I’m Daneen Akers, the author and publisher of Holy Troublemakers & Unconventional Saints. I’m a writer, producer, teacher, and mother who believes deeply in the power of stories. Books are beloved friends in our house, and the percentage of wall space in our (quite small) house taken up by bookshelves is significant.
Most of my past projects explore faith, identity, and belonging in some way. My past work includes the feature documentary, Seventh-Gay Adventists, which screened at numerous film festivals around the world, Enough Room at the Table, a companion outreach film for small groups with the goal of modeling respectful and mutual dialogue among people who have different theological perspectives around the intersection of faith, sexuality, and gender; and Outspoken, a series of seven short documentary films about LGBTQ people of faith who are living out their faith and who they are in unique and compelling ways.
I was a part-time resident in the San Francisco Film Society’s inaugural FilmHouse program and received the Pacific Pioneer Emerging Filmmaker Grant. I’ve also written numerous features and profiles for publications in addition to teaching language arts and English in middle school through the college level (I have a graduate degree in English from San Francisco State University). All that is to say that I love language and words. My favorite stories are where I find much of what sustains me.
Most saliently for this project, I’m the mother of two daughters, Lily (10) and Lucy (3), both of whom are named after favorite literary characters (Lily is for Lily Potter, whose selfless act at the beginning of Harry Potter begins the theme that love is ultimately the most powerful force in the universe; and Lucy is for Lucy Pevensie, the youngest of the siblings in The Chronicles of Narnia and the first to believe in the magic of Narnia).
I have a great personal need for a resource like Holy Troublemakers & Unconventional Saints. I grew up in a conservative Christian denomination and have spent an enormous amount of time and energy as an adult wrestling with my own faith (and often lack thereof). I've deconstructed much and am still actively working to reconstruct something with roots and values that I want to pass on to my children, no matter where their own faith journeys take them.
I have removed a lot of faith-based materials from our home that no longer fit, but we haven't done a lot of replacing yet, mainly because the vast majority of available religious materials aimed at families and children are fundamentalist in worldview. But I feel the lack of options. I do want my girls to know that faith isn’t all bad, and religious people can and do choose to do good, often motivated by a vision of a loving, just, and compassionate Divine.
As a storyteller, the clearest place for me to start adding something back to our deconstructed religious landscape are the stories of people of faith who have done much good, even if that meant rocking the religious boat.
I’m interested in my girls learning about people of diverse faith backgrounds who have been troublemakers for the higher good, people like the ones Bayard Rustin called for when he said: “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” These are the faith heroes I want my children to grow up reading about and being inspired by. And I know I'm not alone in that desire.
About the Publisher
Holy Troublemakers & Unconventional Saints is being published by Watchfire Media, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)3 public charity. Watchfire Media produces educational books and films that provide needed resources and fosters community for the spiritually unconventional. They are a resource for progressive, “cautiously Christian”, seeker parents and others who have children in their lives who want to raise kids who are comfortable with the big questions, awed by the beauty of the world and her people, and ultimately committed to love, kindness, courage, and justice.