biblical book

Interview - The Leah Factor: by Cynthia M. Henry

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 Jennifer Oquendo

The Leah Factor by Cynthia M. Henry is such a moving story about discovering the beauty in yourself and learning to love that. How do you react when those around you consider your sister beautiful and  you "tender-eyed"? This book speaks to all ages and is a great tool to use for young girls that need encouragement. This book is the perfect gift for someone that does not feel beautiful or worth it. Cynthia reveals how God turns our negative perception towards life and ourselves into something beautiful! I had the privilege to get in contact with the author to have some questions answered. 



1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
 I have always had a love of reading and writing.  I particularly enjoy writing fiction.  As a child, my parents enrolled me in a book club.  I looked forward to getting new books in the mail.  I also enjoyed spending many hours in the library, which felt like a second home.  I would become transported to another place and lose track of time while reading a good book.  I shared that love of books with my three daughters and encouraged them to read and write their own stories when they were growing up.   I am a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State University.  I am a retired public school teacher and reside in Detroit, Michigan with my husband where I enjoy teaching Sunday school and learning more about the Bible.  
         
2. What have you written? Any other books, stories, essays, etc? 
The Leah Factor: Recognizing True Beauty and Worth and other plays and fictional short stories.  During college, I wrote several analytical essays on various works of fiction scanning several genres, such as 18th and 19th Century British literature, African-American literature, Chaucer, Marlowe, Nabokov and others.  In 1992, I was a winner of U of M-Dearborn’s Writing Award Contest for the critical analysis essay, “The Hypocrisy in Pamela as Opposed to Shamela
    
3. What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
Coming to terms with who I was as I included some events from my personal life experiences.  This type of book also forces one to face “self” in the mirror and either like what you see or change that self.

4. What do you want readers to get out of it?
For so long, on a global level, we have been misled into believing that a beautiful physical fa├žade (the outward appearance) makes a person beautiful.  In my book, I argue that it is what is on the inside (that which cannot be seen visibly) that is the true determinant of beauty.  I would like to dispel the age-old misconception of beauty and get readers to recognize not only what real beauty is, but also understand how God sees us.

5. What made you tell this story?
I worked as a teacher in inner city high schools for several years.  The one constant issue I observed affecting students was a serious awareness of physical attractiveness.  Many young people, girls in particular, exhibited low or no self-esteem if they didn’t believe they were physically attractive.  To make matters worse, some students frequently targeted, victimized or bullied others who didn’t measure up to their ideas of beauty.  I often had to intervene and encourage victims as well as educate the bullies on the effects their behavior caused.  Oddly, sometimes bullies don’t realize the damage they have inflicted and have even been victimized themselves.  Surprisingly, many were receptive to stopping the bad behavior when they were made aware of the impact.  There were always a small few who never changed their bullying ways—even when it meant being suspended from school.   But the good news was that many did stop when they were educated to think and understand differently.  Some even showed compassion that they had not previously.  Those incidents, along with society’s overall view of beauty, led me to write this book.  There exists a serious need to change the way we view beauty.  As it stands, no one can really measure up to society’s standards of beauty.  I write about this in the book with the intent to bring about awareness and openly challenge how we think.   

6. Why do you feel it is important?
Although the focal point is on Leah, sadly, her story is still relevant today.  Like Leah, many people today still feel marginalized for various reasons.  More than ever, it is important to take the focus off of how an individual “looks” and focus on things such as character and integrity—the real things that determine attractiveness and give a person true worth.  

7. What would you like to tell Halfstack readers in regards to your book?
That even if you have the utmost confidence in yourself, this book goes a long way in understanding those who do not share that confidence in themselves.   An encouraging word can go a long way in helping such people.  Even just recognizing that some people struggle with low self-esteem based on their appearance, is a step in the right direction.  The Leah Factor seeks to enlighten as well as encourage and build confidence.  This quote taken from the book best describes one of its messages: 

“We could develop more productive, well-balanced girls and boys who could achieve things at unimaginable levels if we could get beyond “physicality.”  Think of the wonders we could achieve if we only understood true worth and beauty.”
   


8. What advice would you give writers that have difficulty telling their personal story relating to physical appearance?
The same thing that I had to tell myself, “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”  Really, I had to come to the understanding that I am just a person like anybody else.  Although they may differ, the same insecurities that I have about my physical appearance, so does everyone else concerning theirs.  When people realize that we are really all the same in this regard, it makes the seemingly difficult easier.  Concerning myself, I write about coming to grips with these things in my book.
    
9. Was this hard to write considering living in a generation that focuses on body image?
It was actually just the opposite.  That is what made this easy to write.  People must understand that they do not have or lack value based on how they look!  It is a backward way of thinking that goes back thousands of years.  I seek to dispel this false belief by pointing out the things that really matter as well as to put the focus on what God recognizes as beauty. 

Rachel and Leah were sisters.  One, Rachel, is described as beautiful and highly favored.  The other, Leah, was considered unattractive and was not favored by people, including her own husband.  People loved and favored Rachel because she was visibly beautiful.  However, God showed up on Leah’s behalf!  He saw in her what people could not.  God’s example is a tremendous indication of what we should understand about beauty and worth.
    
10. Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked? 
The book takes the familiar biblical account of sisters Rachel and Leah and expounds on what life must have been like for the older sister Leah, living in the shadow of her sister Rachel.  Rachel had it all—beauty, favor and the love of their shared husband, Jacob, who made it clear he loved Rachel but not Leah.  The Bible gives many accounts of the rivalry, lies, deception, envy and hatred that revolved around the strange relationship.  But it also gives an account of the intervening love of God that sustains, guides, and protects Leah through it all.  When Jacob hates Leah, God loves her even more and extends his favor toward her.  Unlike man, God did not see Leah as unattractive.  He looked on the inside and saw her beauty.         


If you are interested in purchasing a copy of her book, it is available on Amazon.com.

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