Category Archives: Memoir

Book Review: Global Mom

9.24.13 | | 5 comments

Melissa Dalton-Bradford and I are like two circles on a Venn diagram that don’t quite touch. She was a missionary companion of one of my best friends. She commuted into New York City to perform in a Broadway musical at the same time that my family and I lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And the Dalton-Bradfords now live minutes away from my husband’s family in Switzerland. It seems like we should have met by now, but we haven’t.

I didn’t know any of the above when I volunteered to review her newly published memoir, Global Mom. All I knew was that she and her husband had raised their children all over the world, something I had hoped my husband and I would do when he graduated from law school. Alas, that was not our trajectory, so reading Global Mom was for me an exercise in vicarious living.

Dalton-Bradford retells her expat adventures with vivid detail and funny, self-deprecating anecdotes. She and her husband work hard to embrace the language and culture wherever they find themselves. Their children have an easier time of it, learning Norwegian at the local barnepark in Norway; French at school in Versailles and Paris; German in Munich; and Mandarin in Singapore. At the end of the book, the family finds itself living in Geneva; who knows where future job transfers might take them next?

Since she is writing to a general audience, Dalton-Bradford discusses the church only in passing. Wherever she lives, she mentions finding comfort and support in her ward, and she and her family serve in a variety of capacities. Later in the book, for reasons that will become apparent, she is more overt in mentioning prayer and the way her faith sustains her.

The Norway and France chapters take up two-thirds of the book and are light, warm, and exuberant in tone. But then, just as the family is about to move to Germany, tragedy strikes. The Bradford’s oldest son, Parker, heads to Idaho as a college freshman; days later, he dies in a water accident. The family’s struggle to come to terms with devastating loss colors its life in the years that follow; the reader sees Munich and Singapore only through the hazy lens of grief. In describing her ordeal, Dalton-Bradford writes with courage, painful honesty, and hope.

I have a small wish list of things I think could have improved the mostly excellent memoir. The very first chapters are a bit overwritten, their self-conscious prose distracting from the stories they are telling. Throughout the book, I felt somewhat removed from Dalton-Bradford’s husband and children, seeing them only from her perspective. She often employs dialogue, but it is almost always used to illustrate a difficulty with language or culture, and doesn’t otherwise offer the immediacy that I enjoy in a memoir. Finally, I wish I could give a stern lecture to the book’s publisher, Familius. Significant typos can be found throughout, and a line editor worth his or her salt should have caught them all.

But these complaints are minor. I find myself recommending Global Mom to just about anyone: other parents; anyone living “in the mission field”; people who dream of living abroad; and those who love to travel, if only via the pages of a book.

Chris Bigelow kickstarts memoir LSD to LDS: 4 days to hit goal

3.12.13 | | 2 comments

Zarahemla Books owner and Irreantum founder Chris Bigelow has until this Saturday at 8 pm MDT to reach the Kickstarter goal for his memoir Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS. Here’s his description of it:

As a sixth-generation Mormon and the oldest of ten siblings, I was ordained to the priesthood at age twelve. By then, however, I was utterly bored with the LDS religion—my true inner religion had become Dungeons & Dragons and the rock group Rush. As soon as I left home at age seventeen, I escaped into Salt Lake City’s mid-1980s underground punk and New Wave scene, my generation’s version of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Rather than finding a workable new life, however, I ended up—possibly as a result of taking hallucinogenic drugs—encountering the devil in a harrowing midnight ordeal. My encounter was not unlike the demonic experiences of some early Mormons, including Joseph Smith and my own ancestor, the polygamous apostle Heber C. Kimball. Wanting to protect myself against such malevolent forces, I did a 180 and dove back into the religion of my youth.

$15 gets you an ebook version; $25 the trade paperback. Because of Zarahemla Books, we know Chris can deliver on getting the thing produced — he just needs some incentive to get the thing written and revised, especially now that his work circumstances have changed and he is a freelancer. I haven’t read this part of his story (if you click through there are sample chapters), but I have read some of what he is written about his mission experience, and in my opinion memoir is Chris’s most natural mode of writing. Click through and if you’re intrigued by what you read and want more, back the project.

Big Table Mormonism: A Response to Joanna Brooks’ _The Book of Mormon Girl_

2.18.13 | | 11 comments

Note: My talented wife, Anne Marie Ogden Stewart, previously wrote an insightful review  about The Book of Mormon Girl. This piece is meant to be a companion piece to that one, so I recommend you read Anne’s post as well.

Whether it was the “Pantspocalypse,” the bloggers at Feminist Mormon Housewives/ Exponent ,or faithful Mormon feminist Judy Dushku’s pointed critique of Mitt Romney, Mormon Feminists have been very prominent as of late. Call it a revival, call it a resurgence, call it what you will, but the advent of the internet and the increasing dialogue about the roles of women in American and world society has brought Mormon feminists out of their hiding places and rhetorical bomb shelters. Mormon Feminists have searched for each other and banded together. They have clamored for an equal voice in a society that has often tried to silence them and they have implored to their fellow Latter-day Saints to see them as fellow-pilgrims and not as antagonists of the faith. At the forefront of this effort has been the courageous Joanna Brooks,  a professor of Comparative Literature at San Diego State University; a prominent blogger at Ask Mormon Girl and Religion Dispatches; a high profile resource about Mormonism for CNN, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, and NBC Rock Center; as well as the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of American Faith.

 Having loved Brooks’ blog posts, watched/read many of the interviews she was involved in, and learned to appreciate her compassionate and thoughtful approach to Mormonism, I bought a copy of The Book of Mormon Girl for my wife Anne for Christmas. Anne and I consider ourselves devout Mormons. We connect deeply with and believe in Mormon scripture and theology; we love the heritage of having Mormon pioneer ancestors; I love to study the intimate details of Mormon history (which I often write plays and screenplays about), while Anne has a deep passion for Old Testament studies; as lovers of the New Testament, especially the Gospels, we’re passionate believers in Jesus Christ, and gratefully claim him as our Redeemer and Savior; we believe in the core tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and strive to find a place in our faith community. Despite that heartfelt and abiding faith, however, there have been times when we have felt like we were foreigners in our own religion.

This occasional alienation we have felt may have been a cultural quality that we thought had been overemphasized, a Pharisee-like pattern we find in certain elements and sub-groups of the membership, or a coldness we have received (or we have seen others receive) because of this or that circumstance. These, of course, are exceptions rather than the rule. I personally have found that Mormonism makes people better, if it is lived in the way it has been outlined by the scriptures and the tenets of the faith. And, of course, it is so much better to concern oneself with the beam in one’s own eye, than the mote that is in our neighbor’s eye.

Yet there are still those moments of alienation, of loneliness, of feeling like we don’t quite fit in, despite our best efforts (which are often still insufficient) to keep peace and show love. Discipleship will always have its strains, and standing up for what you believe in, whether it is to the secular world, or even to those who share many points of common faith, is designed to be a lonesome ordeal. If there is a “mold” for the “typical” Mormons, there have been times where we felt like we didn’t fit it.            

It is here that works like Joanna Brooks’ The Book of Mormon Girl have given me and my wife hope. more