to ourselves. Both a cautionary tale and celebration of personal empowerment, Accidental Jesus Freak is a powerful reminder for anyone who seeks to live a life authentic to who they truly are.
Read an excerpt:
By spring we were behind on rent and utility payments and were running out of food. Paul was deep into one of his depressions, so the Beulah Band wasn’t practicing or performing. Without the focus provided by our music and without Paul’s guidance, the commune began to erode at the edges, crumbling into the sea of reality. One by one, people drifted away, most moving back to Portland to take up residence with family or friends. Soon there was just a core of us left: three families, including Paul and Barney’s, two married couples without children, and a few young bachelors.
I remember quite distinctly the day we gave up. The group had exactly $20 remaining in our coffers—not enough to pay any of our bills. Not even enough to buy food for dinner. So, in typical throw-it-to-the-wind fashion, we traipsed up the street to the local Dairy Queen and bought $20 worth of banana splits to share. It felt reckless and fitting to celebrate the demise of our grand communal experiment in this fashion.
I have a polaroid taken that day outside the Dairy Queen. Fourteen adults and five children smile and squint into the sun like one big happy family. Eric and I stand at the back of the group, round-faced in our youth, his hand placed protectively on my arm. I remember feeling both relieved and sad. I was tired of the strain of trying to keep food on the table, tired of the squabbling, the lack of privacy, and feeling shut out by the men. I was ready to live like a normal married couple, just Eric and me on our own. Yet there was a bitter-sweetness to those banana splits.
About Amber Lea StarfireAmber Lea Starfire MA, MFA, is an author, editor, and creative writing coach whose passion is helping others tell their stories. She has published two memoirs: Accidental Jesus Freak: One Woman’s Journey from Fundamentalism to Freedom (2017) and Not the Mother I Remember: A Memoir — finalist for both the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2013-2014 Sarton Women’s Literary Awards. She has also published several books of non-fiction, including Journaling the Chakras: Eight Weeks to Self-Discovery, and Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations. Amber is co-editor of the award-winning anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s & '70s. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals.
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Amber Lea Starfire will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway