It should be noted at the outset that Levi S. Peterson’s Juanita Brooks: Mormon Woman Historian has both its strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, it is clear that Peterson, a professor of English at Weber State College, has produced an important work that for several reasons commands the attention of both scholars and interested students of Mormon studies. Juanita Brooks herself is noteworthy in that she was one of the most important historians to come out of the Utah Mormon tradition. Extremely prolific, she was the author of twelve books and several dozen articles and essays, and editor of four major diaries. Her seminal and perhaps most important work, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, has gone through eight printings, sold some sixteen thousand copies, and is still in print. Brooks’s role as a historian was further enhanced by the fact that over a period of several years she collected, copied, and preserved dozens of early Mormon pioneer diaries that would have otherwise been lost or destroyed.
In addition to the importance of its subject, Peterson’s biography is valuable because in recounting Juanita Brooks’s life and activities the author has provided a generous slice of twentieth-century Latter-day Saint history, a relatively neglected topic among Mormon studies. A third contribution is the work’s focus on the so-called Dixie region of Mormon settlement (southwestern Utah and adjacent Nevada communities) as the setting for much of the action involving Brooks. This should serve to remind us anew that certain crucial developments affecting Mormonism occurred in regions away from the Wasatch Front.