Mormons & Mormonism Reviews, Sept. 1, 2012

Brooks, Joanna. The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith. Free Pr: S. & S. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9781451699685. pap. $14. REL

This engaging memoir is a welcome addition to the recent flood of books about Mormonism. Brooks (English & comparative literature, San Diego State Univ.; American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African American and Native American Literatures ) left the faith and married a Jewish man. She eventually returned to Mormonism, albeit with a feminist, liberal bent. She talks openly about her childhood and the quirks that resulted from her Mormon upbringing. She struggles between her yearning to return to a familiar faith while having decidedly different opinions about issues like women’s roles and gay marriage. Taking on the role of spokeswoman for Mormons who don’t fit the mold, Brooks describes her activism and return to the religion of her birth. ­ VERDICT A thought-provoking, conversation-starting memoir for those interested in Mormonism, feminism, and religion in general. The book includes a reading group guide as well as an interview with the author.—Holly Hebert, Brentwood P.L., TN

Fluhman, J. Spencer. A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America. Univ. of North Carolina. Sept. 2012. c.256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807835715. $34.95. REL

Modern Mormons work hard to promote themselves as Christians and über-Americans. But they have had to work against deeply entrenched prejudice and stereotypes that linger from the 19th century, as Fluhman (history, Brigham Young Univ.) ably demonstrates. Mormons themselves have accepted their public image as “a peculiar people”—separate from others, but not too separate or weird. Fluhman is interested in how others have viewed Mormons and molded their image. His 19th-century primary sources range from popular periodicals to various religious and political exposés. Anti-Mormonism has been both a religious phenomenon (misunderstanding Mormonism as a non-Christian religion) and a political one, particularly in the 19th century, as non-Mormons tried to limit the power of Mormon leaders over their followers. The controversy over polygamy was an important contributor to anti-Mormon sentiment, and Fluhman gives the subject its due here. Some of the great illustrations Fluhman includes may seem particularly outlandish to 21st-century sensibilities. VERDICT Though an academically oriented book, general readers interested in American religious history will find this a worthwhile read as well.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia