Press Release: This Boy’s Faith by Hamilton Cain


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Notes from a Southern Baptist Upbringing

By Hamilton Cain



“An intriguing and often moving account of a childhood and youth suffused with the ways and means of our largest Protestant denomination.”

—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion


“Honest, wise, and just plain beautifully written, like all great memoirs This Boy’s Faith transcends a deeply personal subject to tell a larger story—about how blessings can become curses, curses blessings, about how faith dies hard and the desire for salvation, in its various and surprising forms, is endlessly at hand.”

—Michael Knight, author of The Typist and Goodnight, Nobody


“A meticulously detailed look at a world of which most of us have barely guessed the outlines, let alone the rich and disturbing interior.”

—Anne Fadiman, author of Ex Libris and At Large and At Small


Often our very darkest moments define our character and bring out the truest versions of ourselves. This was the case for Hamilton Cain. When his oldest son was born with a life-threatening genetic disorder, he felt the urge to revisit the half-forgotten world of his Southern Baptist upbringing, hoping to see what values, if any, could aid him in the crisis of fighting for his son’s life.  


Twenty years earlier, as a child in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hamilton was a Baptist boy prodigy. He came to the Lord at the age of seven, proceeded to be a Bible Drill champion, rattling off obscure passages from memory, then won the coveted post of Youth Week Pastor. Church elders pronounced him well on his way to running the Southern Baptist Convention one day. But there were cracks in the protective armor of his religious beliefs; just below the surface lay hypocrisy, violence, and fear. Hamilton eventually left the South and, thinking he would never look back, threw himself into a new life in New York City, immersed in all the cultural treasures and liberal debates he was denied in his youth. Yet deep within he grappled with an immigrant’s dilemma, an enduring sense of being a stranger in the place he now called home.


Hamilton and his wife, Ellen, noticed that something was wrong with their infant son, Owen, when he failed to achieve his developmental milestones. Doctors said that his muscle tone was extremely low, and the worst came when he caught a common cold and his right lung collapsed. Owen went through a battery of doctors, tests, and specialists, but no one could figure out what was wrong. Frightened and at a loss for how to cope, Hamilton found himself in church one Sunday morning, calmed by the familiar traditions yet still conflicted by his feelings toward his faith and the church of his boyhood.    


This Boy’s Faith: Notes from a Southern Baptist Upbringing (Crown Publishers, April 5, 2011) charts Hamilton’s gradual awakening to the complexity of religious feeling. The chapters cut back and forth in time. In the choir lofts and baptismal fonts of Tennessee, Hamilton at first confidently walks the walk of the perfect Baptist boy but then loses his sure footing. As an adult in the brownstone neighborhoods of New York City, he grapples with his son’s illness, eventually diagnosed as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and the lingering long shadow of his Southern upbringing. This Boy’s Faith tells the story of growing up Baptist and then growing up.



HAMILTON CAIN was born in Orlando, Florida, and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He graduated with High Distinction from the University of Virginia and earned an MFA from Hollins University. A former book editor, he now writes for various publications and was a finalist for a 2006 National Magazine Award. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.



Notes from a Southern Baptist Upbringing

By Hamilton Cain

Crown Publishers ? On-sale date: April 5, 2011

272 pages ? $25.00 ? ISBN: 978-0-307-46394-4

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