Oak Cliff People: Sunset Graduate's First Novel Finally Finds an Audience

For the full text, follow the jump. 

Sunset Graduate's First Novel Finally Finds an Audience
Story explores female apostle with creativity

By Margaux Anbouba

After 23 years of sitting on the shelf, Wanda Vassallo's first novel — Junia: Women Apostle: Only a Girl — has finally been published.

The Sunset High School graduate's desire to be an author coincided with the birth of her two children.

"I wanted to stay home and take care of my children," Vassallo said. "But I found it rather intellectually uninspiring. So when I was doing formula and diapers, i would be thinking about what I wanted to write about."

At the time that Junia was finished, Vassallo said, there wasn't much interest in Biblical fiction.

"I was a very long journey to get it published," she said. "I wrote it in 1990, I still thought that somebody would enjoy reading this book if I could just get it published."

The novel tells the story of Junia, who is believed to be a leader in the early Christian church and fist female apostle. Her story is interwoven with recognizable events from the bible — including when Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22-23) and healed a paralyzed man in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-12).

Vasallo felt called to tell the story of Junia after reading the footnote to Romans 16:7, which stated that many historians believe Junia was a woman. It was the same footnote that inspired Rena Pederson, a former editor at The Dallas Morning News, to write a nonfiction book on Junia, titled The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth About Junia

"There was a theologian translator named Giles of Rome, who was a disciple of Thomas Aquinas and an expert in Greek culture," Pederson said. "He came across the passage in Romans, and thought 'this couldn't be a woman!' so he changed the name to a man's name. Ninety percent of the translations before Giles refer to Junia, and after they refer to Junias, which we know there was no such name."

Junia is the first novel to be published in Vassallo's planned series "Biblical Women Who Led the Way." Her next novel will cover the story of the prophetess Miriam, who helped lead the chosen people out of Egypt with her brothers, Moses and Aaron. 

"The whole Bible was written by men," Vassallo said. "It's amazing the women leaders even made it in there. I'm going to be their publicity agent. I don't think they've gotten enough credit."