About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

#27, take 2 - Escape

All right, I'm trying to stop apologizing for having, er, some eclectic tastes in reading matter, so here it is again. After giving up on Atmospheric Disturbances, I read Escape, Carolyn Jessop's autobiographical account of being raised in the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) church, coerced into a polygamous marriage with a much-older husband, bearing 8 children, enduring all manner of horrifying emotional and physical abuses, and ultimately, fearing for her own and her childrens' lives and safety, fleeing her husband and the FLDS.

Yes, it's a bit on the sensational side. Even with co-author Laura Palmer, Jessop's understandably too emotionally close to her subject matter for this book to pass as real journalism, in the manner of Jon Krakauer's acclaimed Under the Banner of Heaven, which tackles much the same subject matter. But what does "too sensational" mean, exactly? We've all heard the aphorism: Truth can be stranger than fiction. In my last post, I wrote about unreliable narrators, and in a sense -- when it comes to our own experience, we're all unreliable. For any episode in my life, I'd be glad to write up or retell whatever details I can remember, as honestly as I can, but that doesn't guarantee that someone else won't remember it differently or that there isn't a back story I didn't (or still don't) know that might color one's understanding of the situation. Likewise, I don't have the book at hand right now, but I don't think Escape purports to speak for all FLDS women or all women in polygamous marriages. Even if it does, it's more appropriately read as one person's account: probably accurate, as far as it can be, but neither objective nor complete. If you're conducting a study or writing a paper, use this book as one of your sources, but don't stop here. If you're particularly upset (as in, you'll have nightmares or otherwise be haunted for weeks) by accounts of child or sexual abuse, you may want to pass this one by, as, well, it's in there. OTOH, if you're interested in a less camera-friendly picture of FLDS and/or polygamy than Big Love offers, or you've ever scratched your head wondering how on earth a woman could agree to live like this in the 21st century, this is as good a place as any to begin.

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