Today’s review is of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright. Rachel, has already written about this book, but it gets its own review in this series today.
My only reading time is the time I spend coming home from work on public transit. This means, I get about 20-25 minutes of reading in before I put the book down. This book, being an anthology of lots of essays, is really great for that kind of reading. Read a little here, read a little there.
I like the chronological ordering of the essays in the book. It starts in the 1970s and slowly progresses to the current day Bloggernacle. Many of the essays in the first couple of sections of the book are from old copies of Mormon magazines that I don’t have access to, so compiling them here makes them available to me. There are even newer writings, like Neylan McBaine’s recent book To Do the Business of the Church, that I haven’t read yet.
I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah, I agree with that.” “Nope, I can see where they are coming from, but I’m not sure about that.” “Ooh, that’s a good point.” There was a particular pairing of essays, almost one right after another, that was really hard for me to get through. It was heavy and made my heart hurt. They were Lynn Matthews Anderson’s excerpts from “Toward a Feminist Interpretation of Latter-day Saint Scripture” and Carol Lynn Pearson’s “Could Feminism Have Saved the Nephites?” Having the inequality of women in scripture laid out so plainly is hard.
I mostly rate books based on how much of the book I find myself reading out loud to my husband. There was a good amount here that I wanted to read to him (can’t do that on my commute!), so I’m going to give it lots of stars for that. And thumbs up. And likes. +1.
I’ve seen some criticism of this book related to what essays they’ve left out. I especially felt in the last section with the Bloggernacle, there are lots of essays that belong in the “Essential Writings” category for Mormon Feminism, but this is a good start. There are probably tons of articles from old Exponent IIs, Dialogue, and others that belong here, but I simply haven’t heard about them. I think there is plenty of room for a second volume.
Another criticism I have heard is the lack of writings from voices outside the Unites states and from women of color. The last section attempts to address this a bit, but I’m sure there is room for more.
ETA: Concerning the last 2 sentences, I just remembered it was another book that was receiving that criticism. However, I read this one with that in mind and it is true that about the first 2/3 of the book’s essays come from white American women. That is probably more of a reflection of how well/not well the Mormon publications of the 1970s-1990s included women of color and non-Americans than this book. As I was reading it, I did wonder what writings might have been left out during those decades and where you might go to find them. Unfortunately, they weren’t widely published, but I imagine lots of journals and oral traditions contain them. That’s a project for another day.
Ultimately, this will be a great one to have on your shelf. I was the kind of kid who would read books from my parent’s shelves while eating breakfast and I look forward to when my kids pick this one up at breakfast 10 years from now.
This is a part of the Exponent Book Review Series and Cyber Monday Giveaway. By making a thoughtful comment on this post, subscribing to the Exponent, or making a donation to Exponent II by sending a PayPal donation to [email protected], you will be entered into a drawing to win one of many books being reviewed! Check the intro post for information and terms. Entries accepted until the 5th of December 2015.