published Monday, March 17th, 2014

In new book, Duggar daughters discuss boys, dating rules and growing up Duggar

  • photo
    Jessica, Jana, Jinger and Jill Duggar, from left, collaborated on a book to answer fans' questions on fashion and makeup, dating, premarital sex and finding the right mate. They will be at Barnes & Noble in Hamilton Place tonight with all the Duggar clan, except for Josh and Josiah, for a book signing at 7 p.m.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: "Growing Up Duggar" book signing.

When: 7 p.m. tonight.

Where: Barnes & Noble, Hamilton Place mall.

Information: 893-0186.

DUGGAR FAMILY

Jim Bob Duggar (Dad), 48

Michelle Duggar (Mom), 47

Jana Duggar, 24

John-David Duggar, 24

Jill Duggar, 22

Jessa Duggar, 21

Jinger Duggar, 20

Joseph Duggar, 19

Joy-Anna Duggar, 16

Jedidiah Duggar, 15

Jeremiah Duggar, 15

Jason Duggar, 13

James Andrew Duggar, 12

Justin Duggar, 11

Jackson Duggar, 9

Johannah Duggar, 8

Jennifer Duggar, 6

Jordyn-Grace Makiya Duggar, 5

Josie Duggar, 4

Sons Josh, 26, and Josiah, 17, will not be present at tonight's signing.

Duggar girls wear their hair and their skirts long, rarely watch television (even though they're on it), and don't get a cellphone until they get their driver's license.

Duggar girls never kiss on a first date -- in fact, they only "side hug" after they are officially being courted. They have a serious list of character traits guys must model to be considered potential husband material.

And the boy must not only meet their approval, but their parents' and 18 siblings' as well.

The four eldest daughters of Bob and Michelle Duggar -- the family whose life is detailed on the TLC reality show "19 Kids and Counting" -- live a life of purity that runs counter to everything mainstream media projects to teens. Yet despite the strict religious convictions that guide their social lives, Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger Duggar say they receive hundreds of fan questions each week, asking their opinions on boys, makeup, fashion, dating and sex.

To answer these, the quartet has written a new book, "Growing Up Duggar" (Simon & Schuster Inc., $21.99), in which they discuss their rules of Christian dating and relationships with boys, their family and God.

Over seven seasons of "19 Kids and Counting," viewers have watched the growing pains of the children of Bob and Michelle Duggar -- whose names all begin with the letter J. When Season 8 launches April 1, viewers will follow the courtship of Jessa and Ben and, on "Good Morning, America" last week, Michelle teased that the possibility of Duggar baby No. 20 isn't out of the question.

The whole Duggar clan, with the exception of sons Josh and Josiah, are in town for a book signing tonight at the Barnes and Noble at Hamilton Place mall.

Kelly Flemings, community relations manager at Barnes & Noble, says the store is preparing for 800 to 1,000 fans. The local bookstore is the only Barnes & Noble in the national chain to book the Duggars during their 10-day book tour. Flemings says he has gotten calls from viewers in South Carolina, Mississippi and Kentucky who are driving to Chattanooga for tonight's event.

"I think the TV show is what brings a lot of people in -- they've seen the Duggars on TV and want to know if that is really what they are like," says Flemings.

Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger discussed what it really is like to grow up in the fishbowl of reality TV during a phone interview last week.

Q: How difficult was it to adapt to television when you don't watch TV?

Jessa: It's like a home video -- it follows us around with whatever is going on in our lives at the time.

Jill: It's not like we were sheltered; we had seen TV shows when we were out. At our home we will sometimes watch classic TV shows. (In the book, they write their parents select appropriate episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" -- those "not centered around romance or deceptiveness.")

All of us girls are grateful that we have not grown up with that constant background noise in the home, but really getting to spend more time together as a family and not letting television pull us away.

Q: What motivated this book and how long did it take to write?

Jill: It took two years. The reason we wanted to write this book was because of all the letters and emails we receive. We get hundreds of questions every week from all over this country and other countries as well. We do try to read over all the emails and thank them for writing us. My dad says we're about 10,000 emails behind right now.

We're human just like everybody else, we make mistakes and have challenges and we want people to see how God's ways work. We live our life on television and, Lord willing, everybody will be able to see Christian values that we hope will point other people to God. We are trying to be a positive example and not be self-focused; that's not our heart in this. We aren't trying to make a name for ourselves. It's just an opportunity God has given us.

Q: Beyond the lack of TV in your household, in the book you write about parental controls on computer use. Are you into social media?

Jessa: We all get a cellphone when we get our driver's license. We aren't really into social networking because we don't have time to do a lot of that. TLC has set up Facebook accounts for our family and Josh manages the Twitter account for the family. If we get emails that really touch our hearts, we will try to answer as many as we can.

Q: In the book, you describe all the girls sharing one, big, dorm-like bedroom and the guys having one also. With 19 children in the family , do you ever want personal space ? Do you ever feel you have to compete for your parents' time?

Jinger: We really love being together. It's like a slumber party every night. Our parents always take time for each of us. Often on Saturdays, they'll take the day just for family time and one-on-one time as well. I think we get more time with our parents than the average child does. We're really connected with them.

Q: Last month, your mother revealed she'd battled bulimia in her teen years. How long have you known that?

Jill: She told us the story about when she was in junior high in the last few years. When we were writing the book, we thought it would be perfect to put in because so many girls could relate. It's vital that girls learn to accept themselves. If you can't accept yourself, you will look to others for your self-acceptance. People are always going to let you down because we are all human. So what we wanted to express was self-acceptance. Mom's struggle was offered as a ray of hope.

Q: When you wrote about her experience in "Growing Up Duggar," why did you change her name to Marie before revealing it was actually your mother?

Jill: The reason we didn't give her name up front was to create suspense. We really want to be able to identify with people, we have the same struggles as others, there are just a few more of us.

Q: In the book, you advise girls to bring their dates home and observe how they interact with the family in casual or stressful situations. How's that worked for you -- 20 other sets of eyes watching his every move?

Jessa: Guys know we have a lot of siblings. I'm sure it's a little intimidating -- we have a lot of brothers and they ask a lot of questions! But they realize how important family is to us. If he's a good guy, he'll stick it out.

Jill: Relationships between the sexes is the one we get the most questions about. We're not telling everybody "This is how you do it." They ask. A lot of things they probably consider old-fashioned, but that's the way we prefer it. We want the family involved, for everybody to put their two cents in. It creates an environment where there is accountability. We focus on building strong communication, which is what a lot of relationships lack because couples jump straight to the physical.

We want the book to encourage girls to include their young man into their daily life, not just out on a date. A lot of times you'll only see a guy's true character by inviting him into your home and seeing him in the real-life setting.

Q: If readers take only one message away from your book, what do you want it to be?

Jill: If you can accept yourself, who God has created you to be, that will reflect in your other aspects of life.

Jinger: The relationship with parents is something that is vital -- being able to be open and transparent, the accountability of sharing what's going on and getting their counsel.

Jessa: I would say their relationships with guys. I think girls able to set their standards high will really change the whole relationship with their guy friends. When a girl has high standards, a guy will respect her more, treat her more like a lady. Is he a man of character? Is he honest? Is he kind? Look for key character qualities in his life, those qualities that girls don't think of right off. It's important to realize you don't have to give yourself away prematurely to a guy.

Jana: Make your relationship with God your main thing. If you have that relationship with God, it's the foundation that ties everything else together. Without that, all these other relationships fall apart.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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