Heretic: A Memoir (Hardcover)
A memoir of leaving the evangelical church and the search for radical new ways to build community.
Jeanna Kadlec knew what it meant to be faithful--in her marriage to a pastor’s son, in the comfortable life ahead of her, in her God--but there was no denying the truth that lived under that conviction: she was queer and, if she wanted to survive, she would need to leave behind the church and every foundational building block she knew.
Heretic is a memoir of rebirth. Within, Kadlec reckons with religious trauma and Midwestern values, as a means of unveiling how evangelicalism directly impacts every American--religious or not--and has been a major force in driving our democracy towards fascism. From the story of Lilith to celebrity purity rings, Kadlec interrogates how her indoctrination and years of piety intersects with her Midwest working-class upbringing. As she navigated graduate school, a new home on the East Coast, and a new marriage, another insidious truth began to reveal itself --that conservative Christianity has both built and undermined our political power structures, poisoned our pop culture, and infected how we interact with one another in ways that the secular population couldn’t see.
Weaving the personal with powerful critique, Heretic explores how we can radically abandon these painful systems by taking a sledgehammer to the comfortable. Whether searching for community in the face of millennial loneliness or wanting to reclaim a secular form of fellowship in everyday life, Kadlec envisions the brilliant possibilities that come with not only daring to want a different way but actually striking out and claiming it for ourselves.
Jeanna Kadlec is a writer, astrologer, former lingerie boutique owner, and recovering academic. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, NYLON, O the Oprah Magazine, Allure, Catapult, Literary Hub, Autostraddle, and more. A born and bred Midwesterner, she now lives in Brooklyn. Heretic is her first book.
Named A Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by: Buzzfeed * Lit Hub * Autostraddle * Electric Lit * Bay Area Reporter —
"Bless this brave, thoughtful, funny, aggravating, nearly triggering book. It made me wish I still believed in the God I knew in my youth so that I could pick a fight with Him. Kadlec provides an astute picture of what it feels like to be born into the maze of a rigid faith and the twists and turns it takes to find yourself. I wish I had this book when I was a teenager. . . . This will hit very close to home for a lot of people." — Lucy Dacus
"A gripping study of religious trauma--and healing" — People "The Best New Books"
"Heretic is full of intellect and ferocious emotion with language so taut that every thread of her narrative—an evangelical upbringing, religious trauma, violence, and queer love—forms a shimmering braid. Kadlec's analysis of fundamentalist belief, placed right up against tales of cartoons, Dungeons & Dragons, and the art of tarot, moved me to tears with its vibrant celebration of hard-won joy." — Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias
"Both memoir and thesis, this book highlights a cultural, social, and spiritual journey that will resonate with many." — Kirkus Reviews
“Heretic is an intelligent and highly entertaining memoir. Part cultural history, part personal history, Jeanna Kadlec writes with perspective and poignancy. Her writing excavates the ideal of a good Christian woman and reveals it for all it ever truly was, a myth. Kadlec is a captivating storyteller and cultural historian. Heretic is both an insight into America's regressive politics and a memoir of astonishing honesty and beautiful complexity. From her life as a good Christian girl to her emergence as a queer woman, Kadlec writes with voice and conviction. Heretic is a memoir that employs a coming of sexuality and a coming of womanhood with a prose that is empowering and beautiful." — Lyz Lenz, author of Godland and Belabored
"A woman reckons with the religious trauma of her upbringing and embarks on a process of self-discovery in this searing debut. . . . As she recounts her disentanglement from religion, Kadlec weaves a deeply personal narrative with excoriating criticism to unpack the ways in which religious belief is sewn into the fabric of American society. The result provides a poignant story of being born again in a secular world." — Publishers Weekly
"An anthropological exploration of power, self-discovery, and the communities we both desire and dismantle; Kadlec…graciously offers a new way forward, a hand to hold, an unforgettable and edifying reading experience you won’t want to miss." — T Kira Madden, author of Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls
"What Kadlec suggests is something more exciting — not a revision but a restoration of the Christian faith. Is Kadlec a heretic? Or is she the true believer?" — Los Angeles Times
"Kadlec is inviting us to re-examine our own lives and reject anything that would restrict us from living as our full selves in favor of a joyful, open, freer path. I’ve loved Kadlec’s work for a long time—she writes with the bold, clear voice of someone who has been there and back, and has now settled in to tell you the real deal." — Literary Hub
"I can't tell you how happy I am that Kadlec's work exists in the world. Heretic is the guidebook I needed for my life. Learning how to overcome harmful systems and find joy and community on our own terms is essential for queer survival, and Kadlec has provided an elegant and astute account." — Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased
“Brilliant and well-read, Kadlec braved the emotional tides of religious trauma, divorce, and coming out as queer all before her thirtieth birthday. … Giving a voice to past and present evangelicals Kadlec invites readers to hold a mirror to the evangelical-political hydra that threatens to overthrow true American freedom.” — Booklist (starred review)
"In this outstanding debut, clear, elegant, and precise as etched glass, Jeanna Kadlec recounts a detachment from her own heart and desires so profound and carefully inculcated that desire for anyone other than God felt like transgression. Her prose is wise and erudite, undergirded by plain speech and an open heart. Heretic is a light unto the path of every former evangelical who longs for communion beyond the condemnation and spiritual abuse of the church, and a crucial window for outsiders into what it's like to grow up handed a birthright of original sin." — Maud Newton, author of Ancestor Trouble
"(Kadlec) is gifting us her debut memoir, an achingly rendered story of leaving the Evangelical church and an oppressive marriage, a story of losing faith and finding oneself. Within these pages, Kadlec combines revelatory personal narratives with assiduous cultural criticism, Midwestern wonder with intellectual vigor, to explore how some of the social and spiritual functions of religion can be both abhorrent and illuminative of a new path forward." — Electric Literature
“This resonant memoir by a former evangelical Christian is searing and beautiful from cover to cover. … Kadlec's interpretation is particularly refreshing and vividly intensive and will resonate most with readers searching for new beginnings.” — Bay Area Reporter
"(Kadlec) uniquely blends together her story of religion and queerness in her inventive memoir." — Shondaland
"Kadlec takes readers through her quest for freedom, from a disillusioning stint in academia to the homes she ultimately finds in queer communities and the occult." — Poets & Writers
"A Memoir for the Witches Who Grew From Good Christian Women" — Autostraddle
"You don’t have to have been brought up in an evangelical Christian church or discover you’d been living a lie about your identity for decades to find in Jeanna’s journey something resonant, vulnerable, and inspiring." — Divorcist.com
"Honest and empowering, Heretic feels particularly timely when it explores bodily autonomy and patriarchal heteronormativity." — Chicago Review of Books
“Jeanna Kadlec’s Heretic: A Memoir, out this fall, stands out, not because she went on to found an LGBTQ2S+-inclusive lingerie boutique or distributes a newsletter about “Astrology for Writers,” or even because indie musician Lucy Dacus blurbed her book. It’s because Kadlec sees the danger of evangelical Christianity clearly, as only someone who has been deep inside of it can." — Xtra