Finding Light in a Dark World

Heather Gordon-Young

Jul/2015, 232 Pages, PAPER, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9780819232007



• Powerful, engrossing, and beautifully written spiritual memoir of pain and hope
• Challenges the church to deal with and support those struggling with mental illness and their families

Fireflies recounts the writer’s quest to find light to ease the darkness and suffering she encounters in the world as her beloved older brother is enveloped by mental illness. Her journey for answers takes her from small-town British Columbia to Zimbabwe and exposes her to spiritual and religious settings from 12-step programs to fundamentalism, from Anglicanism to African evangelicalism. She presents her experiences without judgment, and her story reflects where religion helps and where it fails to help find meaning in the midst of life’s most painful challenges.

Read the first chapter here.

A Canadian and an Anglican, blogger and speaker Heather Gordon-Young writes from her lived experience of illness, loss and spiritual recovery. With an MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles and a Graduate Diploma in Christian Studies from Regent College, Vancouver, Canada, she now is the Executive Director of a non-profit that supports vulnerable children and families, often with mental health and addiction issues.

Wow! A beautifully written memoir, overflowing with the love and sorrow that binds a sister and brother together forever.
— The Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, author, spiritual director, and head of The Geranium Farm

Heather Gordon-Young is a powerful storyteller. She draws us into her own experience of searching for answers when confronted with immense pain and suffering. Her powerful story teaches us about the lessons of the dead-ends, false starts, and humbling defeats that lead us with grace towards purpose, meaning, and hope. A beautiful book and a heart-wrenching story that points us to the central calling of all faith, which is to love one another well.
— Becca Stevens, Thistle Farms and Magdalene 

Gordon-Young shows us, with a soul-searching fierceness, how facing mental illness in her own family ultimately brought healing for her and changed her and her faith forever. The stigma of mental illness makes it that much harder to seek help. My hope is that this book, written in a style similar to that of Anne Lamott, will help all families and faith communities talk more openly about mental health issues.
— The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, founder, Living Compass Faith & Wellness Ministry 

There aren’t many books that lift your spirit at the same time they are breaking your heart, but that’s just what Heather Gordon-Young accomplishes in her book, Fireflies. Her lyrical prose makes almost bearable the story of all-too-human suffering she encounters as she searches for Divine deliverance. What she discovers—and this is what makes Fireflies essential and unforgettable—is that it is in the very muck of human suffering and imperfection that the greatest transcendence can be found.
—Terry Wolverton, author of Stealing Angel

Heather Gordon-Young’s Fireflies is a young woman’s unflinchingly honest struggle to hold onto faith amid shadows and darkness. This narrative eschews easy ideas of what it means to be on a spiritual journey. Rather, Gordon-Young takes readers into the dark night of the soul, on an expedition of searching and stumbling and shouting. In doing so, she unearths a kind of illumination that is both tangible and fleeting, one that, while adding light to the scene, never attempts to deny the intensity of nightfall.
—Bernadette Murphy, author of the bestselling Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity, among others. Look, Lean, Roll: A Woman, A Motorcycle, and Plunging into Risk, forthcoming Spring 2016 

Candid and compelling, Heather’s memoir is both spiritually insightful and stunningly written. Through the  persistent darkness that gripped her family, she continued to find the “light in a dark world,” the shining evidence of how God breaks through our hurt and doubt to deliver his perfect love and mercy. Heather’s Firefiles is a burst of light into the dark room of our imperfect hearts; a compelling, tender account on mining for stones of hope in the depths of our past.
—Heather Luby, author of Laws of Motion, co-host of Firsts in Fiction

Heather Gordon-Young is a provocative narrator. Reminiscent of Anne Lamott, her nuanced voyage between sacred and secular culminates in her attempt to understand her brother’s mental illness in Fireflies: Finding Light in a Dark World. Her crisp vocabulary as she upholds a “ministry of presence” for Jimmy, Charlie, Wendell, her father, and others peels back the layers of the underbelly of identity. Like the primordial core of the tree, Heather searches continents and finds an abiding understanding of hope, healing, and humility within the family. Fireflies’ unique and timely commentary should become required reading in disciplines such as religious studies, sociology, and public health.
—Susanne Green, PhD 

In Fireflies: Finding Light in a Dark World, Heather Gordon-Young has given us a beautifully written and unflinching work of faith, loss, and redemption. A luminous work of great clarity and courage. —Andrew Todhunter, author of A Meal Observed

A powerful, inspirational read, this is a book about faith and family that eschews easy sentimentality for raw, immersive honesty. The account of one young woman’s struggles to understand and help her brother who is battling a mental illness that has not been diagnosed is a necessary look at a broken mental health system. Told with lyrical language and a compelling storytelling style, Fireflies will grab you from the first pages and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
—Erica Moody, editor, The Citron Review 

Fireflies depicts a rich coming of age in faith. Gordon-Young’s quest for compassion, for “a better to way to be a human being” is rife with admirable tenderness and pluck. Here is a companion to, and from, the deep home place—and the lighted presence of those loved, divided, and divided in themselves.
—Donald Morrill, author of The Untouched Minutes and Awaiting Your Impossibilities 

Prepare to read this book with your mouth open, shaking your head at Heather Gordon-Young’s audacious,  ever-questioning faith. When I finished her moving last chapter, I had no choice but to see my own faith and ability to love in a different light. Come boldly, indeed.
—LeVan D. Hawkins, author, poet, performer 

With rich, almost poetic language, Heather Gordon-Young bravely and sensitively shares both ordinary and painful experiences and mystifying holy moments, experiences that cannot be explained with logic, only with the heart. When confronted with a stranger instead of the person you know, witnessing a loved one in the midst of a psychotic episode can be a horrifying experience, but stories like Heather’s must be told if we are to know the pain of serious mental illness and work for more compassionate churches and institutions.
—The Rev. Mary Janet “Bean” Murray

To be able to give a testimony, one has to have had a test. Fireflies by Heather Gordon-Young is an amazing example of such raw, heartfelt testimony of mental illness within a family. She unearths the dire need for the Church to be a hospital for the soul. So many souls have been lost, exposing a rift between the medical, spiritual, and religious fields of healing. Heather uses a paintbrush to express her words, filling the canvas with the raw expression of the dichotomy between spirituality and religiosity. It is clear that the command from Jesus to “preach the kingdom and heal the sick” (Luke 9:2) has, for the most part, been ignored today. Heather’s search for healing and a cure within the Church offers a faint glimmer of hope. I urge you therefore to observe this “painting” through Heather’s eyes as she battles the darkness of dis-ease within her own family and within the family of the Church. Read Fireflies and weep—better yet, reap the wisdom held within these pages.
—The Rev. Nigel W. D. Mumford, By His Wounds Ministry, author of Hand to Hand: From Combat to Healing, The Forgotten Touch: More Stories of Healing, and After the Trauma, the Battle Begins: Post Trauma Healing

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  • memoir
  • mental illness
  • depression
  • hope
  • travel
  • healing

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