The following is the Letter from the Editor, by Pandora Brewer, for the Fall 2016 issue of Exponent II. This issue explores the theme “Mormon Feminist Daughters” and highlights voices of women under the age of 30. If you would like a copy of this issue, go here and order a subscription by October 3. Thank you for supporting Exponent II!
I remember calling my mother from a phone booth in Salt Lake City, Utah, having just missed the bus connection that would take me the last leg from Provo to Ogden and home for the weekend. I was sobbing inconsolably, unable to catch my breath or calm down enough to solve the immediate issue. I felt stuck by the side of the road, seemingly a million miles from my destination.
There was more to the story. I was engaged to a boy who I knew deep down was not the right boy. The relationship had been a distraction and I was failing several college courses midterm. I had only just returned to BYU after a year-long break and had yet to declare a major after almost four years and two universities. I felt stuck in every aspect of my life, watching friends graduate, marry, and move on.
My extreme and cumulative reaction to this commonplace transportation glitch jolted me into paying attention. I paused long enough to reconsider where I was headed and this pause set me on an entirely different path. A path that led to an entirely different life. A life that has led me here.
Was the breakdown in that phone booth really the true point of departure? There were many points, many tears, many conversations and decisions over time. But in the narrative of our lives, we pocket touchstones that help us organize events. We trace our steps with the vivid images and emotions that surround us—pressing pins on a map, dropping breadcrumbs on the path, shining beams of light ahead and into the dark. We remember these markers and think, yes, this is it, the exact spot where things began to change.
When Margaret and I decided to focus an issue on writers and artists under 30, we thought of the theme “feminist daughters.” How is this next generation of feminists defining themselves, their circumstances and their choices? The experiences and ideas shared felt at once unique and familiar. With strong and distinct voices, these young women are finding their way in a complex world, discovering their own touchstones, marking points of departure, considering and reconsidering, setting out on paths unexpected and unknown.
Essays include Eliza Alvarez McBride writing about how her family history led to her own cultural identity in “Camping in Cultural Medians & Making Room for Paradoxes.” Mikayla Thatcher references a 1915 personal progress handbook for inspiration in “Beehive Girls.” In “Brown Hair, Red Cape” Lauren Hafen wrestles to reconcile the two conflicting perspectives of her and her companion. Sofia Adams reflects on her emerging sense of self alongside the women of her childhood in “Mormon Sisterhood.” Megan Barney asks her own questions in the broader context of the church in “Millennial Generations.” Lauren Marsh’s “God’s Backyard” invites the reader to literally get in the mind and under the skin of a woman finding her own space in the world. Alongside the essays and features, we are proud to publish a collection of remarkable and professional artwork, also exclusively created by women under 30.
We also asked two feminist daughters over 30 to offer insight on how experiential thresholds continue as we grow older. In “The First Feminists,” Marion Bishop writes about the link between her family of origin and the family she is raising and Kimberlee Staking tells us what she learned from reading and teaching women’s stories in “Testimonies and Testimonios.”
This issue was an intense experience for us. We did not anticipate the emotional fierceness of these new voices—the raw ache, intelligence, and immediacy. All of the art, essays, and features challenge us to see through their eyes instead of our own. In seeing with them, we see ourselves. I found myself back in that phone booth, feeling the rush of despair and confusion, as if no time had passed. We never forget the beginning of a journey, what it felt like and what we learned there. It stays with us as we embark again and again, as we reach out with recognition to sisters lingering by the side of the road, as we pause and sit next to them, and as we remember together.