We’re living in divided times—to say the absolute least—and it can be hard to see the humanity in those whose lived experiences are so different from our own. It’s blissful timing, then, that a new book, Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York by Elizabeth Passarella, not only pokes fun at our differences, but celebrates them.
In her debut memoir, Southern Living columnist Passarella writes honestly and humorously about all of the contradictions in her life. A mother of three, she’s a Southerner married to a New Yorker living on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She’s also an evangelical Christian who doesn’t vote like most evangelical Christians. (Her Tennessean parents are “disappointed because I’m a Democrat.”)
In chapters covering her political awakening (“How I Became a Democrat: Parts 1 and 2), her proper upbringing (“Southern Manners: An Identity Crisis”), the cruelties of living in New York (“There Was a Rat in My Bedroom, and Then I Got Stuck in an Elevator) and more, Passarella details the absurdity of balancing her seemingly opposed identities. Her parents' friends can’t understand how her family of five lives in a two-bedroom apartment—or why they would want to; her Upper West Side friends and neighbors are flummoxed by her devotion to Christianity; and she, as a teenager, can’t understand how sex works: “In fact,” she writes, “I thought much too late into adolescence that sex happened at night (always) and took all night, meaning if you decided to have sex, you were forgoing sleep. It was one or the other.”
Though the book can feel a little all over the place (chapters ping pong between parenting, modern-day Christianity, life in New York City, political divides and more), Passarella shines when upending stereotypes about Southerners, New Yorkers and Christians, reaching across the proverbial aisle to show that red, blue, north and south don’t have to be mortal enemies. She writes, “There may be some of you—most of you—reading this who think you can’t be both an evangelical Christian and a Democrat or be fervently in love with God and also New York City, which, by some accounts, is being destroyed (along with the state of California, of course) by liberal nutjobs. I wrote this book for you too. I wrote the book for all of you—not to get everyone on my side, although nothing would make me happier, but to give you a perspective you may not have. From someone living in both worlds.”
Will Good Apple solve America’s current and seemingly un-unifiable divide? Probably not, but it’s an important (and funny) reminder that we all contain multitudes.
And yes, we all end up disappointing our parents in one way or another.