Andrea Boucher wins Beacon Street Prize

Nonfiction candidate Andrea Boucher won the Redivider 2017 Beacon Street Prize in Nonfiction, judged by Ned Stuckey-French. “I Plead the Blood” focuses on the adolescent aftermath of growing up in a faith-healing cult.

Judge’s comments:

“This essay is brave and important. It tells the story of growing up in a fundamentalist church – a cult really – and the narrator’s first, hard-won, tentative steps away from the ‘endless lists of forbidden activities [that] restricted our lives to a pinpoint of experience.’ The narrative is gripping and immediate, but rendered with a smart, self-deprecating retrospection: ‘I’d learned that the only way to get through it was to split into two selves: public self, the devout one who played the tambourine for all the songs, and private self, the sweaty hysteric who knew she was faking it.’

And there is humor too. When asked, nay forced, to speak in tongues she falls back on some nursery rhyme, Saturday morning cartoon gibberish she knows is fake: ‘Bananarama-schlonken-lonken. Bananarama-bo-blonken-lonken.’ At one point she tells us, ‘My sisters and I preferred crocheted doilies as our head covering, but in a pinch, we’d use a baby’s burp cloth or a tissue.’ Burp cloth! Elsewhere, forced to wash the feet of fellow parishioners, all she can think of is how their ‘[t]hick, yellowed toenails curled up at the ends and reminded me of Fritos.’

I admire ‘I Plead the Blood’ and its author very much.”