Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Trend Watch: Polygamy is the New Craze

by Sariah S. Wilson

All you lucky folks are being spared a travelogue of my recent family vacation to Utah and then to Thermopolis, Wyoming and ending up in Yellowstone Park/West Yellowstone, Montana before catching a plane out of Jackson Wyoming to get home because - I subscribe to a review magazine called RT (for Romantic Times) Book Reviews. For the romance industry, it is one of "the" publications that you should probably be reading for news and updates and what's coming out.

In their "Trend Watch" section they cited polygamy as the hot new writing topic. They were careful to make the clear delineation of LDS and FLDS, but I do have to admit that by the end of the article I was a little...irritated.

Not because polygamy is off limits to anyone who hasn't personally lived it, but because of the historical references that I saw.

One particular author, who loves to write books about Mormons for mainstream inspirational readers (which I can't say anything about one way or the other as I've never read this author or heard of her before this article), says she's especially drawn to the time of Joseph Smith because of the dichotomy of women knowing there was another way to live yet choosing to live in polygamy (as opposed to modern day polygamists who are cut off from the world and raised in relative isolation).

She then went on to say that although she knew her books were unusual for the market, her books about polygamy have "a broader implication for people today who are caught up in one kind of bondage or another. Whether it's a cult or a destructive lifestyle, the deeper story is of God's love for us, no matter what happens."*

Now, I'm no fan of polygamy. I'm a very big unfan of current practices and think most of those modern men should be hunted down and imprisoned for the kind of stuff they do.

But when it comes to the early days of the Church - I still don't get it/like it, but I suppose it's a bit like when someone picks on your kid sister. You don't get to tease my sister, even if I do sometimes. It's different when it's family.

And I think the early practice of polygamy was not about bondage, cults or a destructive lifestyle. I think it was a whole other beast. I've read books by polygamist wives, their husbands, their offspring. I know some people had a little piece of heaven in their homes, while others constantly fought and bickered and dealt with overwhelming jealousy (which I so get!), and other women became almost autonomous with largely absent husbands, and I saw it create a certain kind of woman who knew she was as good as any man (because she proved it on a daily basis to survive) and in my opinion, was probably part of the reason that Utah was the second territory to give women the right to vote (although Congress tried to undo that with the Edmunds-Tucker Act).

All of the authors interviewed for the article with current/upcoming releases - not one was LDS. Not one. And that bothered me too.

Where are the stories told by the ancestors of these people? Where are the stories of people who KNOW what it's like to feel the Spirit whisper to you? Who can do hard things because of the reassurance of the Holy Ghost?

I don't mean to suggest that authors should only write exactly what they know. That would obviously preclude anything I've written since I've never lived in Central America a few hundred years before Christ came.

But I want to see a mainstream historical polygamy novel that doesn't depict the Church as evil and cult-like. I want to see an LDS author who can truly relate to the struggle between head and spirit in following a commandment telling the story of those polygamist wives and their husbands.

What do you think?




*(Klose, Stephanie. "The More, the Merrier." RT Book Reviews. July 2010: pp. 10-11)


12 Comments:

At 7/04/2010 12:15 AM, Blogger Th. said...

.

I don't see how we can really complain unless we're willing to get out there and write polygamist romances for the national market ourselves.

 
At 7/04/2010 1:16 AM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

Sariah,

Yes, polygamy can stir emotions. Current day practice I tend to ignore. As for the righteous practice in the early days of the church my view is that God gave a commandment in regard to plural marriage to Joseph Smith (which I understand Joseph didn't like) and it was obeyed. Simple faith. (Of course, people questioned it back then, too.)

I tell my wife the Lord will command some to fulfill the law of plural marriage again some time in the future. That made her mad. I then told her it was only for the most righteous. That made her feel better.

Charlie

 
At 7/04/2010 10:53 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Th. - You're right. Part of my reason for doing this post was the thought that many people probably didn't even know that these sorts of books were hitting the mainstream so hard right now. Like recently in EW's "Must List" the put down "The Lonely Polygamist" as a must read book (haven't read it/heard of it).

I didn't even know such a thing was feasible for a national market or that it was apparently so popular. I was just remarking that with this being the case, I'd love to see some talented historical LDS writers *cough*AnnetteLyon*cough* take it on.

Charlie, thank you for the laugh. I'm pretty sure that keeps me and my husband safe too. ;)

 
At 7/04/2010 11:39 AM, Anonymous Zoe Murdock said...

Take a look at "Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy." It's a novel, but it's based on real experience. I'd love to know what you think.

Zoe

www.hotpresspublishing.com/zoemurdock

 
At 7/04/2010 11:50 AM, Anonymous Mahonri Stewart said...

LDS authors HAVE written novels about polygamy, and have been doing so for years. Orson Scott Card did so very extensively in _Saints_ and Gerald Lund surprised me with how frank he was about the subject in _The Work and the Glory_ series. Now we can add Brady Udall's _The Lonely Polygamist_ to the list.

I personally have written two Church History plays that have dealt with the subjects extensively. I think all of the above stated examples not only dealt with it honestly and frankly, but also with an eye of faith (I can't vouch for _The Lonely Polygamist_, since I haven't read it).

 
At 7/04/2010 4:36 PM, Blogger Jolene said...

I think you raise some good points. I'm glad for the post. It is an interesting topic. I had a good friend live with my husband and I for a month. Having two women chase the four kids and sharing house cleaning and meals was awesome. We laughed about it every day. BUT at the end of the day, he was in my bed and that's where he wanted to be. I wouldn't know how to approach this topic. It's either a love story between the women or with the man, I can't imagine it working both ways.

 
At 7/04/2010 5:10 PM, Anonymous Andrew H. said...

I think it would be great if we would see more frank treatment of 19th century LDS polygamy in LDS fiction. It seems that LDS publishers are not interested in it, however. Reports on recent panels of LDS publishers say that they list polygamy as one of the hot topics they wish to avoid, along with homosexuality and abortion. Covenant appears to be especially firm on this, Cedar Fort less so.
http://www.mormontimes.com/article/15018/How-to-get-published-in-the-LDS-market
http://jordanmccollum.com/tag/covenant/

Although I regret the situation, I can understand it. 19th century polygamy is quite a minefield. If you are too positive about it, will readers think you (or the publisher) think it should be re-introduced, or are sympathetic to fundamentalist polygamists? If you are too negative about it, are you being criticial of the Church and its doctrines? Yikes.

Some recent LDS books that tackled the subject:
Harold K. Moon _The Leah Shadow_ (Cedar Fort, 2005). (19th century polygamy)
Janet Kay Jenson, _Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys_ (Cedar Fort, 2007). (20th century polygamy)
Tristi Pinkston, _Season of Sacrifice_ (Golden Wings, 200?). (19th century polygamy)

Here is a post that talks about the negative reaction in a book club to reading Virginia Sorenson's "A Little Lower than the Angels", a serious literary novel about Nauvoo-era polygamy, including a love scene between Joseph and Eliza R. Snow.
http://www.motleyvision.org/2008/virginia-sorenson/
"The other ladies in my club reacted differently. One woman, a recent convert, asked to borrow my copy and when I mentioned how surprised I had been by its treatment of polygamy she handed it right back. “To be honest,” she said, “Joseph Smith was the hardest part to believe in. And I haven’t come to terms with polygamy. Heavenly Mother I can take, but polygamy, I’m not so sure.” "

If you have a great idea for a novel with polygamy as a major theme, you probably will want to shop it to publishers outside of the Mormon market.

 
At 7/05/2010 7:57 PM, OpenID alwisdom said...

I think it's probably a passing fad in the media. It's shocking, everyone has a lot to say about it right now, but five or ten years out? I kind of doubt it. Just as fascinations with messages in rock music or Satanism have waned over the years, so will the fascination with polygamy.

Of course, I believe God had his purpose. I don't think it will be required in the future -- just my opinion :)

 
At 7/06/2010 4:36 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I wrote a stunningly awesome novel about it and couldn't get an LDS publisher to take it, and I didn't want to try to take it national for how they might treat the story. Hence, I self-published it.

 
At 7/07/2010 11:42 AM, Anonymous Ben S said...

Interesting. I didn't know this was becoming a trend, though I did know about "the lonely polygamist" from this interview with the LDS (mostly) author.

http://www.patheos.com//Resources/Additional-Resources/Lonely-Polygamist-Brady-Udall.html

 
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At 7/13/2010 5:48 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

With tongue in cheek I have strongly encouraged my husband to seek other wives. One that likes to do housework, one that likes to cook and one that likes to tend children. Truthfully, I am not good at sharing so I am grateful that I am not touched personally by polygamy. However, I would like to think that I could and would be obediant if a prophet of God instructed me to do so. Thanks for your thoughts.

 

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