Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler
(Review originally published on TFW’s sister blog, The Book Academy. October 2015.)
Rapture Practice is Aaron Hartzler’s memoir about growing up gay in an evangelical family. Aaron is a boy who is ready to “blastoff” straight up to heaven when Jesus returns to reward his faithful servants. Along with the rest of his family, the focus of his young life is to live completely in the service of God. Aaron’s father is an evangelical minister and his mother supports the ministry by teaching children. Aaron grows up helping his mom teach children about how to live for God. Throughout his adolescent and teen years, even through his questioning and rebellion against the strictures of his upbringing, Aaron presented the face of the dutiful son, the child of God. Eventually, though, the facade had to crumble; he had to be true to who he was becoming. Hartzler’s memoir takes us from his early years through to the end of his high school years. He reveals the contradictions inherent in a truly loving family that is immersed in a religious ideology that leaves no room for questioning parental authority, much less divine authority. Hartzler’s compassion and love for his parents is evident even as he fights within himself to break free of the hold their religious beliefs have on his mind and emotions. Rapture Practice is a truly moving portrait of a boy’s coming of age in an environment that begins to feel hostile to his true self. (Highly recommended.)
Why I love it: I cried buckets over this book. I also laughed out loud. Even though Hartzler told stories that were very personal and specific to him, there are unfortunate commonalities for all kids who grow up in the evangelical faith. I believe this book can serve as a touchstone for anyone who chooses a different path to faith (or even away from faith) than the one they were raised to follow.
Meeting Aaron: I had the chance to meet Aaron at the Texas Teen Book Festival. He was so open and generous with all of his fans, especially the teenagers. He took the time to speak to and really listen to everyone who brought a book to be signed or approached him during the day. He also won the Fluffy Bunny Contest and, in my opinion, had the best Light Saber pose during the Star Wars Throwdown event!