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Higher Ground

A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost

Carolyn S. Briggs

A riveting memoir of one woman's immersion into fundamentalist faith, and her decision twenty years later to leave it all behind. Beautifully written and powerfully told, this memoir is a fascinating look at the nature of faith, and the inspiring story of one woman's struggle to find her place in the world. Originally published as This Dark World, this book has been adapted into the screenplay Higher Ground, now a film directed by and starring Vera Farmiga.

Carolyn Briggs grew up with modest means in the Iowa Heartland. Pregnant at seventeen and married to her musician boyfriend, by the age of eighteen she found herself with little hope for the future. Until an unexpected encounter with the Divine.

Soon she had immersed herself into a close-knit and patriarchal New Testament church. But as Carolyn began to realize that her religion left little room for what she wanted out of life-as a mother, as a wife, as an intellectually curious woman-cracks began to appear in her all-encompassing sense of faith, and slowly she began to question the religion that had given her hope.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 320Size: 5 3/4 x 8 3/4
978-1-4422-1438-5 • Paperback • August 2011 • $16.95 • (£10.95)
978-1-4422-1439-2 • eBook • September 2011 • $14.99 • (£9.95)
Carolyn S. Briggs is associate professor of English at Marshalltown Community College in Marshalltown, Iowa. She adapted her memoir into the screenplay Higher Ground.
Christian fundamentalism has always been an obliging source of cultural caricature. Believers in the literal truth of the Christian Scriptures strike many a secular modern as delusional, censorious and often dangerously undemocratic souls—whether they're the querulous anti-intellectual yahoos of 'Inherit the Wind' or the home audiences who throng to the televisual gospel of 'The 700 Club.'… Carolyn Briggs's straightforward, vividly written and moving account of her adult life as a fundamentalist convert goes a long way toward dislodging such stereotypes.
The Instrumentalist

Sincere and humble. An archetype of the female story in which there is an awakening, usually in a woman's late 30s or 40s, when she realizes she is trapped in a script that was written by someone else.
San Francisco Chronicle

What makes This Dark World an exceptional book is that as clear-eyed as Briggs is about her experience (she was a deeply religious Christian for more than 20 years), she also fully understands the ways in which her religion benefited and enriched her. Anyone can reject true believers as mindless Bible thumpers, but Briggs never takes that route; her hard-earned sophistication about spiritual matters isn't hollow.

So what do you do with yourself when you've dedicated your life to Jesus at 18, and then, 20 years later, find that a life dedicated to the Lord is not all it's cracked up to be? That's the question Carolyn Briggs attempts to answer in her elegant memoir, This Dark World. It is a rare portrait from the vantage point of the believer, and Briggs unflinchingly documents her faith—in its first bloom, when she finds God—and then her growing disillusionment.
Los Angeles Times

Briggs's memoir is a riveting page-turner that rings emotionally true, as well as a brave contribution to a growing literature that tells the extraordinary stories of supposedly ordinary women.
Publishers Weekly