The Story Behind DONUT DAYS:
I grew up in a small Wisconsin town, with a fairly typical family, attending a fairly typical school. As we say in the Midwest, “It was fine, just fine, thanks.” But by the time I was a teenager, I couldn’t help but feel something was missing, that I didn’t have some of the answers I was looking for.
I hoped that falling in love for the first time would help answer some of my questions. It did, for a while. Then I got my heart chewed up and spit out, and that was the end of love for a bit. I partied for a while but that didn’t really work either. It made me sick and, worse, made me look ridiculous.
Then, when I was seventeen, I joined the church. The evangelical church, to be specific, which, in case you don’t know, is the really loud, really boisterous kind of church with really friendly people who want to tell you all about their experiences with God.
It was cool. And actually, for a while, it was really cool. I got some answers—at least for the time being. I don’t believe everything now that I believed then, but I at least found people who were willing to talk to me about stuff. What happens when we die? Is there really a god? What is the meaning of life?
It was deep stuff. But it was good. It was exactly what I needed at that time in my life.
When I graduated from Carleton College, I moved to Minneapolis and that’s when things changed. I joined a new church where I saw a completely different side of the evangelical community. Instead being focused on helping people and being kind, the church I attended was focused on money and status. Deceit and corruption were rampant. When questions were raised, the congregation was told to “have faith” and to “trust God.” All this while our donations to the church were misspent, and the pastors lied.
I stopped going to church and eventually moved away from Minneapolis to Michigan. I went to a new church for a while, but I never really became a member. I had a sour taste in my mouth that wasn’t going away. Once again, I was riddled with questions. Why did some people use the church for their own gain? Why did politics and religion seem to always go hand in hand? Was god really as dogmatic as evangelicals made god out to be?
Writing DONUT DAYS became one of the ways I tried to come to terms with what happened at that Minneapolis church. My experiences there became the inspiration for Living Word Redeemer in the novel, because I saw that corruption, deceit, and greed can infiltrate a Christian community as easily as hope and love.
I believe in God, and I believe in the church, but I wrote DONUT DAYS because I also believe that it’s okay to question absolute power, and that no pastor is infallible.
Many teens—and, I’d argue, people in general—have doubts about what they’re seeing, about what they’re being asked to believe. The process through which they figure it all out should be embraced, should be acknowledged. Instead, it’s all too often labeled as doubt, and the person doing the questioning becomes a pariah—not just in the church, but in a variety of contexts. This happens with friendships, with love, with families—all of which are themes in DONUT DAYS. The book might take place against the background of the church, but it’s about topics that are much bigger and broader than that.
I’m still looking for answers, which is a good thing. And it brings me to my last point, which is that, in general, my great hope is that DONUT DAYS encourages people to thoughtfully question what they believe, and why, about everything. Everything. And I hope it makes them crave donuts too, at least a little. Because donuts are fun and yummy and they go good with a glass of milk and a book.
Thank you for such an amazing guest post Lara! Be sure to check back tomorrow for my review of Donut Days! :)