Apparently I am the resident expert at the Book Rack on Polygamy...at least within the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints sects. And so I am here to review some of the books I have been reading on the subject.
I started my readings with Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. She was a major player in bringing Warren Jeffs in and in his convictions (Warren Jeffs was the prophet up until recently when he was arrested and jailed.). Elissa was married at 14 to her 18 year old cousin against her will. She left the church at the age of 18 with a jack fundamentalist Mormon that she was in love with. This book talks about her own struggles within the church, growing up with a father that had plural wives and the anger, jealousy and animosity that came along with that.
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a fictionalized account of two different plural wives. It tells the story of Eliza Young, Brigham Young's "19th" wife and a modern day "19th" wife. Eliza Young actually wrote a pamphlet back in the 1800's about her life as a 19th wife and how she left. David Ebershoff just embellishes and expands on the pamphlet while weaving in the completely fictionalized account of the modern day wife. The interesting thing you learn in this book is that neither of the women are actually the 19th women either man married. Eliza Young was really more like the 48 wife, and no one really knows how many women Brigham married since there is so much secrecy surrounding plural marriages. He referred to Eliza as his 19th wife because when she married him that what number she was within his current rotation. Once a wife is "retired" due to menopause, disinterest, or even the wife leaving, the number changes for everyone. Very confusing!
Escaped by Carolyn Jessop is just an amazing story in my opinion. Carolyn Jessop was married at 18 to a man in his 50's that already had 3 wives. While she was married to him he married 4 other women. Carolyn herself had 8 children before she left. And the amazing part of her story is that she took all 8 of her kids with her and kept custody of them. Most women when and if they leave the church are not able to take their children, or are only able to take the youngest. The husbands have complete right to the children according to the church. An interesting (and bothersome?) part of Carolyn's story is how she reveals the abuse of our national welfare system. She says it's called "bleeding the beast". Since the women are not legally married they apply as single mothers of sometimes 13 or more children and receive state support. Basically, a lot of the communities and areas with polygamists are using our welfare system to stay afloat.
Church of Lies by Flora Jessop is a really hard book to read. She was abused sexually growing up, mostly by her father. She also writes about the abuse she saw in her friends families and it's a tough, tough, story. Flora left polygamy early on and has been an activist against it ever since then. She frequently has girls or women living with her that are on their way out on the "underground railroad". Her story is difficult but worth reading because it really opens your eyes to the over sexed mind set of the polygamous males and the lack of knowledge or awareness on the females part. Ignorance is key to polygamy working, the children are brainwashed early on and completely uneducated and the women are told that this life style will bring them salvation.
I am currently reading Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer. She grew up in a 3rd or 4th generation polygamist family. Her mother left the FLDS along with a number of her kids when Irene was in her early teens. Against her mother's wishes (and even those of her heart-she had fallen in love with a monogamous man) she married a man from a
Overall I think this is a fascinating lifestyle and religion. The idea of plural marriage is just so crazy to me and I think that is why I have become a little bit obsessed with it. It is full of abuse, jealousy, and desperation.
Feel free to comment or come in to the store and talk with me about this review!