Why books matter: Power to corrupt or inspire

Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun and author of “A Martyr’s Crown.”

I can remember begging my father for extra reading time when I was growing up. “Please? Just one more chapter?” Dad was pretty strict about bedtime but could never refuse such a request. Really, what parent could?

I admit it: I’ve always loved to read. There’s nothing I enjoy more than being curled up with a good book in the company of my husband and children who are similarly engaged.

So you might imagine how I felt during a self-imposed fast from book-reading that stretched from April through October of this year. During that same period, I did not go to the gym. I did not visit my friends. I did not plant flowers in our garden. And, it must be admitted, I did not clean our house. (Thanks be to God for our teenagers who did.)

Instead, I spent countless hours engaged in writing my first novel, “A Martyr’s Crown.” It wasn’t easy. There were times when the only quiet spot in the house was the laundry room.

I have no hope of becoming a millionaire from my debut as an author. J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown can rest assured I will not displace them. Instead, my vision is to tell an exciting story about an amazingly resilient group of people who until now are largely invisible, and to tell it all through the lens of faith.

Memorable fiction

What I’ve noticed over 10 years of writing for The Catholic Sun is this: people tend to remember information when they connect with it emotionally. They seem to forget everything else.

That’s why it’s so important for Catholics to be engaged in writing books that touch people’s hearts and subtly draw them closer to God. This is no small task in an era in which the semi-pornographic “Fifty Shades of Gray” has sold more than 30 million copies.

There are men and women all over the world who long for a good read that doesn’t disrespect their Christian values. Our Evangelical brothers and sisters have done an excellent job in this area. Walk into any Barnes and Noble and you’ll see they have an entire section devoted to inspirational and Christian books.

“A Martyr’s Crown” will be available Feb. 8 at a Michael Poirier concert to benefit the Chaldean Catholic Church in Arizona. To purchase tickets for the concert at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, visit www.catholic-events.org.
“A Martyr’s Crown” will be available Feb. 8 at a Michael Poirier concert to benefit the Chaldean Catholic Church in Arizona. To purchase tickets for the concert at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, visit www.catholic-events.org.

When I think of great contemporary fiction by Catholic authors, Michael O’Brien and the Valley’s own Sherry Boas come to mind. Other than that, it’s a pretty lonesome domain. And while I enjoy some of the better examples of books by Evangelicals, I’m always left thirsting for that unique Catholic flavor.

After writing many articles and columns about the plight of the hundreds of Chaldean Catholics who live here in our Valley, I find that most people still do not know about the more than 250,000 Chaldean Catholics who live in the United States. Many of these dear people have fled the wars, religious persecution and violence that plague their homeland of Iraq.

“A Martyr’s Crown” represents two years’ worth of interviews and volunteer work among the Valley’s Chaldeans. I’d have to say their story is the most compelling I’ve ever encountered in my years as a journalist. It literally changed my life.

Battle being waged

During this Year of Faith, when our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has asked us to draw closer to God, my hope is that Catholics will come to learn of the very inspiring faith of our Chaldean Catholic brothers and sisters.

Make no mistake about it: whether you’re talking about books, films or music, there’s a battle being waged for hearts, minds and souls. And while many assert that we’re living in a post-Christian society, I’d like to think that Catholic authors, artists and musicians are doing their part to help build a culture of life.


  1. Joyce. My brother, Rene Vera, brought me a copy of your book that he obtained at your book signing. You even autographed a copy for me. I took it home and later pick it up – just to skim through – could not put it down! You got me just in the first couple of chapters. I could remember the world events that you refer to – just a sad,sad event. I can relate to some of Sarah Castillo’ life events. I cried – my heart ached – then I ended with a smile.
    Well Done.
    ALSO: thank you very much for your article on my mother, Alex Vera. She is just all smiles and so very happy you took an interest in her life’s contribution and commitment to our faith.
    again, thank you and God Bless you.


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