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Mormon Women in Memoir

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Mormon Women in Memoir

Reviewer Angela Hallstrom,

STEPHANIE NIELSON. Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy. New York: Hyperion, 2012. Reviewed by Jacqueline S. Thursby.

ELIZABETH SMART, with CHRISTOPHER STEWART. My Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. Reviewed by Rosalyn Collings Eves.

JANA RIESS. Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2011. Reviewed by Amy A. Easton-Flake.

EMMA LOU WARNER THAYNE. The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, 2011. Reviewed by Amy Isaksen Cartwright.

JOANNA BROOKS. The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith. New York: Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2012. Reviewed by Jacqueline S. Thursby.

MELISSA DALTON-BRADFORD. Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family. Utah: Familius, 2013. Reviewed by Rosalyn Collings Eves.

From a very young age, Latter-day Saints are taught to pay attention to the meaningful details of everyday life and to share these experiences by bearing public testimony or keeping a journal to be passed on to posterity. The importance of keeping written records has been emphasized from the Church's inception, and as a result we enjoy access to a trove of personal histories written by Mormons that reach back nearly two hundred years. Mormon women have been particularly diligent writers of personal history, and their words have helped to preserve a nuanced, multifaceted representation of what it means to be a female Latter-day Saint. According to former Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington, the personal histories penned by our earliest Mormon sisters allow us a valuable glimpse into the lives of these "formidable, intelligent, resourceful, and independent women who deserve to be remembered."1

In the twenty-first century, Mormon women have continued this tradition of preserving personal history, both in print and online. For example, over the last decade Mormon women have established such a dominant online presence as bloggers and social media aficionados that articles appearing on websites like Salon2 and Gawker3 have exclaimed over the phenomenon. However, modern Mormon women haven't restricted themselves to detailing their lives solely online. Recently a spate of well-received memoirs by Mormon women has been published by national presses and marketed to non-Mormon audiences. Although some of these women, like plane crash survivor Stephanie Nielsen and scholar Joanna Brooks, were popular bloggers before publishing their memoirs, others, like poet Emma Lou Thayne and world-traveler Melissa Dalton-Bradford, took a more traditional route to publication, without the benefit of a built-in online audience. Some of these recently published memoirs are more literary in style and hark back to Terry Tempest Williams's groundbreaking 1992 memoir Refuge—a personal and political exploration of family, environmentalism, and Mormon faith. Others are more straightforward personal narratives. But no matter the style or the route to publication, it is clear that the turn of the new millennium has seen an unprecedented number of Mormon women publicly telling their stories to an ever-widening audience.

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