By Alexandra Smith
“Growing Up Duggar” by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar was published on March 4, 2014 and brought a firestorm of media along with it. Many people seem to be intrigued by the Duggar family, which consists of 21 people—two parents, nine girls, and ten boys. The Duggar family has a television show, “19 Kids and Counting,” on TLC that follows their lives and displays the family’s conservative Baptist beliefs. The authors of “Growing Up Duggar” are all above age 18, and the media has reported on the girls’ courtships and marriage plans. People seem intrigued that the Duggar girls don’t date, kiss before marriage, or hold hands before engagement. Needless to say, when their book was published, I found myself interested in learning about how the Duggars have grown up and what has shaped their beliefs and choices.
The four eldest daughters, Jana (24), Jill (22), Jessa (21), and Jinger (20) wrote “Growing Up Duggar” together, and the 256 page nonfiction book focuses on relationships that most young women have. The Duggar girls discuss their views on relationships with God, siblings, parents, self, the world, culture, one’s country, and guys. Throughout the book, each girl detailed her life experiences with certain relationships and struggles, and shared personal stories about how they have dealt with situations such as low self-esteem, fears, body image, dating, and getting along with their siblings. “Growing Up Duggar” also gives an inside look into how the Duggar family functions.
Not expecting the book to be so personal, I was pleasantly surprised to read many stories about the Duggar family that portrayed them as people who go through trials and events that other families go through as well. Their stories and anecdotes were much more relatable than I expected. It was nice to learn that the Duggars deal with disobedient children, traveling woes, and awkward situations. The book made me laugh out loud at one point, when the girls detailed how their father was in the running to become a representative in the Arkansas state legislature and campaigned door-to-door. The girls noted on page 168 that their dad went up to one house and knocked, and when a lady came to the door, “he said, ‘Hi, I am Jim Bob Duggar, and I’m running for the office of state representa–’ The lady immediately cut in and, obviously not of the same opinion when it comes to family sizes and children being considered a blessing from God, she said, ‘I know who you are, and I am not going to vote for you until you get a vasectomy!’ Then she slammed the door in his face!”
Funny stories aside, the Duggar girls also surprised me with the fact that they are not as sheltered as I thought they would be. They detailed how they spent time campaigning in different states for Republican Rick Santorum, how they drove straight to Joplin, MO after the tornado hit in 2011, the mission trips they have been on in El Salvador, and their travels to China. Jill discussed her decision to become a midwife, and how it has allowed her to meet people that lead much different lifestyles than she does. Jana mentioned that she obtained her First Responder certification and volunteered at the family’s local fire department. Jinger detailed her time volunteering at a juvenile detention center in Arkansas as well as in a high-security prison in Florida. What was very apparent to me while I read “Growing Up Duggar” was the fact that the Duggar family doesn’t seem as unaware of the “real world” as many may believe. The authors made it clear that they know what is going on in the world, and that they aren’t afraid to leave their home to serve others who may not have the same religious or personal beliefs as they do.
Overall, I enjoyed “Growing Up Duggar.” I finished the book feeling that the authors are very intelligent, mature young women who make decisions for themselves based on their religious beliefs. They may be more different than most people, but that doesn’t make their opinions or practices any less valid. I would recommend “Growing Up Duggar” to young women who are interested in improving the relationships in their lives as well as anyone who has in interest in the Duggar family in general.