Book Review: Facing the Music

Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp
Release Date: 10-07-2014 
Publisher:Howard Books
Pages: 304 

Jennifer Knapp found solace in music at a young age to escape a troubled home life. Something that wouldn’t be able to save her when she got to college. After a fall-out at home, she found herself spiraling out of control with alcohol and sex. She hit rock bottom and this time the only thing that saved her was finding God.

It wasn’t long before her two passions merged and Knapp was a full fledged Contemporary Christian Artist. A role that put her on a pedestal and expected her to be the perfect Christian. Knapp slowly began to crack under the pressure of the road and the growing realization that she was in love with a woman. This realization made her leave the music scene for years as she traveled with her new found love, trying to run away from it all.

But if music is truly in your bones, as it is with Knapp, you can’t run. Her returned to the scene meant coming out to all her fans and dealing with the aftermath. Had it not been for a few helping hands, Knapp would have never stepped foot inside a church again. Instead, she learned to reclaim her faith fully and use it to help reshape how churches view/treat those in the LGBTQ community.

I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Knapp since 1998 when her album, Kansas, came out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to her songs over the years, often on repeat. In fact, her stuff is currently playing on shuffle as I write this. However, my love of her music isn’t the reason why I love this book. Yes, it’s the reason I chose to read it, but I don’t think a book has affected me quite as much as Facing the Music in a long time, which is why this review will be quite different from my others. It’s hard to separate how this personally touched me as it related to my own life.

Just as she does with her songs, Knapp truly lays it all out and puts her heart into this book. The number of passages I have highlighted or the times that I wanted to scream yes were plentiful. While her journey is her own, I believe that many will be able to connect and share her sentiment in the different emotions that organized religion can cause. Or at least I did.

You don’t have to be in the spotlight to understand the pressures religion can put on you. Growing up in the church, I fully understand the need to say, do, act, and even wear the right things. It can be overwhelming and suffocating to say the least. The one scene that really encompassed this for me was when Knapp was trying to take a break from the grueling music scene. She was cracking from the fast pace of the road, but everyone told it was merely because her spiritual life was off. She was out of harmony with God and if she prayed enough and read her bible, everything would work itself out. I’m sure the words were coming from a good place, but they were words that hurt more than they healed.

I can’t even begin to express how heartbreaking to read how the Christian community treated her when she came out. The saddest story was one about a girl who sent all her CDs back to Knapp because not only did she not want them anymore she didn’t want anyone else to have them either. Knapp’s music was worthless in her eyes just because she loved differently then what is viewed as “right”. There is one quote that I keep going back to that sings so true to me She states “what I believed in had nothing to do with sexual identity or gender.  I believed that no matter who we are, who we love, it is how we love that matters” (p 148). This is something I wish more people would adopt. To look beyond who people love to how they love instead. It truly hits at the heart of the LGBTQ controversy.

I love that Knapp didn’t hold back on how much she struggled to hold onto and reclaim her faith (at least in the organized religion sense.) For years, she was unable to play music let alone step into a church. She got more out of telling her stories over a drink than she did sitting through a sermon. She struggled to believe she could still be a child of God and be who she was. I applaud her for being able to hold onto and fully reclaim her faith. But most of all, I’m glad she told her story. Had I read this 10 years ago, I may be in a very different spot than I am now. I know I’m not the same girl I was in 1998 when I first picked up Kansas (nor do I want to be), but Knapp’s story hit home that you still hold onto faith and the belief that it’s okay to love who you love.

While there is much I could say about this book, I think I will simply say thank you. Thank you, Jennifer, for your music and for this book. It’s made a difference in my life more than I can ever put into words.

Librarian note: I do believe this book has high teen appeal. I would easily book talk this to teens in GSA groups. I know many teens have a hard time coming to terms with accepting themselves and holding onto God. Knapp speaks a lot about all the questioning and reconciling she had to go through to land where she did. Her words may just make the process for them, and loved ones, that much easier.

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