Joanna Brooks grew up as a Mormon in Orange County, Calif., during the 1970s and 1980s. This is her story. She reflects on the seminal moments of her childhood, things she remembers fondly about her family’s faith. From there, she talks about her path to Brigham Young University, and then the circumstances surrounding her path away from orthodoxy and her tentative return to it.
The thing that struck me most is that there wasn’t anything new in all this for me as a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Monday-night family meetings (ours were on Sunday afternoons, actually), the year’s worth of food storage in the basement (which fully ruined me for store-bought canned peaches and pears. Not at ALL good.), the end-of-the world paranoia (that was mostly high school, when I was actually noticing it) — all of it was instantly familiar to me.
And you can tell that Joanna has a fondness for her childhood, the way she was raised, and even the way the church was in her childhood. But, then: BYU.
She was at BYU during a tumultuous time, one that was both exciting and restricting. She got caught up in a feminist movement in the English department, and the backlash that came down because of it. And she realized that the Church (the organization, not necessarily the doctrine) could be a not-very-friendly place for people who didn’t toe the line.
And it was this point where I thought the book dissolved into melodramatics. Yes: I do think that Joanna was discriminated against, and that her ideas (as well as the ideas of many others) were shut down in the most egregious way. And I admire Joanna for being willing to speak her mind and not just toe the line like many other members of the Church. But still, I found the last quarter of the book to be weepy, and part of me wanted to shake her and say, “Grow up already.” I readily admit that it was me, however, and not her.
I finished the book feeling unsettled. Perhaps it was because this one hit a little too close to home. Or perhaps it’s because I became impatient with the drama of the ending. I do recognize, however, that this is an important little book, if only to show that Mormons aren’t all the same.