Sunday, October 09, 2011

So this is Justin Bieber!

Belieber!: Faith, Fame, and the Heart of Justin Bieber by Cathleen Falsani

Belieber! book cover"Voice of a Generation," the title of chapter 10 suggests. Even four or five years ago, there wouldn't have been a book that included verbatim twitter feeds and hashtags. Even four or five years ago, there was no Justin Bieber phenom. After all, the popular Canadian-born performer and world-class tweeter is only 17 years old! Worthy Publishing encourages readers who like the book to join Facebook and twitter conversations and offers a model tweet; all this demonstrates a bit of the way social media has become a constant and a given in most of our lives.

Cathleen Falsani currently writes for Religion News Service and is an editor for Washington, D.C. based Sojourners. Exactly like her, I'll confess I'd never consciously and intentionally listened to any of teen idol singer Justin Bieber's songs until I read this book. I needed to know what he was about, so I popped onto YouTube and checked out several songs with listenings/viewings into the many millions, figuring those must be the best-known. All of them were energetic, fresh, and pleasant, though not particularly sophisticated. The video part clearly was directed toward people in their early- to mid-teen years. Although I loved and resonated with a whole lot of the experiences Cathleen wrote about in Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace and expect to re-read it more than once, if *they* hadn't sent me a review copy of Belieber! most likely I wouldn't have considered reading it.

Cathleen's journalistic credentials literally shine through the material she presents. She conveys basics about Justin's parents and grandparents, a little about his upbringing, his first musical and spiritual experiences in a local evangelical church community, his first home-produced YouTube vids and onto Atlanta, Georgia and Scooter Braun, his manager and now caring older-brother figure discovering him. Needless to say, then ensued the young Canadian's trek toward stardom and the concerns that arise as anyone, famous or not, moves through adolescence into adulthood. To help place non-teens into the picture frame, the author nicely parallels today's Bieberites with her own experience as a young woman infatuated with Bono and the band U2. In some detail she chronicles how her own life and work likely would have been very different had she not encountered and become smitten with U2's activist, justice-oriented style of Christianity and their dedication to worlds and to peoples beyond their own Ireland.

Every chapter of this book is about Justin Bieber's spiritual and musical lives, because this young man is well-reputed to be a committed Christian and at least some of the hype surrounding him centers around the style and substance of his commitment to Jesus Christ. Due to his hectic-nonstop ultra-celebrity schedule, Cathleen was not able to meet Justin Bieber before this book was published, but she gives reasons she's pretty much convinced the young Bieber guy is personally, morally and Christianly real, genuine and authentic, is being mentored and managed well, and is surrounded by people who truly care for and about him and his future.

Sixteen pages of full-color photos in the center of the book would help entice Beliebers (as Justin's followers often are called) to buy the book; pull-quotes from Bieber fans throughout the book also add appeal and even some credibility. End matter in Belieber! includes a list of Justin's favorite charities and a list of Cathleen Falsani's, along with "what you can do suggestions" for each one. The author also provides 20 mostly God- and spirituality-related questions for possible conversations between adults (teachers, parents, pastors) and children or youth and maybe even conversation among friends of any ages. I also appreciate the inclusion of endnotes.

Belieber! on Worthy Publishing

my Amazon review: So this is Justin Bieber!

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