Who Believes and Who Doesn’t?


What do you believe? Why? Is faith a certainty, fixed and immutable, or is it an ongoing process, and evolution of the spirit and the soul? Who has faith and how did she get it? These are just some of the questions that began to tug at Victoria Zackheim, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and editor of five previous essay collections. As she mulled over these thoughts, an anthology began brewing. The resulting volume, Faith: Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists, showcases the work of 24 writers, including Caroline Leavitt, Aviva Layton, Benita Garvin among others, who have widely divergent views on the subject. Zackheim chatted via email with Lilith Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the winding road she took in assembling this, her sixth collection, and also about some of the revelations she experienced along the way.

YZM: How did you come to compile this book? 

VZ: I’m not sure if there was one event—perhaps it was the composite of several—that led me along this path. What I can say is this: once the journey began, there was no turning back. The early stirrings came from questioning myself about my own faith, a curiosity to clarify what I believed. The deeper I probed, the more I needed to pose questions to friends, until I found myself engaging them in long, soul-searching conversations. Finally, the awareness that I absolutely had to explore the subject of faith and the role it plays (or doesn’t play) in my life led me to the genre that has become so prevalent in my teaching and writing: the personal essay…and then the anthology. Once that was decided, and my agent gave the thumbs-up, I sent an invitation to twenty-five gifted writers who represented a cross-section of cultures, religions, and lifestyles. I was hoping that perhaps ten would accept my invitation, and then I would continue inviting. Twenty-three accepted and the project was launched. After the proposal was completed and the book was sold to Beyond Words, essays began to arrive, I was fascinated to discover that people I was certain were atheists were believers, and a few I assumed to be believers were not.