If I had to pinpoint a single moment, the book thing started in a coffee shop (not surprising, right?).
Cafe Lulu is one of the hippest spots I have visited–it’s a hooka bar/coffee shop/interesting wine and beer retailer with European fashion shows paying on screens behind the counter. Despite its high ceilings and large windowed storefront, Lulu is dark all the time, which totally completes the artsy vibe of the place. It is located in the heart of San Diego’s Gas Lamp District, but once you’re inside you’d think you were in some…I dunno…disgruntled French quarter. It’s basically a dream come true.
I am there with Maggi, a dear friend and classmate of mine, and we sit at one of the wooden tables by the door, waiting for our beloved professor, Tom Beaudoin, and his special guest. All of us are in town for the AAR, an annual gathering of religion scholars from across the country, and we try to guess people’s fields of expertise as they pass by the windows near us. Religion nerds have pretty much taken over the town. Again, a dream come true.
Professor Beaudoin has arranged for Maggi and I to meet with a few of his friends throughout the weekend, all young, successful, female Catholic theologians. The first is Donna Freitas. We’ve been looking forward to meeting her for quite sometime. Beaudoin has told us about her work, a fascinating mix of feminist theology, pop culture and fiction, and I’ve read her dating book, Save the Date, a refreshing and honest alternative the Christian dating books I’ve picked up in the past.
When the professors arrive we order drinks–wine and lattes–and begin to chat. Maggi and I have written out questions to ask Freitas, inquiries regarding her work with young Catholic women and sexuality (one of my academic passions) and her recent pursuit of young adult fiction writing (one of Maggi’s gifts and ambitions). We want to pick her brain so that, somehow, we might figure out how to become someone as remotely cool as she is.
But before we have a chance to cross a question off our notepads, Donna begins to ask about us: “Are you girls writing?” she asks. “Are you doing NaNoWriMo?”
“Yes, NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It’s this month! I’ve been encouraging my students to do it. I think its so important for young women your age to write…” Freitas goes on, explaining that, in her mind, the biggest, hungriest untaped market in publishing is young, Catholic women. “You see, you think you don’t have any power as an author because you are young, right?” We nod. “Because you’re a woman, and you’re Catholic, and you don’t have a PhD?” We nod again. “That’s precisely why you do have power. People your age are starving for relevant spiritual material–and you are the ones who can give it to them.”
When Maggi and I catch one another’s glance, we know we are thinking the same thing: “How does she know our fears? And what if she is right…?” I sip my latte, lick the white foam from my upper lip, and continue to listen to this inspiring prophetess before us.