Two weeks ago my wife, young daughter and I moved from Oakland to suburb of Minneapolis. We’re very excited about the move. We’ve very much enjoyed our time here so far*. We will, of course, miss our Bay Area friends, family and ward members. Indeed, the past month or so has been a mixture of excitement about the new opportunity and sadness for what we leave behind.
And for me there has been another feeling — one that is very much tied in to my role with A Motley Vision.
For me, this is not just a move from one part of the country to another. It is also leaving the West, leaving a cultural and physical landscape that has heavily informed who I am as a writer, reader and critic. My desire to contribute to the field of Mormon literature was first informed by an interest in how it fits in to the concept of Western regionalism, then by nature writing about the red rock areas of the Southwest (AMV takes its name from a section of poetry by Orson F. Whitney describing the Grand Canyon), and then later by concepts of modernity and cultural projects intended to build and/or explore ethno-national identity.
What’s more my creative writing, and indeed much of my sense of what it is like to be a Mormon, is very much bound up in the landscapes of my own life mythos — from my childhood in the high desert of Kanab, to early teen years in Provo, to teenage years in a classic Mormon California suburb, to my later years at UC Berkeley, and then living in Oakland and attending and working at San Francisco State.
I have always joked that I’m the perfect Mormon — the perfect Utah-California hybrid. My life experiences taking place at precisely the best times to experience certain iconic Mormon life experiences. But you know, there’s something to that. I am a sagebrush Mormon, a Happy Valley Mormon, a California Mormon and a Bay Area Mormon.
And perhaps getting away from all that isn’t such a bad idea. Not only does it mean new types of experience, but also creates some distance, which isn’t such a bad thing for a writer and critic. In fact, I was delighted when my in-laws moved to Minneapolis** because it seems to parallel much of what I enjoyed about the Bay Area, but you can also actually afford to live in a suburb with good schools. And, of course, I’m still a MidWesterner. According to my boss, the saying is that St. Paul is the last city of the East and Minneapolis is the first city of the West.
So yeah. Now I’m a Minnesota Mormon. I look forward to exploring what that means. And, on a more practical level, I hope that this change also means I’ll have more time and energy to devote to AMV and the world of Mormon arts and culture.
*Yes we know about the winters. We’ll trade winter for affordable housing and good schools.
**The plan always was to leave the Bay Area before my daughter was of school age. Originally the idea was to move to the Sacramento area, but job relocations by both my father and father-in-law changed all that. And I have to say that I’m quite happy with how things turned out (no offense to Sacramentans).