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The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith Paperback – August 7, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Oh wow. I double dare you to read The Book of Mormon Girl in your book club. Bring a casserole and roll up your sleeves for an original, provocative argument about dissent in faith communities! Even if you’re not one of those fine believers who store up food for the Apocalypse, you’re likely to agree that Joanna Brooks has singlehandedly redefined the word courage. Prepare to be surprised.” –Rhoda Janzen, author of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

"This gorgeously written, deeply intelligent memoir of an ordinary girlhood in an ordinary Mormon family is one of those most unusual and most valuable of personal stories, simultaneously sweeping and intimate, a book of both broad vision and precise detail. The Book of Mormon Girl is about one particular religious subculture, but it will resonate with anyone who cares about childhood and its echoes in the adult mind of a scholar who’s also a wise and innovative storyteller." --Jeff Sharlet, New York Times bestselling author of The Family and Sweet Heaven When I Die

“Laugh-out-loud funny and break-your-heart poignant. A triumph.”–Carol Lynn Pearson, author of No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones

"Joanna Brooks captures Mormonism in revealing but tender ways that are sure to resonate with insiders and outsiders alike. Mormonism may not yet have found its Chaim Potok, but it has its Joanna Brooks."--R. B. Scott, author of Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics

“A pathbreaking and utterly necessary memoir.”–Carolyn Forché, celebrated poet and human rights activist

“A compelling memoir of being found and lost and found again. Brooks is a contemporary Mormon pioneer.”–Jana Riess, author of Flunking Sainthood and Mormonism for Dummies

“Disarming, funny, wrenching, and inspiring. This is a quietly fierce, authentic, and faithful voice, one that insists her religious tradition is young, and the next chapter yet to be written.”–Phillip Barlow, Ph.D., Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, Utah State University

"Enchanting...charming...throughout this heartfelt work [Joanna Brooks] remains braced and true to herself." --Publisher's Weekly

"The Book of Mormon Girl is a luminous ode to Brooks' passion for Mormonism, in spite of her church's rejection. It is a memoir written not just for herself, but for others who continue to pursue their faith in the face of abandonment because "No one should be left to feel like she is the only one broken and seeking." --Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A balanced, heartfelt memoir of honoring a faith and a heritage while challenging church teachings." --Shelf Awareness

"Brooks writes with an urgent intimacy reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” coating even the most painful memories with a honeyed warmth." --The Boston Globe

"Brooks’s sprightly yet thoughtful prose, her carefully constructed narrative and her passionate yet forgiving activism make hers a rare memoir that ended too soon. It is a triumphal declaration of unorthodox faith and an engaging — if unconventional — introduction to an American religion." --The Washington Post

"A thought-provoking, conversation-starting memoir for those interested in Mormonism, feminism, and religion in general." --Library Journal

"Joanna writes a beautifully crafted memoir about growing up as a Mormon, how her life as a young kid felt and how it changed over time when she went to college and became a self-proclaimed feminist (not something closely associated with the Mormon Church at the time). The book is a terrific read, especially if you've ever gone through a period in your life where you've questioned your faith and background. You must read it!" --Huffington Post

About the Author

Joanna Brooks is a national voice on Mormon life and politics, an award-winning scholar of religion and American culture, and the author or editor of five books. She has been featured on American Public Media’s On Being; NPR’s All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation; BBC’s Americana, Interfaith Voices, and Radio West; and in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the CNN Belief Blog, and the Huffington Post. She is senior correspondent for the online magazine ReligionDispatches.org and offers answers to seekers of all stripes at her own site AskMormonGirl.com. Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter, or visit her at JoannaBrooks.org.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Original edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451699689
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451699685
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This is a very difficult book for me to review. Autobiographical works, by their very nature, are about one's personal impressions. For me, the difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that, at least through the college years, my life paralleled that of the author. While I preceded her by a few years, I heard the same Sunday School lessons from the same people, I was in the same dance festival, I went to the same university, and I was even deeply influenced by the same professors (most notably Eugene England). Brother Brooks, Joanna's father, was one of the greatest spiritual teachers in my life. With that in mind, I will simply share a few impressions rather than attempt any form scholarly analysis.

Joanna's depiction of the Mormon culture when and where we were raised is spot on. The emphasis on heritage, good works, family, emergency preparedness, the feeling that the Second Coming was imminent ... I heard all the same stories and sang all the same songs. I share her love for the people and the culture that we were raised in.

However, being a Mormon is not only about being part of a culture, it is being part of a religion that has specific beliefs. Thus, while the book accurately conveys the superficial details of the Mormon culture of Southern California, it is completely off where it comes to the Mormon perspective. Can one be a Jew by loving the Jewish culture while denying Moses' claim to revelation? Can one be Islamic by loving the Islamic culture while denying Mohammad's prophetic calling? While religious beliefs may give rise to certain cultural characteristics, the religion is the beliefs, not the culture.
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In the first chapter of her book, Joanna Brooks writes

"I grew up in a world where all the stories I heard arrive at the same conclusions: the wayfarer restored, the sick healed, the lost keys found, a singular truth confirmed. And an orthodox Mormon story is the only kind of story I ever wanted to tell.

But these are not the kinds of story life has given me."

I bought this book because I was curious. My life story is an echo of Joanna's --- I was raised in a staunch Mormon family, the youngest of seven children. I am a strong-willed liberal feminist girl who stopped believing in the Mormon church when I was sixteen. I bought this book because wanted to understand how the author balances her personal beliefs with the beliefs of her family's faith. I struggle to balance the love I have for my family with their prejudice against people who leave the Mormon church.

Joanna devotes a lot of time to her childhood and the security she felt growing up in such a strong religious tradition. There are hints of the turmoil that would come later, hints of dissonance between her personal convictions and the teachings of the Mormon church. But mostly, she concentrates on the happy memories. There is a saccharine quality to her recounting, a need to present her childhood as being the orthodox Mormon story.

Then she very abruptly shifts to a period of turmoil. There isn't much segue from her recounting of a happy childhood to the disillusionment of adulthood. Her recounting of the excommunications of prominent feminists --- the September Six --- came across as very rote. There was a lot of heartache bundled up into just a few terse pages.
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This book was promising, but it didn't fully deliver. I found a wonderful description of her childhood, and a not as descriptive narrative of her conflicted adulthood, but what I really wanted was more of her experiences at BYU that led her to her conflict. She hints at it a little in her childhood, but never fully explains why she has taken on beliefs that don't quite jive with the mainstream church. Not knowing much about Johanna, I would have liked to have more than a few pages to explain this change.
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In the movie "Shadowlands," C.S. Lewis says, "We read to know we are not alone." After reading Joanna's book, I feel much less alone.

Joanna Brooks honestly and forthrightly lays out a thesis for claiming or reclaiming a faith that at times feels as though it has abandoned us. While some may view any criticism or disagreement with the Church as being "anti-Mormon," this book simply isn't. Joanna's love for the faith of her mother and grandmothers pervades every page of this book. Like most relationships, that love can also cause an enormous amount of pain which is also evident. There are passages that are simply heart-wrenching.

Joanna's mastery of prose and imagery make this a wonderfully readable book. At turns poetic, it weaves both experience and imagery together in ways that illustrates a point without belaboring it. Indeed, the book's relatively short length only serves to underscore the power of the message.

What frightens me are Joanna's own words when she writes, "...telling unorthodox versions of our story is sometimes viewed as the work of enemies and apostates." But all of us who claim this faith as our own heritage must stand next to her and speak with one voice her words when she later writes, "I am not the enemy, and I will not be disappeared from the faith of my ancestors."
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