As a male reading Emma’s Journal by Juli Loesch Wiley, I was somewhat uncomfortable. The book reads is if I picked up a diary of a woman who I did not know and started flipping through it. The account is a frank and open recollection of a 5 year period of the author’s life. That is, by far, the book’s biggest strength.

Juli is a vastly talented writer and it comes out in her book. She describes events and her inner struggles with wit and candor. She writes from the backdrop of the 80s as a peace activist and pro-life activist. That combination of activities when you include a serious and devout Catholic faith creates a unique life situation that comes out in the first few chapters.

The oddity that more a group or individual tends to take up social justice or peace activism, that they become less pro-life and less orthodox merits exploration (that is beyond the scope of the book). It’s rare that an individual synthesizes all those positions and you can’t help but feel the loneliness of someone who does, because they find themselves in “no one’s camp”.

The book is less a story of conversion (the author was a practicing Catholic at the time the journals begin), but a struggle of trying to live within the bounds of chastity in an environment and society that certainly isn’t built to foster that. The book retells events that seem to be familiar among other women I know, men who are out to simply bed women as if they were objects.

At points, the book does get somewhat detailed into various scenes of sexuality in the past of the author which could cause some to be a little squeamish. However, there needs to made a strong distinction between chastity and prudishness. Chastity seeks to put sexuality in its proper and sacred place; prudishness seeks suppression of any mention as if sexuality was some dirty and forbidden thing.

If the arguments for chastity are to make any inroads into society; people need to bare their souls and talk modestly about sexuality. That does not translate into an injunction against all discussion. Juli should be praised for her openness and courage in baring her soul in this way, much as Dawn Eden did in her book, Thrill of the Chaste. More books like these need to be written.

The book is an easy and enjoyable read along Juli’s 5 year journey chronicled in journals. I highly recommend it, particularly for Christian women, who are looking in frank personal testimonials in the trials and tribulations of being chaste in an unchaste country.

John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for BC Magazine and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a syndicated columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans and other children in Tanzania to get an education. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.

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