Review: Her Story, Her Strength by Sarah Parker Rubio

Her Story, Her Strength by Sarah Parker Rubio shows cartoon illustrations of women from the Bible in a three by three grid.

Her Story, Her Strength
Sarah Parker Rubio
Published March 7, 2023

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About Her Story, Her Strength

Girls are beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image. This comprehensive collection of stories focused on 50 women of the Bible shows how God worked in their lives and continues to have a plan and a purpose for his beloved daughters today.

In a world that too often tells girls that they are not enough, HER STORY, HER STRENGTH uses biblical retellings and reflections that include the historical context behind each story to remind young women that they have a God who loves them deeply and empowers them to live and love like he does. For any girl ages 8 and up who is asking questions about her worth, identity, and place in the world and church, this colorful and engaging book provides a positive, loving, and scriptural lens that helps them interpret the messages they receive from their peers, media, and society.

Girls who read HER STORY, HER STRENGTH will:

  • come to a profound, unshakable understanding of God’s love for them and their value in his eyes.
  • see how they reflect God’s image both innately and through the actions, words, and attitudes they choose each day.
  • learn about biblical characters and events in a way designed specifically for them.
Her Story, Her Strength on Goodreads

My Review

I have some feelings about this book. Let me start by saying that I love the idea of a book filled with the biographies of women from the Bible. I think that’s a really cool idea. Celebrating the lives of women mentioned in the Bible and talking about God valuing women sound like great goals for a book for young readers.

I also love that there’s a cartoon illustration of each of the women or characters profiled in the book. Those show brown-skinned women, and the author comments on this in her biography of Mary. The author points out that artists often depict Mary, Jesus’ mother, with fair skin and blue eyes when she would have looked like someone from the Middle East. I love that the author commented on this.

Was including 50 women’s stories too ambitious?

The book profiles 50 women (including four stories from writings in which a woman is depicted as part of the story rather than being a person who was born and lived). 50 is a pretty ambitious number.

The book includes all the stories I was familiar with as women heroes of the Bible: Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Elizabeth, Mary, etc. And it included some stories that I didn’t remember. One that stood out to me were Shallum’s daughters, who helped him rebuild his section of the wall that would protect the city of Jerusalem even though that was considered the duty of a father and his sons.

The book also included some choices that I thought were odd, like Wisdom, the Woman of Virtue, and the Bride from Song of Songs. Those are not actual women, but are virtues personified as women.

I found myself wishing that instead of 50 stories, the author had chosen a smaller number of stories and focused specifically on the “positive, loving” ways it shows their value in God’s eyes.

Instead, the book feels muddied by the inclusion of stories in which the author has filled in assumptions about the woman’s character or motives that aren’t included in the Bible. There are also stories in which women are treated in harmful, immoral ways and the author doesn’t comment on how God views this treatment.

Assumptions and Lack of Comment on Immoral Treatment of Women

HER STORY, HER STRENGTH also tells the story of Naaman’s servant, a young woman who the book identifies as having been carried off into captivity as one of the “spoils of war”. The general who captured her falls ill, and she suggests he visit a prophet to ask for healing. The virtue identified in the story is her great forgiveness for the captors who enslaved her. That’s quite a lesson to pull from this story. Also, the Bible is not clear about her motivation. It felt like a big leap to assume she spoke up because she forgave her captors and then frame a whole lesson around that idea.

Several stories mention the practice in those days where a woman would “give” her servant over to her husband to impregnate her. If the servant had a child this way, the child belonged to the people who enslaved her. That’s stated pretty matter-of-factly and without any judgment passed on the inhumanity and immorality of that practice. Seems a weird choice for a book with a goal of teaching women their value in God’s eyes.

Conclusion for My Review of Her Story, Her Strength

I really enjoyed some of the stories in the book, especially the stories of Deborah and Rahab in addition to Shallum’s daughters, which I mentioned above.

Telling fewer stories would’ve allowed the author to emphasize stories that best teach spiritual lessons on women’s value. Some of the problematic stories could be left for discussion with an older audience, where it would be easier/more appropriate to address those issues. I would have liked to see more in-depth stories of women like Esther and Miriam, too. I’d love to see something for kids that went into more depth on biographies like those.

Her Story, Her Strength on Bookshop

Content Notes for Her Story, Her Strength

Mentions of murder, torture, and sexual assault.

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Most of the women profiled in the book are Middle Eastern, and the cartoon illustrations show brown-skinned women. Many of the women represented in the book are also Jewish.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Vague references to sex. This isn’t identified as rape in the book, but it is. Many characters become pregnant in their stories. The book identifies Rahab as a prostitute.

See violent content for note on sexual assault.

Spiritual Content
These are stories from the Bible. A section called “Her God” encourages readers to reflect on spiritual principles and ideas raised through the narrative biography.

Violent Content
In the story of Jael, she murders a general with a tent stake and hammer. The story doesn’t overtly describe this, but we see her contemplate killing him. She picks up those weapons before the narrative jumps to after the man’s death.

There are also several stories which reference a woman “giving” her servant to her husband with the intention that he will have sex with her (the servant has no say in this arrangement) and hopefully get her pregnant. Nowhere does the book challenge this practice as immoral, cruel, or evil, not to mention that it’s rape.

One story describes a group of women who watched as Jesus was tortured and executed via being crucified.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of HER STORY, HER STRENGTH in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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