~Karen Swallow Prior
Ph.D., author of The Evangelical Imagination

Stretching from South Africa’s outback to Washington, D.C.
this honest and lyrical coming-of-age memoir of growing up
in South Africa at the height of apartheid is an invitation
to recognize and refuse to repeat the sins of our fathers.

Because it’s not too late for you to be free.

You can write new plotlines in your bloodlines.

The stories you inherited don’t have to be repeated.

I want to show you by sharing the story of my father, South Africa, and me.

What’s the Book About?

It’s Not Too Late   

When she found herself spiraling into a terrifying version of her father, screaming herself hoarse at her son, Lisa-Jo Baker realized that to go forward—to refuse to repeat the sins of our fathers—we must first go back.

This is an unflinching look at a family that got it wrong and a real life example for all who feel worried they’re too off-course to make the necessary corrections.

Lisa-Jo’s story shows that it’s never too late to be free.

Born white in the heart of Zululand during the height of apartheid, Lisa-Jo Baker longed to write a new future for her children—a longing that set her on a journey to understand where she fit into a story of violence and faith, history and race.

Before marriage and motherhood, she came to the United States to study to become a human rights advocate. When she naively walked right into America’s own turbulent racial landscape, she experienced the kind of painful awakening that is both individual and universal, personal and social.

Even if Years Go By

Years would go by before she traced this American trauma back to her own South African past.

Lisa-Jo was a teenager when her mother died of cancer, leaving her with her father. Though they shared a language of faith and justice, she often feared him, unaware that his fierce temper had deep roots in a family’s and a nation’s pain.

Even if Old Wounds Reopen

Decades later, old wounds reopened when she found herself repeating the violent patterns of her childhood in her own parenting.

Only then did she begin the journey back to the beginning to find a way to break old cycles and write a new story for her family and the next generation.

Like her, you too can be free.


Using her father’s life as a point of departure, the South Africa–born author [Lisa-Jo Baker] offers heartfelt, emotionally charged reflections on their apartheid-riven homeland. . . . Throughout, Baker seeks to understand the many sins of both her homeland and her adopted land, and she makes a tender effort to forgive her father. . . . A painful, lyrical, and bracing memoir.”

Kirkus Review

Important. Riveting. Unforgettable. A profoundly captivating story that can profoundly change your own story.

Ann Voskamp

4x New York Times bestseller, author of One Thousand Gifts and WayMaker

I couldn’t put this book down. 

Jenny Marrs

Host of HGTV’s Fixer to Fabulous, Author of House + Love = Home

I can’t remember the last time I read a memoir so stunning, told in such vigorous, gripping prose, a story achingly personal and yet transcendently and triumphantly human.

It Wasn’t Roaring, It Was Weeping is unputdownable. 

Karen Swallow Prior

Ph.D., author of The Evangelical Imagination

For everyone with imperfect pasts, this book is especially for us, written by one of us. Lisa-Jo is the heartstring writer you’ve been waiting for. Give it one page, just one, and you’ll be friends with Lisa-Jo for the rest of your life.

Sean Dietrich - "Sean of the South"

Syndicated columnist, novelist, and author of Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Lisa-Jo’s action-packed life-story exemplifies how unpacking the pain from your past can catapult you into leaving a purpose-filled legacy. This is a vulnerable and courageous must-read.

Jada Edwards

Bible Teacher, Speaker, Author

Lisa-Jo skillfully steers clear of clichés and superficial fixes, choosing instead to uncover and thoughtfully explore the complexities of her past as she fights for a better future. This brave work reveals the profound healing that emerges when we dare to confront the most challenging parts of our stories with an open mind and a willing heart.

Dr. Alison Cook

Author of I Shouldn't Feel This Way and Boundaries for Your Soul

A fabulously gifted writer. Whose love for her father and her birth country travel from one beautiful page to the next even as she vulnerably exposes her complicated feelings about both.

Katherine James

Award winning novelist and author of A Prayer for Orion

For everyone yearning for home through challenging memories this book will feel like a road map. You will not be able to put it down.

Quantrilla Ard, PhD

Writer, Speaker, and Grief Coach,

Meet Lisa-Jo Baker

Lisa-Jo Baker is a bestselling author, lapsed lawyer, current acquisitions editor for HarperCollins, and the author of Never Unfriended, The Middle Matters and Surprised by Motherhood.

With a BA in English/prelaw from Gordon College and a JD from the University of Notre Dame Law School, Lisa-Jo has lived and worked on three continents in the human rights field and subsequently spent nearly a decade leading the online community of women called (in)courage as their editor in chief and community manager. She’s the co-host of the Out of the Ordinary podcast.

Originally from South Africa, Lisa-Jo now lives just outside Washington, D.C., where she met and fell in love with her husband in the summer of ’96. Their story together spans decades, languages, countries, books, three very opinionated children, and one dog.

Media Inquiries

For press inquiries regarding It Wasn’t Roaring, It Was Weeping
please contact Maya Smith at maysmith@penguinrandomhouse.com