Writing Women: Righteous Housewives

772px-Annibale_Carracci_-_Venus_with_a_Satyr_and_Cupids_-_WGA4430Soon after my first poems and short stories were published, I was forced to face the perceived gender transgression in my narrative voice. “You are a woman,” a young lady who sat across from me at the Union’s cafeteria exclaimed. She held in her hands a copy of a university publication in which my work had been featured. My first thought: How dare you? Her assertion conjured up all the demons a young, closeted, gay Mormon man could harbor. I felt vulnerable, naked, reading too much into an utterance that was intended as a compliment. “You experience love like a woman,” she completed her analysis, easing my anxiety, and, I’m sure, that of my girlfriend, sitting next to me.

A few years later, as my first novel was shopped around different publishing houses in the United States, an acquisitions editor at Random House commented, “If only this story had been written by a female author.” It was the early 2000s and the publishing industry had discovered the selling power of novelists like Laura Esquivel, Sandra Cisneros, and Isabel Allende. Yes, my literature fit nicely into this group because like them, I was writing powerful heroines within a Magical Realism aesthetic, a trend mainstreamed by Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. Sadly, I was a male, so Random House passed on the novel that their Spanish subsidiary was about to release in Spain and Latin America. Read more »

The Mormons Go At It Again: A Response to the Mormon Amicus Brief

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake CityHave you ever repeated a lie to yourself often enough that at some point it became your truth? As a defense mechanism or self-preservation device, this practice is quite common. These days, however, it seems to be a permissible approach for some institutions that claim a direct connection to the inviolability of God’s eternal plan, specifically, in regard to the definition of marriage. Take for example the Mormon Church. This organization exaggerates and promotes the value of “traditional” marriage in order to deny a well documented past of embracing anything but this. Like many religions, the Mormon Church teaches that faith and deeds here on earth will be rewarded in heaven. Among these rewards, the Mormon promise of plural marriage for select righteous men is still a principle of their Heavenly Law.

Recently, the Mormon Church’s counsel, Kirton McConkie, wrote an amicus brief in support of Prop 8. Interestingly enough, the LDS Church is not the first party listed. It would appear that they did not want to be seen as the leading force behind the opposition to civil equality for all couples. For me, there was little doubt this organization would continue to oppose the antidiscrimination cases going before the Supreme Court this year; however, optimists believed, after the Church’s image took a beating in the backlash stemming from their initial participation, that this time the Church might take a milder approach. Optimists were wrong. The brief they filed is a vivid example of how some things never change.

In 38 pages of eloquent language, the document is testimony of homophobic arguments and bias rhetoric designed to deny LGBTQ citizens equal protection under the law. Mainly, the brief contrasts “choice” of homosexuals versus “tradition” of heterosexual marriage. They write:

“The value we place on traditional marriages is also influenced by rational judgments about human nature and the needs of individuals and society (especially children), and by our collect experience counseling and serving millions of followers over countless years.”

Aside from the cliché “this is about the children,” the LDS legal counsel uses the term “traditional marriage” as if to suggest that there is a well-established and transhistorical absolute regarding marriage. The use of this term is entirely misleading. In her book, Marriage, A History, Stephanie Coontz explains:

“Like most visions of a ‘golden age’, the ‘traditional family’ evaporates on closer examination. It is an historical amalgam of structures, values, and behaviors that never coexisted in the same time and place.”

Think Biblical marriages, for example, in all their variations: polygamist, as a result of a man raping a woman, arranged, etc. Let’s also not forget Biblical condemnation of interfaith or interracial marriages.

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Miguel Santana’s New Novel Available Now!

HousewivescvrThe Righteous and Very Real Housewives of Utah County tells the stories of Emma Harris, a passionate seventy-year old Mormon widow and the women around her: the wives of the Pratt family. Following the structure of Like Water for Chocolate, the book is divided into twelve chapters, each beginning with a Mormon-themed recipe. The ways in which the six protagonists cope with the pressures of living a righteous life are revealed in the context of their culinary traditions.

Set in Utah’s most conservative county, Miguel Santana’s elegant prose paints a human portrait of six women determined and troubled, vulnerable and yet spirited. The novel is enchanting and honest with touches of magical realism and raw eroticism, a story that talks about the longing for family, the resilience of the human spirit, and the superlative courage it takes to love unconditionally, a novel that reveals that, ultimately, no one is without sin.