Baring Imperfect Human Truths
Holly Welker, ed. Baring Witness: 36 Mormon Women Talk Candidly about Love, Sex, and Marriage. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2016. 296 pp. Paperback: $19.95.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ostler. Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
We all know the Sunday School answers, but life rarely, if ever, plays out like a seminary video. So what do love, sex, and marriage look like in the lived experience of Mormon women?
Journalist, poet, and “spinster who thinks and writes a great deal about marriage” (1) Holly Welker has compiled a collection of essays that unapologetically reveals the intersection of Mormon theology, culture, individuality, and relational living in her latest book, Baring Witness: 36 Mormon Women Talk Candidly about Love, Sex, and Marriage.
Attempts to Be Whole
Scott Abbott. Immortal for Quite Some Time. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016. 257 pp. Paperback: $24.95.
Reviewed by Scott Russell Morris, Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
In Immortal for Quite Some Time, Scott Abbott meditates on his brother’s death. That Abbott comes from a devoted Mormon family and that his brother was gay and died of AIDS is the tagline that seems to sell the book—and this review, too, apparently, as I am writing that first despite my best intentions—but really, this book is not about his brother John or about the homophobic culture of the LDS Church and many of its adherents, despite both of those being common motifs. It is about Scott Abbott. And, as all good personal non fiction is, it isn’t really about Scott Abbott either, but rather about what it means to grow up in a culture that is so overwhelmingly shaping that it “informs even your sentence structure” (89) and then to find that you no longer want to have a place in it. In the last few weeks as I’ve contemplated what I might say about Abbott’s book and as I’ve discussed it with others (one of whom saw it on my couch and asked, based on the title, if it was a vampire novel), I’ve described it in a few ways: It is about a BYU professor who was in the thick of the academic freedom concerns at BYU in the ’90s. Or, it is about a brother going through his dead brother’s things and thinking about what that might mean about the two of them, both nonconformists. For those more interested in writing and less about the story, I’ve told them about the most interesting feature of the book: It is written mostly as a series of journal entries, but there are a lot of other voices; for example, a female critic consistently questions the stories and rhetoric in Abbott’s entries, which he responds to in a separate editorial voice. There are also his brother’s words, at first taken from found texts like notebooks, letters, and book annotations, but then, toward the end, John actually speaks from the dead, directly to the narrator, though mostly to underscore the fact that he no longer has a voice, deflecting questions by responding, “You can probably answer that yourself,” and “I don’t really get to answer that, do I?” (207, 202).
The Garden of Enid: By a Mormon and For Mormons
Scott Hales. The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part One. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016. 168 pp. Paperback: $22.95.
Scott Hales. The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part Two. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2017. 169 pp. Paperback: $22.95.
Reviewed by Brittany Long Olsen, Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
At its core, Scott Hales’s two-volume graphic novel The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl is a coming-of-age-story through a Mormon lens. Self-proclaimed weird Mormon girl Enid is a misfit who feels equally misunderstood in her church community and at home with her single mother, a former alcoholic struggling with illness and depression. Some self-introspection and life-altering experiences lead Enid to care about other people and appreciate how much they care about her.
Laughter, Depth, and Insight: Enid Rocks Them All
Scott Hales. The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl. Parts One and Two. Kofford Books. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016. 169 pp. Paperback: $22.95.
Reviewed by Steven L. Peck. Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
When I was growing up, comic strips provided part of the ontology of my world. I devoured regular comic books, graphic novels, and other bubble-voiced media, but comic strips played a different and more important role than these other closely related forms. It was in the four-paneled strip that I was rst introduced to philosophical thought, political commentary, satire, and the exploration of questions rather than the explication of information toward an answer. Plus they made me laugh. There was a point being made. About life. And often about my place in it. Comic strips were my first introduction into a weird form of deep psychology that let me explore what it meant to be me. The sign on Lucy’s famous wooden stand in Peanuts, offering, instead of lemonade, “Psychiatric Help: 5¢: The Doctor is IN” does not seem an inappropriate way to express one of the functions these comic strips played in my life. I suppose given my age it is not surprising that it was Charles Schultz’s famous comic that proved the gateway drug to my infatuation with the medium.
Christine Durham was the first-ever female Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court. In this Dialogue podcast she discusses how she has dealt with stereotyping and bias based on religion, from outsiders, and occasionally on gender and ideology, from insiders. From the Miller Eccles website:
"Christine Durham graduated from law school in 1971, when fewer than two percent of lawyers in the United States were female. She has spent a large part of her professional and personal life working on gender equality and trying to address the damage done in society by stereotypes and biases. As a Mormon woman, she has also dealt with stereotyping and bias based on religion, from outsiders, and occasionally on gender and ideology, from insiders. These challenges have motivated many national, local, and personal activities over the years addressing gender fairness, particularly in the law and the courts. Most recently, she has focused on the effects of implicit bias on our gender and racial divisions in this country, and how this can also affect our religious experience. She will discuss her own history and experience in the context of evolving understanding about how we make choices, and what we need to make better ones.
States of Deseret. William Morris, editor. Peculiar Press, 2017. Alternative history short story anthology. 109 pages, $3.00.
Reviewed by Barrett Burgin
Last year I presented this scenario to my classmates: what if the Civil War had never ended and Deseret had become its own nation? This idea of an alternate Mormon history really took hold on a classroom of BYU Media Arts students. Later, I found myself similarly fascinated while reading the new alternative history story collection States of Deseret. There is, perhaps, something inherently interesting to Mormons about reimagining our own brief history. Whether it's a Zionistic yearning for our unfinished theocracy or a regretful wish to rewrite past wrongs, States of Deseret taps into our cultural dance with history and uses it as a platform to entertain, educate, and inquire.
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