As a male reading Emma's Journal by Juli Loesch Wiley, I was somewhat uncomfortable. The book reads is if I picked up a diary of a woman I did not know. The account is a frank and open recollection of a five-year period of the author's life. That is, by far, the book's biggest strength.
Juli is a vastly talented writer, and the quality comes out in her book. Describing events and her inner struggles with wit and candor, she writes from the backdrop of the '80s as both a peace and pro-life activist. That combination of activities — when you include the incorporation of a serious and devout Catholic faith — creates a unique life situation that comes out in the first few chapters.
The oddity that a group or individual, in taking up social justice or peace activism, tends to become less pro-life and less orthodox merits exploration (that is beyond the scope of the book). It's rare that an individual synthesizes all those positions, and you can't help but feel the loneliness of someone who does, because they find themselves in "no one's camp."
The book is less a story of conversion (the author was a practicing Catholic at the time the journals begin), than one of a struggle in trying to live within the bounds of chastity – in an environment and society that certainly isn't built to foster that. The book retells events that seem to be familiar among other women I know, in resistance to men who are out to simply bed women as if they were objects.
At points, Emma's Journal does get somewhat detailed in accounts of various incidents of sexuality in the past of the author, possibly causing some squeamishness. However, there needs to made a strong distinction between chastity and prudishness. Chastity seeks to put sexuality in its proper and sacred place; prudishness seeks suppression of any mention, as if sexuality was some dirty and forbidden thing.
If the arguments for chastity are to make any inroads into society, people need to bare their souls and talk modestly about sexuality. That does not translate into an injunction against all discussion. Juli should be praised for her openness and courage in baring her soul in this way, much as Dawn Eden did in her book Thrill of the Chaste. More books like these need to be written.
Emma's Journal is an easy and enjoyable read as it chronicles in journals Juli's journey. I highly recommend it, particularly for Christian women, who are looking for frank and personal testimonials in the trials and tribulations of being chaste in an unchaste country.Powered by Sidelines