Book Review: James Goldberg’s A Book of Lamentations

James Goldberg, A Book of Lamentations (American Fork, UT: Beant Kaur Books, 2020).

Quite a few latter-day saints have drawn parallels between the events of 2020 and The Book of Mormon. James Goldberg, however, does it better than most. In A Book of Lamentations (2020), Goldberg and the other poets he features meditate on the parallels between The Book of Mormon and the divisions of our own time. “When Latter-day Saints say we know The Book of Mormon is true,” he writes, “we are saying something about human nature. We are affirming that we understand a civilization that chooses hatred and division is fully capable of destroying itself.”

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Book Review: Rosalyn Eves’ Beyond the Mapped Stars

Beyond the Mapped Stars (Knopf, 2021)

I was startled to realize recently that I had never read a mainstream novel by and about an LDS woman, despite holding a PhD in English. Although many contemporary LDS writers have achieved national recognition in science fiction and young adult literature, it remains rare for a national press to publish a book by an LDS author in which their religion features prominently–a fact that many have attributed to the lack of national interest in Mormonism, the suspicion with which members often receive unofficial books that deal with the Church, and the lack of robust institutional structures for supporting LDS literature. Those that are published (many of which are excellent) often derive their marketability by playing into sensationalized tropes about Mormonism held by outsiders, particularly those that depict LDS women as in need of rescue from their culture. Rosalyn Eves’ Beyond the Mapped Stars (Knopf, 2021) is a significant achievement, because Eves has written a young adult historical novel published by a national press that both satisfies the hunger of LDS young women to recognize themselves in literature while focusing on themes and events that have universal appeal.

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How can we measure our lives?: The crisis edition*

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As I received with hard-won indifference a job rejection this week, I contemplated how the do-it-all feminism of the nineties on which I had been raised had rested on two assumptions: (1) that there were plentiful sufficiently-paying and meaningful jobs; and (2) the existence of cheap childcare. The latter, I now understand with a clarity that eluded me in my twenties, was synonymous with the maintenance of a set of class, racial and gender hierarchies in which less-educated and often Black women provided care to professional, often white families. 

At middle age, I am now old enough to have had both of these assumptions thoroughly dispelled. There are some people whose interests and training have been lucky enough to correspond with market demands and structural expectations, but I trained first to be an academic and then (primarily because of the failing academic job market) to be a lawyer. I have stayed home for the last few years due to a combination of desire, complications with remote working and never finding the right job in the same city as my spouse. I cannot presently work firm hours with two children and a limited support network. Although outsiders often suggest that I find a public sector position or hang up my own shingle, I know that such jobs are extremely difficult to get (I’ve been rejected from every one to which I’ve applied) and that starting a business is no easy lift (and one for which I have no passion). Although I wouldn’t consider the dismantling of my career(s) a privilege, I enjoy being with my children far more than I expected. I know that if I went back that I would give up some things I value.

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The Affordability Crisis Hits LDS Homes

Natalie Brown recently completed a dissertation in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University that examines the relationship between homesickness and economic instability in nineteenth-century literature. She is currently guest editing an issue on the role of homes and houses in LDS culture for Irreantum, the literary journal of the Association for Mormon Letters. She encourages anyone interested in this topic to read the issue-specific guidelines and submit.

My life before the pandemic feels indistinguishable sometimes from the quarantine that followed. The pandemic exposed more than it created the preexisting cracks in my support network. I was already lonely and inadequately supported as an LDS mother of young children living in Colorado. Like many other families, we’d followed a job and found opportunity. That opportunity, however, came with the costs of living away from extended family and expensive housing that guaranteed my parents and siblings would not follow us.

Living away from family was not a wholly new situation to me. I’m a product of the Midwest, and my own parents raised me hundreds of miles from their families. My current situation, however, feels different from the one in which I grew up. While it’s easy to let nostalgia gloss the past, my parents had a ward with many families they could draw on for support and who actively mentored younger members. My parents could eventually afford luxuries like babysitters, lessons, and gym memberships that allowed them breaks from caretaking that today seem out of reach on any regular basis. In contrast, I find myself struggling with isolation as I stay home with children, as LDS women have long been encouraged to do. I’ve lost most of my local friends with young children in the last five years as families move in and out in search of cheaper housing and struggle to pay for things like preschool. The thing is, we are educated, middle-aged, and far from poor. Housing and childcare, however, are expensive. Which is another way of saying that affording a family today is tough.

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What is your ward doing about swine flu?

Mormons are often reluctant, whether through zeal or sense of duty, to miss Sunday services.  And yet this commendable trait can turn into a public health problem when people attend church with colds or flues in tow.  Picture if you will sacrament trays being passed through hands of sick, coughing people, nurseries where children mingle, and meetings where binders are passed through rows of people holding Kleenex to elderly members. How can we change our culture to encourage people to stay home when their health poses threats to others? [Read more…]