Reviewed by Emily A. Dause
We live in a cacophony of voices at high volume, high bias, low nuance, and low sensitivity. From social media to 24-hour news networks to news aggregator websites, there is a jarring but constant flow of unchecked opinions and information. This situation can give groups and people a platform to which they had never before had access, a characteristic of today's society with incredible potential for both good and ill.
Unfortunately much of the effect of this rise has been to strengthen division. People have become increasingly convinced of what they already think and believe, less willing to hear those who think differently, and ready to defame and insult people they have never met. It makes for a tiring world to live in, especially for millennials, the first generation to have experienced this frenzy for most of their lives.
In Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, Nish Weiseth gently and wisely calls us to a different way. Instead of giving in to the pressure to pick sides and to know others only through labels and stereotypes, she encourages us to vulnerably share our own stories and invite others to share their stories with us. Forming these kinds of connections, she believes, will bring us to a place where change can happen—in us, in others, and in our world.
Weiseth divides the book into three parts: "The Problem: We're Divided," "The Solution: Story Changes Hearts," and "The Outcome: Story Changes the World." Throughout each section, she shares her own experiences living in the polarized cities of Portland, Ore., and Salt Lake City, Utah, advocating for impoverished children and their families through World Vision, and the everyday challenges and opportunities she encounters while mothering, writing, living in an urban community, and being part of a church plant. While telling her own story, she deftly weaves in others' stories, Scripture, and entries from A Deeper Story (the collaborative website she founded as a platform for Christians of all theological leanings to address difficult topics—not by stating their opinion but by telling their story).
As you read Speak, you realize it is not only a call to share and listen to story; it is also a fulfillment of that call. Weiseth does not preach, instruct, or demand; she simply tells stories. In doing so, she does more than tell us about the power story can have to reach minds and soften hearts—she also beautifully illustrates it.
Emily A. Dause (SliversofHope.com) is a public school teacher and freelance writer currently working on her first book, combining her passion for education and her passion for authentic Christian engagement with our surroundings.