Saturday, February 25, 2012

Great new reviews of ExMormon, wow!!

The incomparable Donna Banta of Ward Gossip just wrote a fantastic review of my novel ExMormon!!! Here's a taste:

Hanson neither condemns nor promotes her former faith. Instead she presents an even-handed depiction of LDS culture. As a result, the reader is given a clear picture of the highly structured Mormon community, the self-righteous attitudes it encourages, and the subversive behavior it inspires. Each of her characters possesses the innocent and trusting voice of a Mormon kid, a perspective that serves to enhance both the humor and pathos of their experiences.

I also found another cool review on Amazon here:

This book is awesome! I don't read a lot of fictional books, but this one I'm reading for the second time. I think it's one of the best books I've ever read. I'm sure a lot of that is because I was raised in Utah Valley, and relate very strongly with many of the characters and their faith struggles. I love it because the characters are so lovable and relateable, because I feel like I know them. I love it because none of them become bitter or angry, but deal with the loss of faith in a fairly positive way. It depicts the nostalgia that former members feel towards the church, and the feelings they have towards their experiences, their Mormon families, and their courageous decisions to move on. I don't have a lot of friends that have left the church (though I'm gaining some over time), but this book let me know that I am not alone.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

People who are different than me

They are so dang hard to understand!!!

Here's an inspiring example of getting it, though:

It made me realize a simple truth: “This woman isn’t some unassailable mystery, or some video game that responds to a proper combination of insult, backhanded compliment, quarter-circle-forward-fierce-punch… She’s like me. She’s a normal human being.”

As embarrassing as it is to type now, back then that seemed like a revolutionary thought.

I think an epiphany like that isn't something to be embarrassed about. Empathy -- especially towards people that you can't immediately identify with -- is harder than people commonly realize. The "unfathomable woman" is an extremely common trope, and not because people are doing it on purpose...

The difficulty isn't limited to men failing to empathize with women, or even limited to people of more privileged groups failing to empathize with people from more marginalized groups. (For example, a gay author might wrongly imagine that he doesn't need to do research or exercise empathy to write convincing straight people.) Similarly, here's a popular blogger analyzing a famous Christian author's attempt to write a non-Christian character:

First of all, Arthur has always struck me as a character misunderstood by his writer. Finley keeps trying to force him into the role of Chief Villain, subtype Spoiled Brat (male), but it fits very awkwardly on Arthur. Sometimes he feels sorry for Elsie, sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes he’s nice to her, sometimes he’s very weirdly mean to her. It’s all very inconsistent and unnatural.

That’s probably because Finley herself doesn’t know why Arthur would hate Elsie. Clearly, because Elsie needs trials to overcome with the Power of Christ(tm), but other than that, there’s just no justification for Arthur’s villainy. It’s all very random. What does Arthur have to gain by making Daddy Dinsmore angry at Elsie? What was he hoping to achieve, and what does that failure mean that he’s so dejected by it? We’ll never know because Finley herself didn’t know.

On a related note, through my extensive blog reading, I recently stumbled upon an interesting example of what I like to call the central tension of feminism:

For every trait or role that's considered feminine, some women will say "Stop saying this negative thing is 'feminine'!" and other will say "Stop saying this negative thing is feminine!"

Here's the 'Mormon Child Bride' taking on a celebrity over how to affirm femininity and women's strength.

Of course, the range and diversity of women's experiences doesn't have to be a weakness -- check out this news item about how it can be a strength!!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Vote (for me!) in the 2011 Brodies!!

We have a huge number of fantastic nominees to vote for in this year's Brodie awards!! I'd like to call attention to my two entries (since I'm quite pleased with them, and I don't want them to be totally buried among all the other excellent choices):

What is Faith? This is a discussion I wrote to try to pin down what people mean when they talk about faith, and especially what they mean when they talk about believing something "on faith." I became curious about this question when I noticed misunderstandings over the word. People assumed that since they were all using this same word "faith" that they must be talking about the same thing -- when in reality the different speakers were talking about very different concepts. Naturally, this is a bit of a follow-up to my earlier piece It takes a lot of faith to believe that!!!. (running for Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion)

Building on a Religious Background is an essay I wrote for the October / November 2011 issue of Free Inquiry (the magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism). It's about how non-believers who were raised in a religion have a unique opportunity to foster cross-belief dialog. (running for Best Discussion of Mormon (or former-Mormon) Community)