Glowworms for Jesus: the Expressive Arts meets the Enrichment Committee

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When I first met Nancy I thought, “She must be a convert. There’s no way a life long member would ever say that.”

That first impression was less about what Nancy actually said and more about what she did. Continue reading “Glowworms for Jesus: the Expressive Arts meets the Enrichment Committee”

In the Company of Angels: the love song of David Farland

Orson Scott Card said that his historical novel, Saints, was a “love song to my people.” Full of fiery characters debating quintessential Mormon dilemmas against the backdrop of a historically-charged time period, it was a ballad that delighted and disturbed both mainstream Mormon readers and OSC’s readers who subscribed to other faiths. David Farland’s In the Company of Angels (which I received a complimentary review copy of), is an effort in a similar vein–exhaustively researched, unfailingly plot driven, surprisingly modern in its attitudes, full of an apologist’s love–and will probably give readers similar moments of delight and disturbance. Continue reading “In the Company of Angels: the love song of David Farland”

(LDS) Black History Month revisited

In a post last February I raised the question of what kind of literature exists about the black Mormon experience. I got some great answers and decided to get my hands on some of it. Life conspired against me and I haven’t done as much as I’d hoped but I am now the proud owner of the Standing on the Promises series (I got them all in hardback for less than $20!) and I gathered a group of friends to watch the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. I haven’t finished reading the books yet and I wanted to write a formal review of the film, but I’m not a film critic so I didn’t. But I do want to plug the movie and share some of my thoughts regarding it.

(Here’s a link to the trailer. Couldn’t figure out how to embed it. Also, here’s a link to Darius Gray and Margaret Young talking about the film.) Continue reading “(LDS) Black History Month revisited”

What do you really think of Twilight? I want to know!

Hi folks,

In the wake of our recent AMV discussions about Stephenie Meyer it seemed to me that actual readers were not being fairly represented, especially outside the world of Mormon letters. Most of the people who write scholarly articles and papers are the type of people who wouldn’t be reading Meyer in the first place–unless they can find a way to use her books and Mormon identity to further their personal agendas. I want to put actual readers (and non-readers) of Meyer’s books on the record. To that end, I have put together a questionnaire that I need you all to take. Well, at least all the ladies out there. Sorry guys, for right now I’m focusing on the female readers’ responses. I plan on compiling the responses and putting together a paper for Reading Until Dawn to get this stuff on the record in a way that the scholarly folks will hopefully pay attention to. So whether you’re a lover or a hater, Team Edward or Team Jacob, even if you have not read the books, if you are female and you have any thoughts on the Twilight phenomenon I want to know what they are. Seriously. Email me and I will reply with the questionnaire.

Thank you!

My 2009 Mormon Literature Wish List

For those of you keeping track: this year I read sixty-eight books (if you don’t include the Calvin and Hobbes and Fox Trot compilations I skim while brushing my teeth and the countless picture books I’ve read my kiddos) and twenty-four of them were Mormon–not quite as many as last year and not enough of them are Mormon classics, but I still stumbled on to some really satisfying reads. Here’s my ranking of the Mormon books I encountered during 2009. (Here’s my 2008 list.) Just in case any of you are still looking for Christmas gifts I’ve conveniently linked the titles to Amazon.com (which means if you buy them after clicking through from AMV some of your money will support the hosting costs for our site! Thanks in advance!!).

Books I wish I owned:

Byuck by our very own Theric, er, I mean, Eric Jepson. This is the best link I could conjure up for this quirky never-published novel about the fight to stay single while attending BYU. So sad it never made it into print. Maybe if we’re all really nice Theric will serialize it on his blog!

No Going Backwards by Jonathon Langdon. Gay Mormon teen. Need more? Then check out the website.

Slumming by Kristen D. Randle (To read my interview with Randle click here.) What I loved about this book was how uncompromisingly Mormon it was and how uncompromisingly national market it was. Okay. It wasn’t exactly Gossip Girl, but the fact that the book works in both worlds made me so happy.

Breaking Rank by Kristen D. Randle. This one had closet Mormons but the teenage protagonist’s decision making process was so true to teenage Mormons. I loved it.

Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems I had no idea how awesome Mormon poetry was until I bought this. It was truly the best forty-six cents I ever spent!

The Year My Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery by Kathryn Lynard Soper. If you know a Mormon mommy who loves memoirs and haven’t bought this book yet for her, then now is the time. Seriously beautiful book.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. I read this one for an ecobiography writing seminar and I was glad. TTW is a controversial and watershed figure not only in Mormon environmental writing but also in Mormon feminist writing and Mormonism as a culture and not just a religion. This book, part memoir and part ecology lesson, is a great place to start with her.

Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen. This book really pushed my litmus test, making me extremely uncomfortable in the process, but I felt like it was done artfully and purposefully and that made me glad. Read my interview with Todd Robert Petersen for more.

The Conversion of Jeff Williams by Douglas Thayer. This book about a California teen’s summer in the heartland of Mormonism is the novel that will shut the mouth of all the your Mormon fiction naysaying friends. Beautifully written, intensely thoughtful, this is one that demands repeat readings.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. For you readers who love teen fiction (it’s okay to admit it; I do too!) or just enjoy having a thought provoking book to read with your kids, this creative amalgam of Norse mythology and the Cupid/Psyche myth will delight. George is popular for her Dragon Slippers series and if you liked those you will LOVE this one.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I love tween literature that encourages questioning and viewpoint broadening without being all Lord of the Flies or One Fat Summer about it. By creating an old lady of dubious motivations who makes candies that give kids super powers Mull does a great job of entertaining and pushing kids to think about consequences without preaching or settling for easy answers. I’m still waiting for a ten year old to read this book so I can chat with them about it. Really well done.

Books that were worth the inter-library loan:

Benediction: a Book of Stories by Neal Chandler. (Not everyone loves this book. A lot of people find it offensive. But I thought it was such a great parody of some of the wilder small town personalities I grew up with. Read my original post here.)

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle. (Basically a novelization of the old “Cipher in the Snow” story. Interesting!)

Secrets by Blaine M. Yorgason (Quintessential Deseret Book “issue” novel. Tackles an important subject but tends to gloss over the difficulties.)

People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl L. Givens (Probably the most important book for Mormon culture scholars and you should read it. But you might not tackle it more than once.)

A FUTURE FOR TOMORROW – Surviving Anorexia – My Spiritual Journey by Haley Hatch Freeman (Read my original review here. I also believe that this book should not be read without also reading Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine–just to give some context the psychotic break of it all.)

Books that are worth reading if someone hands it to you:

Circle Dance by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

Hold On, the Light Will Come: And Other Lessons My Songs Have Taught Me by Michael McLean

Abinadi by Heather B. Moore (For more of my thoughts on this book read here.)

River Secrets (The Books of Bayern)River Secrets (The Books of Bayern, #3) by Shannon Hale

Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA by Lance Allred (My original review.)

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale

Dragon Flight (Dragon Adventures) by Jessica Day George

All this has got me wondering, what Mormon books did you read this year and what did you think? Any you enjoyed enough to shell out money for? I need recommendations for next year!

What’s your sign?

(I should warn all of you readers in advance that this is a pretty light post. I’ve just been dying to ask someone this question all day and I couldn’t think of any better group of people to ask than the AMV readers!)

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I was driving to the vacuum store today for a repair when I almost veered off the road because of a bumper sticker. Um, yeah, a bumper sticker. Caught completely off guard, I tailgated the dirty blue Plymouth for at least a block to make sure I was seeing things clearly. I was. There in rip-off bold, black lettering complete with the plump, red heart was, “I *heart* Nauvoo.” As in, “I *heart* NYC”, except, well, Mormon-ed.

Now,I’ve mentioned Mormon-ing before and how fun it is. For about as long as we’ve existed as a cultural group we’ve chosen to interpret things according to our particular belief system–whether it be a popular movie or a literary character or even political events and national disasters (any rumors of Last Days and food storage going around your ward right now?). I can’t think of any greater perk to being involved in Mormon arts than the enjoyment I get from Mormon-ing stuff. Continue reading “What’s your sign?”

Missing the Meat: a review of A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman

Several things happened during Haley Hatch Freeman’s time in the spirit world: she was given the choice to return to earth life, she was shown one of her future children, she was reunited with her dead sister and dead grandmother, she was commanded to learn sign language, and she was commanded to write a book about her experiences as an anorexic teenager. Her memoir, A Future for Tomorrow, is the result of that commandment and is a unique and honest account of Freeman’s experiences with a harrowing mental illness.

Freeman’s story seems like the story of so many other teenage girls. With adolescence budding on her body and boys buzzing around her mind, Freeman–a young LDS teen from Scipio, Utah–finds an avenue of control that will ease her anxiety about all the changes she’s going through and that also brings her a more secure place in the social pecking order: dieting. What begins as some innocent missed meals and some innocent weight loss (she complains her new braces are too tight and she can’t eat) morphs into a much more dangerous illness when Freeman internalizes a few compliments too deeply and begins dieting and exercising to the extreme. Over the course of a year Freeman loses more than half her body weight, is taken out of school, suffers a psychotic break with reality, almost dies, is finally hospitalized and begins the long road to recovery. Continue reading “Missing the Meat: a review of A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman”