Unity Books is thrilled to learn that Still on Fire: Field Notes from a Queer Mystic by Jan Phillips has been named a silver winner of a 2022 Nautilus Book Award. Recognized in the area of personal growth and self-help, the book was named a silver winner in the self-published and small press category. The Nautilus Book Awards are dedicated to recognizing better books for a better world, including those that promote conscious living, high-level wellness, spiritual growth, and positive social change.
Phillips, a devoted Catholic who wanted nothing more than to be a nun, joyously entered the convent at the age of 18 but was dismissed two years later for being gay. Still on Fire is the story of her life—told with humor and compassion, and including her own poetry, songs, and photos along the way. It is a memoir of religious wounding and spiritual healing, of judgment and forgiveness, and of social activism in our world.
“It’s about going from being a seeker to becoming a finder,” Phillips said.
After leaving the church, Phillips traveled the globe on a one-woman peace pilgrimage, raised the consciousness of women, and faced her privilege on a trip to India. To this day, the author, artist, and activist continues working to evoke nondualistic original thinking, to help others access their wisdom and activate their creative energy, and to dismantle structural racism. Since she cofounded the Livingkindness Foundation in 2011, it has supported schoolchildren in Nigeria and promoted art and activism in marginalized communities. Still on Fire was published by Unity Books in 2021.
“Still on Fire is a moving memoir and a true inspiration for readers. We’re delighted that it has gotten the recognition it deserves with this Nautilus Award,” said Rev. Ellen Debenport, vice president of publishing for Unity World Headquarters.
Still on Fire: Field Notes from a Queer Mystic is available for purchase online at unity.org/stillonfire.
About the Author
Jan Phillips facilitates workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada, using her music, videos, and poetry to keep the heart and brain connected. She has been a writer and photographer since the mid-1970s, and her work has been published in The New York Times, People, The Christian Science Monitor, Ms. magazine, Parade magazine, Utne Reader, The Sun magazine, and National Catholic Reporter.
Phillips is the author of 10 other books, including No Ordinary Time and There Are Burning Bushes Everywhere.
Still on Fire is a moving memoir and a true inspiration for readers. We’re delighted that it has gotten the recognition it deserves.
Why I’m Grateful to Be Gay, an Excerpt from Still on Fire
My self-system was under attack from every direction—church, society, peers, parents. I did know it wasn’t safe to be [gay], but luckily, I can say now and I do, frequently in my prayers, that I’m grateful for being gay, and for more reasons than one.
Had I not been born gay, predisposed to being an outcast, I could not have felt its burden, would not have felt the empathy for others enduring similar kinds of judgment that I now feel in the company of those who are discriminated against.
Had I not been born gay, I would not have developed skills in transcending self-hatred or hatred from others. I would not have had to work on loving myself, enter the dark forest of despair, feel my way into a self-love that is extravagant, overflowing, that can be felt by others.
Had I not been born gay, I would not have learned to advocate for change, speak out for justice. I might not have become a social activist, might not understand the workings of other ideologies besides homophobia—racism, sexism, capitalism, patriarchy—and see how they rely on each other for their own self-preservation.
I might never have learned to think originally if it hadn’t been a requirement of my own survival to banish ideas of anyone’s infallibility, any church’s authority over my life, so I could proclaim my own sanctity on my own terms.
Had I not been born gay, I might have missed the signs to the path of the heart, following the masses unwittingly into consumerism and consumption; had I not been at the deathbeds of brothers with AIDS, witnessed the violence against gays in more countries than my own, watched the transition process in a cousin’s transgender partner, been sent home from the convent because of my queerness, then my heart would not have broken in half, would not have opened itself to Love Supreme, would not have been tenderized by life’s bitter pounding.
I would not have understood disempowered, debilitated, dismissed in the ways that I do, through the pores of my flesh, the chambers of my heart, the elegant cells of my cerebral cortex. Life wouldn’t have washed over me like a tsunami, and I might not know the feeling for the word survivor as I know it now.
Read “We Are the Help,” another excerpt from Still on Fire.