Saturday, February 01, 2014

Mormon Mention: Rainbow Rowell

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture. 

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In Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Cath Avery is a college freshman who spends most of her time in her dorm room studying, worrying and writing fanfiction.  She's introverted and nerdy, a complete puzzle to her new roommate, Reagan.  This conversation ensues:

"Wear whatever.  Wear something that doesn't have Simon Snow on it, so that people won't assume your brain stopped developing when you were seven."

Cath put on her read CARRY ON t-shirt with jeans, and redid her ponytail.

Reagan frowned at her.  "Do you have to wear your hair like that?  Is it some kind of Mormon thing?"

"I'm not Mormon."

"I said some kind."  There was a knock at the door, and Reagan opened it.

-- Quote from Fangirl, page 69

Like I said, Cath's a "good girl," a virgin who doesn't drink, smoke, party or throw herself at random guys.  Naturally, Reagan—who's her complete opposite— assumes she's a nun.  Or a Mormon.  

Passages like this are actually compliments to us, I think, since they're commentaries on the LDS ideals of clean living.  Active church members adhere to the Word of Wisdom, which strongly cautions against the use of tobacco, strong drinks, even coffee and tea.  We are counseled to stay away from other potentially harmful behaviors as well, including taking illegal drugs, abusing prescription drugs, engaging in premarital sex, etc.  Thus, we've earned a reputation as people who strive to be as squeaky clean as possible.  Which isn't a bad thing.  Not at all.

A side note on Mormon college life:  Many LDS kids choose to attend church colleges (BYU-Provo, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, etc.), not just because they're good schools, but also because students there are required to uphold the standards of the LDS Church.  Does this mean there isn't any drinking, smoking, drugs, partying, sleeping around, etc.?  Of course not.  If you're looking for that kind of thing, I'm sure you can find it at BYU just as easily as anywhere else.  However, it is definitely not the norm.  Most BYU-ers are at BYU because they've made a conscious choice to avoid those kinds of elements.  In fact, BYU-Provo's been named the nation's top "Stone Cold Sober" school for almost 20 years in a row by The Princeton Review.  It's a distinction of which Mormons, especially BYU alums (like Yours Truly), are extremely proud.    

4 comments:

  1. But are there more ponytails at BYU? I don't remember anymore...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this Mormon Mention feature you do! :) I'm not Mormon but I am inclusive and love to learn, especially if it helps me shed light on someone else's life experience so that I can be more sensitive/understanding. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually, Rainbow Rowell is a Mormon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? How do you know? I can't find anything definitive about it on the Web ...

      Delete

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