Joy Jordan-Lake's varied--and admittedly odd--professional experience has included working as a college professor, author, journalist, waitress, director of a program for homeless families, university chaplain, horseback riding instructor, free lance photographer, and --the job title that remains her personal favorite--head sailing instructor.
Born in Washington, D.C., Joy Jordan-Lake's first vivid childhood memory was watching her mother weep in front of the television, where newscasters were just reporting the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. Later moving south with her family, she grew up on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, just outside Chattanooga, where she learned to observe the ways in which communities respond with courage to bigotry and violence--or fail to do so.
After earning a bachelors degree from Furman University and a masters from a theological seminary, Joy re-located to the Boston, Massachusetts, area where she earned a masters and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Tufts University, and specialized in the role of race in 19-century American fiction.
While in New England, she founded a food pantry targeting low-income and homeless families, served on the staff of a multi-ethnic church in Cambridge, worked as a free-lance journalist, and became a Baptist chaplain at Harvard. Her first book, Grit and Grace: Portraits of a Woman's Life (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1997), was a collection of stories, poems and essays which The Chicago Tribune described this way: "Written with much heart and wit, this little gem of a book touches on the ordinary and profound experiences that make up a woman's life . . . a poignant and satisfying collection . . . funny and sad, inspiring and awfully surprising."
Joy's second book, Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe (Vanderbilt University Press, 2005) continued her doctoral dissertation work, exploring the inter-weavings of literature, theology, and race in American culture.
During this period, life for Joy and her husband, Todd Lake, was becoming increasingly chaotic with two careers, numerous re-locations for Todd's work, two young biological children and the adoption of a baby girl from China. Joy's nearly-manic need to ask everyone around her about how they managed--or not--to balance kids and career led to her third book, Working Families: Navigating the Demands and Delights of Marriage, Parenting and Career (WaterBrook/ Random House, 2007). Publishers Weekly called the book, "refreshing for its social conscience," and written with "sharp humor and snappy prose."
In its review of Joy's fourth book, Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith (Paraclete Press, 2007), Publishers Weekly again praised the author: "A professor at Belmont University and a former Baptist chaplain at Harvard University , the author mines her personal history...to illumine and interpret ideas such as...hope. Sometimes wry, occasionally stern, Jordan-Lake, with a touch of Southern gothic sensibility...has a gift for welcoming, lucid and insightful prose...."
Joy's first novel, Blue Hole Back Home, published in 2008 and inspired by actual events from her own teenage years, explores the tensions and eventual violence that erupt in a small, all-white Appalachian town when a Sri Lankan family moves in. Ultimately, Blue Hole Back Home, which bestselling author Leif Enger called "beautifully crafted," is a story not only of the devastating effects of racial hatred and cowardice, but more centrally, a celebration of courage, confrontation and healing. Used in a variety of classroom and book club settings, Blue Hole Back Home was chosen in 2009 as Baylor University's Common Book, and as the Common Book at Amarillo College in 2014.
Joy's latest novel, to be released in fall of 2017, is A Tangled Mercy. Told in alternating tales at once haunting and redemptive, A Tangled Mercy is a quintessentially American epic rooted in heartbreaking true events examining the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, and our enduring hope for freedom and forgiveness.
Having taught at universities in Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas, Joy teaches from time to time as an adjunct professor at Belmont University in Tennessee. Residing just south of Nashville, she and her husband share life with their three fabulous children, as well as the family's sweet, needy Golden Retriever.