By now Our Visions, Our Voices: A Mormon Women’s Literary Tour has received quite a bit of coverage in the Bloggernacle, including Kent’s post here at AMV, and posts at Segullah, Feminist Mormon Housewives and By Common Consent. Zoe Murdock, who I interviewed last year about her novel Torn by God, is participating in the tour (which starts Monday), and has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about it from the perspective of a participant.
How and why did you become involved with Our Visions, Our Voices?
Last January, I was on the internet looking for sites that might be interested in hearing about my new novel, Torn by God: A Family’s Struggle with Polygamy. I came across the run by Joanna Brooks and Holly Welker. They were just starting to put together a three-state series of readings called, Our Visions, Our Voices: A Mormon Women’s Literary Tour. The tour was to be composed of women who write from a Mormon perspective, whether it be LDS, RDLS, or women with an outside or post-Mormon perspective. I was particularly interested in the project because of the great range of diversity it promised.
The Mormon experience is rich and powerful, especially when encountered during the formative years of childhood. As we grow older, each of us must decide whether to remain faithful to that early religious training, or to re-evaluate the doctrine and take another path. Either way, the lessons we learned as children remain with us, affecting us in profound ways. I found that out while I was in the process of writing Torn by God. At times, I felt afraid that I might somehow be punished for what I was writing. That fear surprised me, and it made me a little angry, because I wasn’t writing anything against the Church, I was just trying to understand what happened between my parents when I was a child. The problem was I was asking questions. I came to realize that somewhere along the way, I had learned that you should never question anything about the Church. But how can that be right? If we think we have all the answers, how can we ever learn anything new?
That’s what I like best about being involved with the women of Our Visions, Our Voices. In order to write about their experience, whether it be in the form of poetry, or fiction, or memoir, or essay, they each must ask themselves questions. They must dig deep if they want to communicate their experience in a meaningful way to others. When I encounter this deep self-exploration, by reading or listening to their words, it enriches my experience and understanding not only of Mormonism, but of life itself.
What will you be doing for your reading?
I will be reading from my novel, Torn by God: A Family’s Struggle with Polygamy. I have written short stories and poetry (in conjunction with a new novel I am working on), but I think Torn by God is most relevant to the main focus of the tour.
What do you hope this literary tour accomplishes and what affect has your participation so far had on your connection with Mormonism?
I think one problem that exists in the Mormon community is that there is a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. That feeling of isolation is created in part by the community’s rejection of negative influences, but there is also a lot of misunderstanding by those outside the faith. I believe knowledge is the path to understanding. Each time an individual explores their experience of the Mormon faith through poetry, literature, or essay, they expand the knowledge base. Even when Mormon women write about other aspects of life, they help people outside the Mormon experience see that we are all fundamentally the same. This body of writing can provide a point of access toward mutual understanding.
I truly value the connection that I’ve had so far with the women on the tour. Up to now, it has just been by way of email (the email messages have been flying back and forth between Joanna and Holly and the rest of the group). Now, I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in person and establishing a relationship for the future. Hopefully, we will all get together again next year for a second tour of Our Visions, Our Voices.