Still on Fire: Field Notes from a Queer Mystic
Unity Books (2021)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (03/2022)
“Still on Fire: Field Notes from a Queer Mystic,” Jan Phillips, is a powerful and moving account of how one woman came to terms with her sexuality. The Catholic church rejected her at age 18 because she was a lesbian, and this set her on a course to define and accept who she was.
Brought up in traditional norms and expectations, Phillips was suicidal at the age of twelve because she was the definition of what everyone around her hated: Gay. She tried to reconcile who she was with what society told her she should be, and she was psychologically scarred because of it. She felt attacked and abandoned from all sides and didn’t know if acceptance or healing was even possible. She felt judged and misunderstood. She wanted forgiveness and understanding and sought peace in a world of hate. She became an activist and launched herself on a global trek to bring awareness to women like her, who faced ostracization, psychological damage, and religious rejection.
Livingkindness is the foundation she started to help young Nigerian students. Her inward and outward journeys taught her many things about herself, her faith, and the world. She came to believe that spirituality had to include compassion for all and had to include justice and proper action for those who suffer. She boldly proclaims that her spiritualty is her action for justice.
But don’t think that Phillips’s story is one of “woe is me”. Yes, she had a dark and bumpy start in life, but her story is one of caring and kindness, and some laughs here and there. The thing I like about this book is the author’s versatile approach. You’ll find songs, poetry, images, and prose, all wrapped up in her sometimes painful, but always compelling life story.
This well-published author isn’t kidding when she says action is what she’s all about. She heads workshops across America and Canada and uses her creative nature to teach and stay at-one with herself. As an artist, teacher, and leader, she has touched many lives in many countries. But she is highly relatable when she tells of her early years and the struggles she endured just to be the real person she was. And because she could finally be true to herself, she inspires others to find authenticity, and examine their beliefs.
Her warm, inviting style will evoke emotion and maybe even a clearer understanding of the trials people go through in their corner of the world. What’s more, she inspires all of us to wonder what we can do to help others and make a difference in someone’s life. This book may help you examine your gifts and talents, and how you can use them to bring more kindness and positive change. Even if readers don’t agree with everything the author discusses, they can definitely find meaning and connection if they approach with an open mind. If you appreciate memoirs with a strong, life-changing message, don’t miss “Still on Fire: Field Notes from a Queer Mystic,” by Jan Phillips.