New Release: Reading a Different Story, by Susan VanZanten

Cover ArtChristianity’s demographics, vitality, and influence have tipped markedly toward the global South and East. Addressing this seismic shift, noted Christian literary scholar Susan VanZanten recounts how her focus has shifted from American to African literature, leading her to advocate for a global approach to education and scholarship.

Reading a Different Storythe latest addition to the Turning South series, recounts her journey of reorientation, reflects on the challenges of being a Christian woman scholar, and shows how the rise of global Christianity necessitates changes in academic life


“VanZanten offers a rich weave of memoir and theological reflection and makes a compelling argument for curricular globalization that is dialectical, deep, and humble. She shows how a life of scholarship is also an adventure rife with mystery and grace. All who teach or read literature and all who seek to understand what shalom has to do with story will want to read this thoughtful book more than once.” – Marilyn McEntyre, Westmont College

“This engaging intellectual autobiography is a rare treat for anyone pondering what it means to be a Christian scholar and teacher in the twenty-first century. It offers no vague generalizations. Rather, VanZanten has crafted clear-eyed, generous, and wise reflections on her journey into this vocation–from the intertwined blessings and challenges of her Dutch Reformed roots, through the liberating effects and pitfalls of collegiate and graduate study, to experience in an ecumenical range of Christian higher education. The dominant connecting theme is the value of learning to hear the voice of the ‘other,’ particularly those outside the North Atlantic context.” – Randy L. Maddox, Duke Divinity School

“In this beautifully written memoir, an exceptionally creative, courageous, and faithful scholar-teacher invites readers to join her on a journey that has led her to a truly global sense of both literature and Christianity. Encountering Susan VanZanten’s expanding vision, we are challenged to broaden our own–and also given fresh resources that will help us to face that challenge. Along the way she also shares valuable reflections on gender, literary theory, and teaching. I highly recommend this book to those who teach in church-related colleges and universities.” – Dorothy C. Bass, Valparaiso University

“Susan VanZanten’s wonderful narrative tells how her dedication to teaching led her along unexpected paths: forging her own nuanced synthesis of feminist positions; creating her unique theory of faith and literature; engaging with global and especially African literatures to bring together her love of literature, her political commitments to justice and peace, and her Christian faith. Hers is the fascinating story of an indirect route to wisdom, deepening faith, and integration of mind and heart. It will be enlightening for young scholars being pressured to figure out too much too soon, and inspiring for established scholars who know they are still trying to do so.” – Patrick H. Byrne, Boston College


Susan VanZanten (PhD, Emory University) is professor of English at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington, and leads faculty workshops and retreats across the country. She is the author or editor of seven books, including Joining the Mission: A Guide for (Mainly) New College Faculty, Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson, and Truth and Reconciliation: The Confessional Mode in South African Literature. She frequently reviews contemporary African fiction in Books & Culture.

For more information on Reading a Different Story, click here.