Daily Archives: February 7, 2010

Struggling with my Faith

Question:

The main thing I wanted to say about Intensely Alice has to do with one of the main themes of the book: religion. My family are hardcore Christian … not to the point of being like Carrie’s mom in “Carrie” … but it’s enough to drive me crazy since I have always struggled with my faith. At the time I read Intensely Alice, however, I was giving being a Christian another go and was also reading “What I Dislike Most About Christianity.” I had been struggling with the question of “why evil” just like Alice. I wanted to recommend that book to those that read your blog, because it attempts to answer that question. The book helped me realize that we shouldn’t just ask why God allows evil, but why WE do. That really made me go, “Whoa.” I would still like to know, however, how that if God knows everything about our lives and what’s going to happen before we do why he even allowed Hitler to be born and, consequently, all those people to be killed. I realize we cannot know good without knowing bad or evil… but I do not see any good that came out of the Holocaust. I mostly just see senseless violence & racism that GOD KNEW WAS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FIRST PLACE! And it’s not even about free will, since He knows what’s going to happen. I’d get into that more, but this is already a long message. So once I had that question mostly answered, I thought I’d be okay. But I stopped going to church again because I STILL feel like a fraud, and no matter how hard I try I can never feel God or anything. On a spiritual level, the only thing I connect with is music. I wish that could be enough for my family. I’m not scared to die, and I don’t care what happens afterwards. I wish we could be more concerned about living here and NOW instead of being so concerned with eternity. I can’t even GRASP the concept of eternity… so it’s hard for me to care whether I’ll go to heaven or hell. 

My friend said something to me recently that really and truly hit home… and I’ve been waiting my whole life for someone to say it to me. I wanted to share it with your readers now, for all those that are struggling with our faith, like Alice & me …
“I won’t go into it further but the only way to describe my religious beliefs is that Gandhi quote “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your christ”..something like that right?…if I need someone, I know who I need. Otherwise —- all, live to be happy and make others happy. If you still have a space inside after taking care of yourself, your family and friends, and random acts of kindness and empathy, **then you’re never meant to fill the space.”**

 

 

Phyllis replied:

 

I understand your doubts and feel the same on many issues.  The question of good and evil is one that has troubled people of many faiths for centuries.  If God is love, one argues, and is all-powerful, how can he possibly not intervene when a deranged mother locks three young girls in a freezer, or a baby-sitter, sick of a child’s crying, throws boiling water on him?  If his eye is on the sparrow, why not the innocent women and children in Africa being slaughtered by warring tribes?   The point is that no one, ever, is going to be able to prove scientifically all of the things that religions claim to be true, and we can go on forever killing each other as infidels or sinners or heretics or we can admit that no one has all the answers,  no one has the one true faith, no one is God’s favorite, and…at the same time…we can be awed by the mystery of life, of all the things we don’t know.  Just because we can’t explain something doesn’t mean we have to fill in the gaps and make something up.  I don’t believe in “believing” in something out of fear, nor do I believe that a person cannot be a wonderful, contributing person without a religious faith.   Religion has done wonderful things–I’m not against organized religion.  But religion is also responsible for many of the evils of this world.   For myself, I do believe that each person should strive to make the world, in some small way, a better place, and though I’m not Methodist, I like John Wesley’s Code of Conduct:  “Do all the good you can, by all the Means you Can, In all the Ways you can, In all the Places you can, At all the Times you can, To all the People you can, As Long as Ever you can.”   People of any faith can live by that.

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Alice Upside Down

Question:
I meant to write you after I finished Intensely Alice but, of course, I never got around to it. I’m so bad about that stuff. But now I literally just finished watching Alice Upside Down so I figured I’d go ahead and e-mail you with my thoughts on the movie. I’ve always liked Alyson Stoner, and I think she made a delightful Alice. Also, Luke Perry as Ben & Penny Marshall as Mrs. Plotkin are a lot like I imagined the characters to look like. It was so weird to see The Melody Inn come to life! Even weirder for you, I bet. I like how the plot followed the book, for the most part. They did take some liberties, but I was glad the big things were there, like Alice at Gap and stuff. I know this is going to sound racist or being taken that way, even though I REALLY don’t mean it to be at all… but I didn’t like that they strayed from the description of Elizabeth in the books. I guess it’s all right if it’s only going to be one movie… but if they eventually did a TV show (which would work a lot better in the case of Alice) they would need to stick to the description of the characters. After all, someone pointed out on the IMDB message boards that when Elizabeth first introduces Gwen to her parents, her mom is racist (I don’t remember this, but it’s been a while since I read the whole series through). I really enjoyed the movie; it was good for what it was. But if Gossip Girl can become a TV show than Alice should too… since Lizzie McGuire there have been very few shows about normal (read: not super-rich snobs) teens… a TV series about Alice would be a very refreshing change of pace. I miss the shows of the 90s… and especially The Wonder Years, as it is my favorite TV show. These days all I see is reality television or dramas-bordering-on-soaps about rich teens/people (Gossip Girl, 90210, Melrose Place… pretty much everything on the CW). I think nowadays TV producers underestimate the power of a simple story… just because Alice doesn’t sleep with half the block doesn’t make her any less compelling. I wish TV was less drama and more real. Anyway, I digress on that subject. I would like to know your thoughts about the Alice movie… did you see it, enjoy it, did you like the performances?

 

Phyllis replied:

 

It isn’t racist to feel that an actor or actress was not right for the part, and I did not feel that Elizabeth should have been portrayed as an African-American either.  There is such a history to Liz, and her dark hair and pale skin is so much a part of her, that it’s hard to get your mind around someone completely different.  I agree, however, that if the producers had only one movie in mind, and the audience had not known the Alice books, then it would matter little.  But to base the first production on a cast of characters you can’t continue with poses real problems, and there is that wonderful character of Gwen just waiting to be played by an African-American.  ( I believe it was Pamela’s dad, not her mom, who was racist).  Still, glitches aside, I enjoyed the movie too.  I thought Alyson Stoner was great as Alice, I loved the guy who played Lester, even though he was considerably younger than the real Lester, and I cried a couple of times when Alice was talking with her Dad.

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I Hate Waiting So Long

Question:

I knew I would forget to ask this, haha… what’s the title of the next book after Alice in Charge? And why do they now come out in June instead of May?? I hate waiting so long!!

Phyllis replied:

 

The book I’m working on now is “Incredibly Alice.”  The reason an Alice book sometimes comes out in June instead of May is that I get it in too late, or my editor is overworked and it doesn’t go to the copyeditor or printer when it should.  Keeping up with this blog takes about an hour a day–many of the emails are answered personally rather than appearing on this page–and I have other writing projects, other deadlines, and just the business part of writing takes an enormous amount of time–contracts, bios, fact checking, research, letters from teachers, questions from librarians, mail from mothers–not to mention all my family stuff.

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Alice in Charge

Question:
 
 
When will we know more about Alice in charge?
 
Phyllis replied:
 
The publisher probably won’t post an excerpt until a month before publication.  Look for it next May, possibly April.

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