Sunday’s New York Post gossip column, Page Six, contained an item I can identify with, because several of my relatives don’t seem to like New York, where I live. Elna Baker’s mother worried when her daughter headed to NYU for college instead of BYU, warning her to beware of smoking, drinking, drugs, homosexuality and exotic dancing in sin-filled New York City. Elna says, “I left thinking, ‘Great, my mom thinks I’m moving to the big city to become a lesbian stripper.’ “
Instead of becoming a “lesbian stripper,” Elna experienced life in New York City, dating both members and non-members, working in a variety of low-paying and short-term jobs. She also collected a lot of stories–humorous stories that examine the intersection between identity, faith, sex and love in a context of Mormon values in a cosmopolitan city.
What Page Six doesn’t indicate is anything about Elna Baker’s success. She has read and performed her stories on The Moth (podcast), on This American Life, and Studio 360 (NPR programs), and at the Upright Citizens Brigade, The PIT, The Magnet and at many other comedy clubs throughout New York City. Now, a collection of her humorous stories, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, will be published by Penguin in October.
Baker’s work is interesting because it is aimed at a non-LDS audience, yet is often informed by Mormonism. But her portrayal of Mormonism (at least in what I’ve seen) is more ‘look at these strange things in our culture.’ As this latest work is released, I’m not sure that it will gain Mormonism respect, but I do think that Elna Baker will gain more respect from her work.
[Several of Elna Baker’s stories can be found on her website, ElnaBaker.com.