Westmont reading series features Andrea Lucado
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Nonfiction author Andrea Lucado visited Westmont last Thursday to do a reading from her nonfiction book English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Towards Faith. After finishing her master’s and working for Thomas Nelson Publishing for five years, Lucado is now a full-time freelance writer.
In English Lessons, Lucado chronicles her journey of faith as a graduate student at Oxford Brookes University. Lucado’s extremely vulnerable and real depiction of her feelings of loneliness, doubt, and insecurity, mixed with humor and charm, portrays an inside and nostalgic look at her life abroad. In the book she invites readers into her life and writes in a way that enables them to see parts of their life in her story. As the daughter of Pastor Max Lucado and graduate of Abilene Christian University, Lucado writes of her struggle to reconcile the Christian upbringing of her childhood with the largely atheistic friend group she formed in Oxford, a place where she “became a lot smaller, and God became a lot bigger.”
Dr. Willis started the night by introducing Westmont’s own Brenna Ritchey. Ritchey read a short fiction story titled “Unraveling.” Her story narrated the inner turmoil of a man dealing with the pain of his wife leaving him even as he finds out that another loved one in his life is leaving her husband.
Lucado opened by reading a blog post she had written years ago following a flood in her home in Nashville. Senior Lydia Grenko remarked: “One thing I really enjoyed was that she seemed like a very gracious speaker; I appreciated that she addressed the stuff that’s been going on recently, but didn’t act like she knew exactly what we were going through. She simply tried to connect to us.”
Lucado then read from two chapters of English Lessons. Her first chapter deals with the field cricket infestation that Texas receives in late summer. The revolting description of the millions of crickets at Abilene Christian was made humorous by both the passage in the book and Lucado’s facial expressions as she read. At the end of the night, she shared with us that when the classroom described was later demolished, they opened a never-used closet and found dead crickets several feet deep inside!
In a book full of beautiful metaphors and symbols, Lucado found that the field crickets were a less appealing picture of her life as a growing young adult. Crickets molt their skins nine times before they die, and she wrote that she felt she changed and grew through undergrad and graduate school.
The front light metaphor was also an important one during Lucado’s life at Oxford. She read how in Oxford, it is important to have detachable lights for bicycles because though they are required by law, they are often stolen and need to be taken inside so no one can take them. When she forgot and someone took a battery, her good friend Jisu offered to ride his bike in front of her to light the path.
Much of this passage deals with the doubt Lucado was feeling. She once heard a pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, say that in times of doubt “You can take a break now. Let someone else on the pew be strong for you.” Lucado took that idea, and leaned on Jisu’s faith in Oxford to get her through. She later shared with us that part of the difficulty in writing about her past was that she is no longer in that place of doubt, and does not always remember what it felt like.
After the reading, Lucado signed books and talked with the students and professors. Senior Ilana Baer stated “I am grateful that we have literary events like these that feature prominent authors and aspiring authors like Brenna, and these events also bring together not just the Westmont community but also the broader area.” English Lessons is available for purchase from the Westmont Bookstore.