Tidy categories may suit the media, but people are more complex up close.
News outlets, historians, and sociologists can (and do) tell us all about the statistics, but they don't (and can't) tell us about what it's really like in a given place—how the squish of creek water between your toes or the crunch of autumn leaves on a city sidewalk shape your sense of normal and good and right. To understand that—to understand the people in the places—we need stories. We need to listen, get to know the nuance of people, and have empathy for their way of seeing things.
Brandon O'Brien is, in many ways, a man torn between places. Raised in the rural South, educated in the suburbs, and now living and doing ministry in Manhattan, he's seen these places, and their complexity, up close. With the knack of a natural storyteller, he shares what he learned about himself, faith, and the people who make up America on his own journey through it.
Praise for Not from Around Here
"This book fills me with hope that Christians can love and learn from each other across the differences that make us sometimes feel like enemies. Brandon O'Brien's personal narrative models the empathy and humility needed by all—rural, suburban, and urban. I echo his prayers that we'll find our shared identity in Christ and not primarily in our zip code."
Editorial director of The Gospel Coalition and author of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church
"It is hard to escape the constant inundation of noise that reminds us of our distances from each other, which made Not from Around Here a truly delightful read. This is an enjoyable and convicting book that stirred a longing for more exploration around what is common in the midst of our diverse histories and backgrounds."
Executive Director of the Surge Network¿, ¿a group of 60 churches working together to be a witness for Jesus and plant more churches in the Phoenix metro area
"To read Not from Around Here is to be reminded of the importance of good stories, which traffic in the concrete rather than the abstract. Having lived most of the diverse geographical places O'Brien has lived, I might not have thought I needed these stories. Turns out, I did. I needed O'Brien's clarion call to remember that my primary identity is not now as a resident of North America's fourth-largest city. I'm a Christian before an urbanite, and my brothers and sisters in hollers and small-towns and suburban tract neighborhoods have much to teach me. This book was a pleasure to read and will be an honor to recommend."
—JEN POLLOCK MICHEL
Author of Keeping Place and Surprised by Paradox
"How do you cultivate a theology of place when the place you practice theology keeps changing? It's a question I ask often because I have spent my adult life living in almost a dozen different states. When asked, I am never from around here. Brandon O'Brien has captured this sense of alien homelessness in an acute way as he moves his readers through his transient life in the country, the suburbs, a small city, and an urban place. He gives his readers some handrails to hold onto in an ever-changing terrain, and reminds us where our true home really is."
—LORE FERGUSON WILBERT
Author of Handle with Care
"In a divided America, we need empathetic storytellers who can show us (rather than simply tell) how the places we live form our loves. Not from Around Here travels from rural America, to the suburbs, and lands in New York City to gently expose the myth we believe: that there is a single story about place. But the story of the gospel is bigger than that. O'Brien offers hope that as Christians embrace our primary identity as followers of Christ, we can begin to heal our divisions. Engaging, funny, insightful, and warm, Not from Around Here shows us how to get home."
Author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much