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Dordt College News

“Up the Hill” is newest book by James Calvin Schaap

July 23, 2014

Dordt College emeritus English professor and award-winning author James Calvin Schaap’s latest book, Up the Hill, is now available on eBook from New Rivers Press at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Up the Hill captures “the very ‘bones’ of what it means to be human…With irony and grace, this magical collection captures our attempts for both reconciliation and transcendence,” says Iowa poet laureate and author Mary Swander.

Author Jim Heynen says, “Every page sparkles with wit and is bathed with empathy and forgiveness.”

Though the magical realism genre is somewhat out of character for Schaap, the source of his inspiration is found during his own days as a college student, when he first discovered the work of author Frederick Manfred. In fact, his freshmen term paper was written on a book of Manfred’s.“

I was deeply influenced by him as a student,” said Schaap. “So much of my character, especially as a writer, is created in some ways by Frederick Manfred.”  So about five years ago, when Schaap stood in front of the grave of one of Manfred’s characters, he was immediately fascinated once again.

“The idea for the first story in this series started when I bumped into the grave of a woman in the Doon cemetery,” said Schaap. “I had this odd feeling that, because of Manfred’s book of fiction, I knew her.”

Schaap’s interest and curiosity was ignited, and it led to the first of several short stories revolving around the “lives” of the dead. Though typically a realist writer, Schaap found himself writing in the increasingly popular genre of magic realism, as he began creating stories of the dead (who remain unseen by the living), or “redeemed zombies” as he playfully refers to them.

The fascination with what happens to redeemed Christians after death is part of what inspired the book’s premise. “I got to thinking about what a cemetery would be like if, in fact, they were habitations of the dead, in a timeless world, awaiting the new heavens and the new earth.” 

Up the Hill examines in both humorous and serious ways the time between death and resurrection – the “somewhere in between.” 

“We are, the Bible says, surrounded by clouds of witnesses,” he said. “Who are they? What do they see?—those are the kinds of questions that trigger my imagination.” 

James Calvin Schaap is the author of 24 books and several short stories. His work has received awards from Christianity Today, Best Christian Writing, Evangelical Press Association, Associated Church Press, as well as the Christy Award.

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