Juanita Brooks

Mormon Woman Historian


Juanita Brooks was apparently destined to be a rather ordinary Mormon housewife, but the untimely death of her first husband soon after their marriage led her into teaching. Then a second marriage facilitated the fulfillment of her literary ambitions. She became a sleuth busy collecting lore and then an amateur historian of southwestern Utah who earned the esteem of professional historians. Unlike the tales Levi S. Peterson usually tells, Juanita Brooks is archivally grounded documentary realism.

Hence much detail concerning Brooks’s activities and those of her “cultural Mormon” associates can be gleaned from this prize-winning biography, which is clearly the fruit of an intense infatuation verging on an obsession.

Though Peterson’s strong point is fiction, Juanita Brooks is at times wearisome reading. Everything about Brooks seems to have been included. There is little winnowing of the mass of materials on her, even when they do not contribute to our understanding of Brooks or her times. Episodes tend to appear chronologically, but often without meaningful transitions.


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