When We Were On Fire

when we were on fire: a memoir of consuming faith, tangled love and starting overNamed one of 101 Best Books of 2013 by Publisher’s Weekly — one of only five in the “Religion” Category — When We Were on Fire is a relatable, poignant account of redefining the faith of one’s youth.

The starred reviewed goes on to say: “With its luminous prose, Zierman’s memoir reads like a novel, threaded with imperfect faith, doubt, deep searching, love and friendship and loss and depression. The slice of young adult life Zierman offers has a universal taste. This memoir is reminiscent of some of the best in the genre, including Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God. […] She is a writer to watch and this is a book to savor to the very last page.”

Read the Prologue and First Chapter HERE.

Available online and at your local bookstore:

Add it to your shelves on Goodreads here!


In the strange, us-versus-them world of the 90’s Christian subculture, your faith was measured by how many WWJD bracelets you wore and whether or not you’d “kissed dating goodbye.”

Evangelical poster-child, Addie Zierman wore three WWJD bracelets, led two Bible studies and listened exclusively to Christian rock. She was “on fire for God,” unaware that the flame of her faith was dwindling until it burned entirely out.

With candor and transparency, Addie chronicles her journey through church culture, first love, and her entrance—unprepared and angry—into marriage. When she washes out of church and nearly her marriage on a sea of tequila and Depression, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever go back.

When We Were on Fire is a funny, heartbreaking story of untangling oneself from cliché in search of a faith worth embracing. It’s a story for anyone who has ever felt alone in a crowded church. For the cynic. The doubter. The former Jesus Freak struggling with the complexity of life.

It’s a story about the slow work of returning to love, Jesus, and (perhaps toughest of all) his imperfect followers. And, in the end, it’s about what lasts when nothing else seems worth keeping.

Note: Before you buy this book, read this post. Why My Christian Memoir Has R-Rated Words

Praise for When We Were On Fire

“When We Were on Fire is a true work of art..it’s big, wide, deep and true. Addie is a poet.”
GLENNON DOYLE MELTON, author of Carry On, Warrior and Blogger at Momastery

“Addie Zierman is a master storyteller whose sharp wit is matched only by her disarming sincerity. ‘When We Were on Fire’ introduces her as one of this generation’s most promising new voices. Prepare to laugh out loud and nod along as this book delights, challenges, tickles, and inspires. For those of us working to reconcile the faith of our youth with the faith of our adulthood, it’s such a joy to have a friend like Addie along for the journey.”

— RACHEL HELD EVANS, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood

“Reading When We Were On Fire was like reading my own story. It’s an insightful, unflinching look at growing up evangelical. Addie recounts her misplaced zeal and resulting crisis of faith with humor and poignancy . . . ultimately discovering that a relationship with God is less about following Christian culture norms and more about following Him.”
— KRISTEN HOWERTON, author of Rage Against the Minivan Blog and Managing Editor of ShePosts

“I think Addie speaks for an evangelical generation who came of age in the American teen ghetto of youth group short-term mission trips and longings for revival, contemporary Christian music and WWJD? Pathos. Her journey through the disillusionments and then her rebellion against the false boundary-markers and empty language of an “on fire” faith culminates in her ongoing journey of hope and redemption. There is a wise sadness to her words, a depth that disarms. Addie is a beautiful writer but she’s also bold and honest as she tends the wounds of consumer evangelicalism on her old self, and then bravely gathers up all these disparate pieces of the painful and lovely obsessive faith of her past with new grace and gentle strength to move forward.”
— SARAH BESSEY, author of Jesus Feminist

“Fire provides light and warmth, or it can bring pain and destruction. Addie tells us a story in which her fiery faith sparked both outcomes and how she’s worked to contain those flames. She walks the reader through this process with such grace, humor, and utter transparency that I couldn’t help but see my own faith journey in hers. A refreshing, hopeful book from an expert storyteller.”
— JASON BOYETT, author of O Me of Little Faith

“Addie Zierman is a poet with a lion’s heart. When We Were on Fire is a memoir of such sophisticated and witty grace, it reads as the laughing prayer of a vagabond saint. Zierman’s words take root in you, grow slow, and push outward into a ring of endless light. Would that in my own days of fire, youth groups and See You at the Pole rallies, I had been given this book with the single word: ‘Hope.’”
— PRESTON YANCEY, author, seeprestonblog.com

“Addie Zierman’s unflinching candor and tender vulnerability make When We Were on Fire a must-read memoir. Addie walks through fire and still comes through shining with hope.”
— ELIZABETH ESTHER, author of Girl at the End of the World

“The best kind of memoir is one that is so deeply personal that it tells a universal story. In Addie’s memoir you will find funny, messy, cringeworthy, and beautiful moments that cut close to home, those experiences that we would like to relegate to youth but that in truth lurk not far beneath the surface of every phase of life. If you are weary of sanitized and tee-totaling stories, and are hungry for honest and redemptive stories, then this is your story. ”
— ADAM S. MCHUGH, author Introverts in the Church

“For all of us who found our way while seeped in evangelical culture, Addie has written us a love letter.  Hilarious and heartfelt, passionate and poetic, her take on growing up evangelical reveals a classic coming of age story with an evangelical twist.  Through clean and messy faith, confusion, love lost and gained she reflects deeply on each experience with enough humility and humor to keep you page turning through this easy and beautiful read. You will love When We Were on Fire from beginning to end, as did I.”
— GRACE BISKIE, author of Converge Bible Studies: Kingdom Building and Contributing Author of Talking Taboo:  American Christian Women Get Frank about Faith.  Writer for A DeeperStory.com, Prodigal & Prism Magazine.

“It’s rare that a storyteller comes along with the ability to address important issues of life and faith with strength and profound openness. Addie Zierman is that kind of storyteller, and she does just that with her debut book When We Were on Fire. With a keen grasp on the intricacies and absurdities of Christian subculture, Addie bravely tells her story of a real, honest, and vulnerable faith that will resonate with readers of all ages. When We Were on Fire is a true pleasure to read.”
NISH WEISETH, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, and editor-in-chief at DeeperStory.com

80 thoughts on “When We Were On Fire

  1. Addie – I love this! Love the already wonderful reviews and can think of so many – including my kids and their friends – who have walked this journey that you’ve been able to articulate on paper. Thanks ahead of time for this gift.

  2. I feel like we were in youth group together in the 90’s….and we survived!! So excited about your book, about following your writing, and being encouraged in following Jesus, sans the twisted religiousness of the past. Girl, I just love this. What a great season of amazing women writers, rising up and telling their stories – stirring up and stoking our faith, thank you!

  3. This is so exciting! Congratulations. When I get my copy, I’ll have to come over and get you to sign it.

  4. I can’t wait to read the book! I hope it’ll be available in Singapore or I would somehow be able to grab a copy!! 🙂

    1. Singapore! That’s amazing. I don’t know, but I’ll find out from the publisher. I know that it releases in London October 28. Other than that, I’m not sure!

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  6. Addie,

    I just discovered your blog a couple days ago… and so about 6 and 1/2 hours ago I ordered this book on my kindle. I read it in one sitting. No joke. I read it and kept thinking “This woman GETS me!” Though our journeys were not exactly the same, I definitely felt related to yours and had many memories pop into my head that were similar to yours. We are apparently the same age, and much of the struggles and viewpoints you described run parallel with my timeline… Thank you so much for writing this book… “5 Stars” – I am recommending it to all my friends.

  7. Hi Addie,

    Your book was recommended to me by a woman I’ve known most of my life in a peculiar context. She ignored me in middle school, tormented me in junior high, tolerated me in high school, then somewhere in college connected with me on a superficial level. On Facebook, we somehow became friends. For the last two days, we’ve read and cried through your book together, unable to put it down, and next week, we’re meeting up to have a heart to heart about it. I cannot recall ever reading anything that moved me on such a profound level. Best book I’ve read in years.



    1. I love this so much — that some how to book could play a role in redemption of that hard relationship. thank you so much for sharing this with me Linda. It means a lot.

  8. I’m probably 20 years older than you, but your book has put words to my own ‘church’ struggles over the past couple of years. You captured the lonliness, longing, depression, aching for the genuine and that irresistible light that has always drawn me forward. My daughters are about your age and I raised them much as you were raised….Awanas, missions, prayer, etc. That journey has played out in different ways in their lives and your voice has given me new insight and understanding to their reactions, choices and wanderings. I pray I can come away with a gentler compassion and mercy for myself, my daughters, and others along the way. Thank you so very much for this book.

    1. This comment meant so much to me. Thank you so much. This is exactly what I would dream for the book, and I’m so glad that you found something there for you and your family. Thank you so much for commenting here.

    2. ” I pray I can come away with a gentler compassion and mercy for myself, my daughters, and others along the way.” Your prayer echoes mine. You expressed it beautifully. Thank you. I so identified with this book that, after almost finishing it at midnight last night, I found it hard to sleep. Addie’s story was my story, almost point for point. Thank you, Addie, for telling your truth.

  9. I want to say thank you. Thank you for articulating through words my own experience with the dark that is depression. I have bought several copies of your book to give members of my church family who have said they feel helpless when I am at my lowest. I am unable to put into words how and where I am at but you have done this beautifully. I have cried, laughed and margherita’d along side you. Thank you thank you thank you.

  10. Addie thank you for your brave, honest, and transparent memoir. I grew up in the same era you did and your story echoes mine in so many ways. I’m relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who suffered in our 90s youth culture. I cried and laughed in your book and loved your honesty! I will be passing on your book to other friends of mine. I know you are going to do a great job raising your children to live an authentic faith filled with grace. Well done girl!!

  11. i love this book. i was angry, i was sad, then i cried. i knew i could trust you when you started dropping f’ bombs. thank you, thank you, thank you for putting your story into words. i also lost myself -in a frighteningly similar way- and finally finding redemption as i’m about to turn 40. now i will be the one who begins to pray to God through my paintbrush as i finish raising my 3 boys…

  12. Before I pass, please finish the book!
    Larry (with 4 grandchildren, so I love looking at images of your tiny tots, but I am 65 and moving on, but am willing to wait for at least one more of your brilliant writings)

  13. I just have to say how this book spoke to me. I come from a similar journey in my faith at the same time (Columbine was my junior year). The high school youth group –> Christian college –> disillusionment and distance from the church progression is the path I’ve taken as well, including the foray into depression in my 20s. In many ways I have felt alone, as most of my good friends have not been through most this. I am still looking for my way back to the church community, but after reading your memoir I feel like there is hope for reconciliation one day. Thank you for sharing your story with the world – I wish I had found it sooner.

  14. Just heard of you and the book yesterday, just a cursory glance is enough for me to know where you’re coming from, been there done that, have a dresser full of the t-shirts! One of the reasons I’ve reverted to the Catholic Church, I think Atomic Opera nailed that sub-culture w/this song!

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  17. ” I pray I can come away with a gentler compassion and mercy for myself, my daughters, and others along the way.” Your prayer echoes mine. You expressed it beautifully. Thank you. I so identified with this book that, after almost finishing it at midnight last night, I found it hard to sleep. Addie’s story was my story, almost point for point. Thank you, Addie, for telling your truth.

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