About Abuelita Faith
A Conversation with Kat Armas
Every Voice: What led you to write this book? What problem or issue(s) are you seeking to address?
Kat Armas: After leaving my Cuban haven of Miami to pursue seminary, I found myself in spaces very different from the one I was raised in and consequently, I began to question whether the spirituality that formed me was “legitimate” because it did not look like what the dominant culture presented as “true” or “genuine” faith. The outworkings of faith in my family were not the “norm,” especially being raised by a single immigrant mother and grandmother. This led me to wrestle deeply with what it meant to be a woman, particularly a Cuban woman, and with the nuances of my grandmother’s faith, which formed and shaped me. During a Woman in Church History course I began looking into the history of Cuban women and experienced the first pangs of “research grief,” which led me on a journey of discovery not only of the faith of the women in my own culture, but of marginalized women across history. I soon realized my grandmother’s faith wasn’t just legitimate, but it was the kind of faith that changed the course of history in the Bible and beyond.
EV: What is the thesis of your book?
KA: I argue that the greatest theologians the world has ever known are those whom the world wouldn’t consider theologians at all. These theologians are our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts–women whose faith is shaped by survival and embodied wisdom.
EV: Who’s your target audience, and what are you most hoping they hear from it?
KA: I wrote this as a love letter to my Latinx community. Many of our first theologians were our grandmothers and mothers—women of valor who would be overlooked as theologians to the dominant culture because of their socioeconomic status, their gender, their lack of Western education, their accent, or the pigmentation of their skin. While I wanted my community to feel seen, I know this experience is not unique to us, as grandmothers across cultures and races have served as beacons of spirituality in our families. So really, this book is for all of us who know that reality intimately.
EV: Did you have any “aha” moments while writing the book?
KA: So many! The one that has stood out to me and stuck with me the longest is the truth that survival is sacred in and of itself. Survival need not be spiritualized in order for it to be holy. We see this in the stories of women in Scripture: they did what they needed to do to survive no matter how scandalous or disruptive it might have been. Oftentimes, their survival awards them the title “righteous” and “blessed.”
EV: What was the most challenging part of the book to write?
KA: My family’s stories are so tender. Remembering them was difficult, especially because my abuela is nearing the end of her life. Her dementia has robbed us of so much, so writing down those memories was beautiful and also painful.
EV: If your book was made into a movie, what actor/actress would play the lead role?
KA: I’m a huge Jane the Virgin fan, so Abuela and Jane’s characters would remain the same! (Ivonne Coll is the actress who plays Abuela and Gina Rodgriguez as me, I guess? LOL)
EV: What kind of seminary/church classes should assign your book?
KA: Oh, I love when biblical studies or theology courses read Abuelita Faith—particularly because they can be such “heady” disciplines. My hope is that Abuelita Faith invites us to see theology as embodied!
About the Author
Kat Armas (MDiv/MAT, Fuller Seminary) is pursuing a ThM at Vanderbilt Divinity School.