This was an amazing read for me personally. Jaci is a little over 3 yrs older than me, so when she burst onto the CCM scene in the late 90s as a 17yo kid, I was a 14yo kid deeply immersed in that very culture. And part of that culture was that I was actually in church 3x weekly and would thus occassionally be there for concerts from various groups making the church circuit – what Jaci herself had spent most of the previous 17 yrs doing with her parents, though in a different region. (These things tend to be highly regional, for those unaware – mostly due to associated costs, I would assume.) So even when Jaci speaks of her childhood in the back of car and later RV going from church to church singing, I’m at least familiar enough to understand from the angle of one of the people in those very churches what it could be like.
Also, I fully cop that I almost never read book descriptions for my ARC work in particular, unless it is an author or publisher I haven’t previously worked with or know. Since I knew of Jaci from 20 yrs ago, I didn’t read the description here. So when I got to the chapter about her son’s diagnosis of Autism and her reaction to it, this Autistic’s heart dropped. I just *knew* I was about to get a hard core defense of Autism Speaks, the Autistic community’s KKK. At that point I had just finished reading The Boy Who Felt Too Much and was involved in a few other discussions and was very raw.
Fortunately, Jaci doesn’t actually go that direction – I’ve seen far too many others fall into that trap at that very moment, but Jaci makes abundantly clear that she came to take the tack my own mother has taken in raising two Autistic sons. Do the best you can, be the best mother you can, and trust God to fill in the details. I can tell you from experience that this is basically the ideal way to raise an Autistic, and considering the four degrees and near 20 yrs of professional experience between my brother and I, Jaci’s son is in truly good hands there and it was thus a joy to be pleasantly surprised by Jaci’s strength.
And yes, I use her first name because you very much come away from this very conversationally-styled narrative feeling like you really know Jaci, even when your life maybe doesn’t parallel hers quite as much as it seems mine has. (Indeed, her year in London discovering herself? I call what is apparently that exact same year in Earth’s history my personal Year Of Failure, where graduating college was seemingly the only thing I did right – and had already been guaranteed 17 months prior. The year her Autistic son was born? That same year I began the professional career I’ve maintained ever since and also met and married my wife. Our anniversary is even within just a few days before Jaci’s birthday. Jaci speaks in the book about her time as a radio morning show host, I spent one football season working as the guy that presses the buttons to play the commercials when the announcer of the high school football game being broadcast declares “And now time for station identification” or whatever. 🙂 So. Very. Weird. How much we very coincidentally parallel.)
So yeah, this book was *amazing* to me personally, but honestly a truly great memoir generally. Her style is very conversational and humorous, and you’ll find yourself not wanting to put this book down… even when facing more pressing deadlines. Very much recommended.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Hilarious Memoir. So I admit it – I’m old ish. Though still a little over 3 yrs younger than the author herself. 😉 But because of that, I was a teen myself when the author, as a slightly older teen, burst onto the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene back in the late 90s and early 2000s and sold literally millions of albums. Hell, I bought some of them, and still have at least one of them 20 yrs later. (Now digitized.) In this memoir, Velasquez talks about the entirety of her 40 years on this earth, from her beginnings traveling around as her parents sang in various churches to the beginnings of her own singing to that period 20 yrs ago when she came into my own life via the radio to her “year of failure” (my term for what turns out was roughly the same time period on Earth, when I too was struggling) to her rebuild and experiences in the aftermath. Absolutely hilarious, and her communication skills are readily abundant – Velasquez is truly an excellent story teller, at least in memoir or song form. Ultimately I had to dock the book a star simply because of the abundant use of proof texting, even though she uses it here mostly to have some “Christian” backdrop to the overall memoir, rather than as a way to try to support some central external thesis. Still, a truly excellent book and very much recommended.
I will note that this was an ARC and thus I was given a free review copy. As is my own policy, however, I don’t care how I obtained a book, I give my own honest review on every book I read. Period.