Jennifer Knapp knows the power of a story. No stranger to penning poetic prose, the Grammy-nominated, Dove-Award-winning Nashville singer/songwriter has five studio albums of original material to her credit, including her brand new project, Set Me Free, scheduled to drop on October 14. Throughout her musical career, she’s witnessed her fans’ heartfelt responses to her earthy folk-rock narratives, but in April of 2010, Knapp experienced an entirely new set of reactions from fans and foes alike when she publicly came out as a lesbian on a number of media outlets.
Her story became one of overnight controversy, equally celebrated and criticized. Four years after an explosion of affirmation and attacks, Knapp’s memoir, Facing the Music: My Story, will hit the shelves on October 7.
Though a seasoned songstress and storyteller, writing a book was not Knapp’s idea. “When I came out in 2010,” she explains, “and that kind of nuclear bomb went off in the public at large, a lot of the people that responded to that positively and [who] needed somebody in public to come out…a lot of the people that I talked to that experienced similar things were like, ‘Please, please just tell us how you did it. Please write a book.’” She didn’t seriously consider the possibility, however, until being approached by an editor at Simon & Schuster.
“I run into people all the time that are desperate to find something that they know they can read and go, ‘Oh, wow. My life is like that.’ It has to be really close for some people. It has to be just like their story in order to make it helpful,” says Knapp. “So it’s important for me to tell my story, you yours and the next guy and the next guy so we can kind of find that everybody-live-life experience of what we all have to get through. For some people, it’ll be a Southern Baptist perspective. For another, it’d be like [an] I-don’t-want-religion-at-all perspective.”
A beneficiary of other people’s stories—presented in books like Rev. Dr. Mel White’s Stranger at the Gate, Anthony Venn-Brown’s A Life of Unlearning, and Jewish scholar Dr. Jay Michaelson’s God vs. Gay?, as well as the documentary film A Jihad for Love—Knapp hopes to be able to pay it forward with Facing the Music.
“I really wanted to try and write a book that people who left religion could still relate to and maybe even in some sense find peace with wherever they’ve landed—having left their faith or having accepted it in some fashion, in perhaps a new fashion, all the way to the other side—the people that I meet every day who…still really want to hold on to…the conservative practice of faith,” shares Knapp. “My hope is that everyone will be able to find ownership in their own story.”
An engaging read for long-time fans, an enlightening perspective for those curious about the experiences of Christians who discover that they are gay, and an encouraging testimony for those in the process of coming to terms with their sexuality and spirituality, Facing the Music is an honest account of Knapp’s life from childhood to her public coming-out whirlwind of 2010.
A book-release party will be held in connection with Vanderbilt University’s National Coming Out Week activities in the Reading Room of the Divinity School, located at 411 21st Ave. South in Nashville. Free and open to the public, the event will be held on October 11 and will begin at 5 p.m. Copies of Facing the Music will be available for purchase and Knapp will be present to do a reading from the book, host a brief Q&A session, perform a song or two, and sign books.
Dr. Ellen Armour, Carpenter Associate Professor of Feminist Theology and Director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School, trusts that those who attend the event will not regret it. “What will really inspire them, I think, will be the theological and musical creativity, thoughtfulness and integrity that has brought [Knapp] to where she is now,” notes Armour. “I hope the event will show those struggling to reconcile who they love with a faith they love a way forward.”