August212014

"Aikido (much like horsemanship), by its very nature, is a highly personal art. it is all about improving one’s self. But to achieve this improvement, the aididoka enlists the help of training partners. These partners in turn are also working on their own aikido, their own personal improvement. The only way for harmony to be achieved while they practice together is if both individuals train honestly and to the best of their ability. This means that uke must give an honest attack, and nage must perform an honest technique. And in this honesty is where growth, and ultimately harmony, is achieved." 
"Nature’s way of dealing with things consists of a continuous cycle of give and take. If nature gives something, it takes something in return, and if it takes something, it also gives something in return. So unlied the way we humans might see the world around us, where everything must be fair and just and if it isn’t someone must take the blame or be held accountable, nature, on the other hand, is all about balance. And in nature’s way of balance, there is no good or bad or right or wrong, but rather there is only what is of benefit to the whole." 
"What I’m talking about here is the type of work that strives to move beyond what one might refer to as the "synthetic horsemanship" that we see so much of these days. It’s getting past the type of horsemanship where the main focus is on the human, not necessarily the horse, and where making the horse perform needless and often mindless tasks over and over in the quest for "respect" is often the goal. Rather, the type of horsemanship I’m referring to here doesn’t belong to anybody; it isn’t trademarked, and it doesn’t even have a name. It is simply the development of honest communication between horse and rider based on the best understanding we each have for one another at any given time. It’s taking the good with the bad without placing blame or fault, and doing our best to direct energy instead of stifling or stopping it." 

Book: Nature in Horsemanship: Discovering Harmony Through Principles of AikidoAuthor: Mark RashidPublished: Skyhorse (2011)My Review: Not my favorite of Rashid’s books, but stunning nonetheless. I don’t actually think he’s capable of writing a bad book. I know nothing about Aikido, though, and was a bit distracted by the incorporation of that particular component. Not that I’m against the practice— in fact I should probably sign myself up for a class or two based on the apparent benefits— but I’m pretty damn ignorant about the subject and, quite frankly, have never given much thought to martial arts in general aside from a very strange and morbid fascination with MMA cage-fighting (the principles of which I really don’t think apply to horsemanship quite as comfortably as Aikido). Despite my occasional mental wanderings, there were many pieces in here that are, as always with Rashid’s books, quite helpful in everyday life and work with horses. Common themes resurfaced with different stories and examples: breathing, mindfulness, pressure/release, distance, respect, creativity… An overall excellent reminder to get in touch with that elusive inner calm and throw out as much heart and soul as we expect in return, even if that means looking ridiculous and making mistakes. Life is messy— suit up. 

"Aikido (much like horsemanship), by its very nature, is a highly personal art. it is all about improving one’s self. But to achieve this improvement, the aididoka enlists the help of training partners. These partners in turn are also working on their own aikido, their own personal improvement. The only way for harmony to be achieved while they practice together is if both individuals train honestly and to the best of their ability. This means that uke must give an honest attack, and nage must perform an honest technique. And in this honesty is where growth, and ultimately harmony, is achieved." 

"Nature’s way of dealing with things consists of a continuous cycle of give and take. If nature gives something, it takes something in return, and if it takes something, it also gives something in return. So unlied the way we humans might see the world around us, where everything must be fair and just and if it isn’t someone must take the blame or be held accountable, nature, on the other hand, is all about balance. And in nature’s way of balance, there is no good or bad or right or wrong, but rather there is only what is of benefit to the whole." 

"What I’m talking about here is the type of work that strives to move beyond what one might refer to as the "synthetic horsemanship" that we see so much of these days. It’s getting past the type of horsemanship where the main focus is on the human, not necessarily the horse, and where making the horse perform needless and often mindless tasks over and over in the quest for "respect" is often the goal. Rather, the type of horsemanship I’m referring to here doesn’t belong to anybody; it isn’t trademarked, and it doesn’t even have a name. It is simply the development of honest communication between horse and rider based on the best understanding we each have for one another at any given time. It’s taking the good with the bad without placing blame or fault, and doing our best to direct energy instead of stifling or stopping it." 
Book: Nature in Horsemanship: Discovering Harmony Through Principles of Aikido
Author: Mark Rashid
Published: Skyhorse (2011)

My Review: Not my favorite of Rashid’s books, but stunning nonetheless. I don’t actually think he’s capable of writing a bad book. I know nothing about Aikido, though, and was a bit distracted by the incorporation of that particular component. Not that I’m against the practice— in fact I should probably sign myself up for a class or two based on the apparent benefits— but I’m pretty damn ignorant about the subject and, quite frankly, have never given much thought to martial arts in general aside from a very strange and morbid fascination with MMA cage-fighting (the principles of which I really don’t think apply to horsemanship quite as comfortably as Aikido). 

Despite my occasional mental wanderings, there were many pieces in here that are, as always with Rashid’s books, quite helpful in everyday life and work with horses. Common themes resurfaced with different stories and examples: breathing, mindfulness, pressure/release, distance, respect, creativity… An overall excellent reminder to get in touch with that elusive inner calm and throw out as much heart and soul as we expect in return, even if that means looking ridiculous and making mistakes. Life is messy— suit up. 
August192014

"I offered the opinion that nowhere is the disparity between the haves and the have-nots played out quite so dramatically as it is on the racetrack." 
"There are no laws against hardheartedness. A horse is private property, and private property is a sacred notion. And so it is that some Thoroughbreds must literally run for their lives. There is glory on the racetrack, glory writ large. But there are shameful acts, too, and callousness." 
"We on the periphery gravitate to the classic images of victory: the great horse coming down the stretch, in the winner’s circle, the jockey’s hand raised in victory. The groom treasures the quieter moments, when the charger is at peace." 
"A Thoroughbred takes a mere six strides from the starting gate to hit forty miles an hour and start taking in five gallons of air a second. The force of all that weight and speed exerts an impact on the horse’s cannon bone of ten thousand to twelve thousand pounds." 
"A study done several years ago at the University of Pennsylvania found that 98 percent of pet owners talk to their animals, as if to a sympathetic friend. But I wonder how many listen to their animals in the way, say, that Eddie Sweat listened to Secretariat— listened with his ears, his heart, listened in his bones." 

Book: The Horse God BuiltAuthor: Lawrence ScanlanPublished: Thomas Dunne Books (2007)
My Review: For something I was expecting to be an easy-read and palate cleanser (yes, I’m moping over Outlander), this book was surprisingly complex and interesting. 
Horse racing doesn’t sit right with me. To me, the sport screams horse-as-machine; it goes fast when we jump in the saddle, goes faster still when we throttle toward the finish line, and suffers in silence as its health and well-being become dismissed as non-issues in the eyes of the consumer (owner, trainer, jockey, etc.). Shattered bone? Colic? Laminitis? Might as well be engine failure or a broken alternator. If it can’t continue running, just trade the bugger in. The only thing missing is a warranty! 
I’m a cynic, yes, but am I wrong? Am I the only one disgusted by this? 
There are two sides to every story, though. Duly noted. The more compassionate side of racing should be known and understood as well as its cruel counterpart. Which is why I liked this book.
Scanlon does a phenomenal job exploring, understanding, and documenting both sides of horse racing. One side shows us unfathomable cruelty, human selfishness, unbridled ego, racism, classism, and greed. Did I mention all seven deadly sins? Because I meant to. They’re all there, I’m sure. And animal cruelty should be listed as an eighth deadly sin. 
BUT.
Apparently this horse racing beast has a soft(er) underbelly, though. Frequently out of sight, behind the curtains, in “the backstretch,” as they say, are genuine human beings connecting with living, breathing, beautifully honest animals.
And this incredible book highlights the groom, the hardest and least appreciated team member who is forced to hang on for dear life to the lowest rung of the horse racing ladder. The camera rarely strays from the winner’s circle to the stables where the real work (and the real compassion) gets done, day in and day out, and day in again.
There are other reasons, I think, particularly when Secretariat was running in the 70’s, that made integration between the haves and the have nots (race & class) an almost impossible political feat. During this time, owners, trainers, jockeys were rich and white. Grooms and other lower-rung workers, however, were (with few exceptions) black and poor as all get out.
Interesting that today the situation hasn’t changed much. Only one small change, really. The owners, trainers, jockeys are still white, but the grooms are, with few exceptions, poor white women and poor hispanics.
[INSERT ASTUTE POLITICAL DECONSTRUCTION AND ANALYSIS OF INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN RACE, GENDER, CLASS, POWER, AND PRIVILEGE HERE]
I’ll spare you my own deconstruction, but I’m serious when I say check in with yourself here. Who does horse racing benefit? Who works hardest? Who gets respect and reward, and why? How is life (human and horse) treated? What are the values of the sport? 
And finally, do these values mirror your own? 
Chew on that, nerdy book friends, feminists, and fellow horse lovers! This book, apparently, hits a hot topic for everyone!  

"I offered the opinion that nowhere is the disparity between the haves and the have-nots played out quite so dramatically as it is on the racetrack." 

"There are no laws against hardheartedness. A horse is private property, and private property is a sacred notion. And so it is that some Thoroughbreds must literally run for their lives. There is glory on the racetrack, glory writ large. But there are shameful acts, too, and callousness." 

"We on the periphery gravitate to the classic images of victory: the great horse coming down the stretch, in the winner’s circle, the jockey’s hand raised in victory. The groom treasures the quieter moments, when the charger is at peace." 

"A Thoroughbred takes a mere six strides from the starting gate to hit forty miles an hour and start taking in five gallons of air a second. The force of all that weight and speed exerts an impact on the horse’s cannon bone of ten thousand to twelve thousand pounds." 

"A study done several years ago at the University of Pennsylvania found that 98 percent of pet owners talk to their animals, as if to a sympathetic friend. But I wonder how many listen to their animals in the way, say, that Eddie Sweat listened to Secretariat— listened with his ears, his heart, listened in his bones." 

Book: The Horse God Built
Author: Lawrence Scanlan
Published: Thomas Dunne Books (2007)

My Review: For something I was expecting to be an easy-read and palate cleanser (yes, I’m moping over Outlander), this book was surprisingly complex and interesting. 

Horse racing doesn’t sit right with me. To me, the sport screams horse-as-machine; it goes fast when we jump in the saddle, goes faster still when we throttle toward the finish line, and suffers in silence as its health and well-being become dismissed as non-issues in the eyes of the consumer (owner, trainer, jockey, etc.). Shattered bone? Colic? Laminitis? Might as well be engine failure or a broken alternator. If it can’t continue running, just trade the bugger in. The only thing missing is a warranty! 

I’m a cynic, yes, but am I wrong? Am I the only one disgusted by this? 

There are two sides to every story, though. Duly noted. The more compassionate side of racing should be known and understood as well as its cruel counterpart. Which is why I liked this book.

Scanlon does a phenomenal job exploring, understanding, and documenting both sides of horse racing. One side shows us unfathomable cruelty, human selfishness, unbridled ego, racism, classism, and greed. Did I mention all seven deadly sins? Because I meant to. They’re all there, I’m sure. And animal cruelty should be listed as an eighth deadly sin. 

BUT.

Apparently this horse racing beast has a soft(er) underbelly, though. Frequently out of sight, behind the curtains, in “the backstretch,” as they say, are genuine human beings connecting with living, breathing, beautifully honest animals.

And this incredible book highlights the groom, the hardest and least appreciated team member who is forced to hang on for dear life to the lowest rung of the horse racing ladder. The camera rarely strays from the winner’s circle to the stables where the real work (and the real compassion) gets done, day in and day out, and day in again.

There are other reasons, I think, particularly when Secretariat was running in the 70’s, that made integration between the haves and the have nots (race & class) an almost impossible political feat. During this time, owners, trainers, jockeys were rich and white. Grooms and other lower-rung workers, however, were (with few exceptions) black and poor as all get out.

Interesting that today the situation hasn’t changed much. Only one small change, really. The owners, trainers, jockeys are still white, but the grooms are, with few exceptions, poor white women and poor hispanics.

[INSERT ASTUTE POLITICAL DECONSTRUCTION AND ANALYSIS OF INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN RACE, GENDER, CLASS, POWER, AND PRIVILEGE HERE]

I’ll spare you my own deconstruction, but I’m serious when I say check in with yourself here. Who does horse racing benefit? Who works hardest? Who gets respect and reward, and why? How is life (human and horse) treated? What are the values of the sport? 

And finally, do these values mirror your own? 

Chew on that, nerdy book friends, feminists, and fellow horse lovers! This book, apparently, hits a hot topic for everyone!  

August152014

"The phrase ‘Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed’ floated through his head. It was maybe not the believing that was the blessing; it was the not having to look. Seeing, sometimes, was bloody awful." 
"Thy life’s journey lies along its own path, Ian," she said, "and I cannot share thy journey— but I can walk beside thee. And I will." 
"Brave covers everything from complete insanity and bloody disregard of other people’s lives— generals tend to go in for that sort— to drunkenness, foolhardiness, and outright idiocy— to the sort of thing that will make a man sweat and tremble and throw up… and go and do what he thinks he has to do anyway." 
"Ye turn my heart to water, lass— and should anything happen to you or to wee Oggy, it would punch a hole in me that would let my life run out." 

Book: Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander Series, VIII)Author: Diana GabaldonPublished: Delacorte Press (June 2014)
My Review: The Outlander books are literally my favorite series of all time. And I have a love-hate relationship with them the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. The reading I absolutely adore— I am obsessed and enthralled and 110% unavailable to anyone or anything requiring my attention while I’m burning through pages. But closing that back cover is literary heartbreak. As much as I love the story, I loathe the finishing. 
And, thus, I’m thrown unwillingly and unhappily back into my period of mourning for my adventure-romance-time-traveling companions. Tomorrow morning will greet me with a sleepy yawn, a nice stretch, and then BAM! — book hangover. Who knows how long it’ll last this time; the last seven Outlander endings left me soulless and desolate for days on end. And, kick me when I’m down, the 9th book isn’t even a spark in Gabaldon’s eye yet! I could die and never know the end, heaven forbid.
Hysterics aside, I’ll state the obvious: the book was good. Check out my seven previous Outlander reviews if you want all the ridiculous squealing and swooning— and a bit of critique every now and then.
And then read these books because they are a.maz.ing. Yes, I added grammatically incorrect punctuation marks to emphasize my enthusiasm. And also because I’m a rebel… or something.
Just a little FYI to top it all off, the TV show is officially airing on Starz now (you’re welcome!). That said, no bibliophile of good repute would watch a show without first having the REAL story from which to criticize the re-making. Am I right?? 

"The phrase ‘Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed’ floated through his head. It was maybe not the believing that was the blessing; it was the not having to look. Seeing, sometimes, was bloody awful." 

"Thy life’s journey lies along its own path, Ian," she said, "and I cannot share thy journey— but I can walk beside thee. And I will." 

"Brave covers everything from complete insanity and bloody disregard of other people’s lives— generals tend to go in for that sort— to drunkenness, foolhardiness, and outright idiocy— to the sort of thing that will make a man sweat and tremble and throw up… and go and do what he thinks he has to do anyway." 

"Ye turn my heart to water, lass— and should anything happen to you or to wee Oggy, it would punch a hole in me that would let my life run out." 

Book: Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander Series, VIII)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Published: Delacorte Press (June 2014)

My Review: The Outlander books are literally my favorite series of all time. And I have a love-hate relationship with them the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. The reading I absolutely adore— I am obsessed and enthralled and 110% unavailable to anyone or anything requiring my attention while I’m burning through pages. But closing that back cover is literary heartbreak. As much as I love the story, I loathe the finishing. 

And, thus, I’m thrown unwillingly and unhappily back into my period of mourning for my adventure-romance-time-traveling companions. Tomorrow morning will greet me with a sleepy yawn, a nice stretch, and then BAM! — book hangover. Who knows how long it’ll last this time; the last seven Outlander endings left me soulless and desolate for days on end. And, kick me when I’m down, the 9th book isn’t even a spark in Gabaldon’s eye yet! I could die and never know the end, heaven forbid.

Hysterics aside, I’ll state the obvious: the book was good. Check out my seven previous Outlander reviews if you want all the ridiculous squealing and swooning— and a bit of critique every now and then.

And then read these books because they are a.maz.ing. Yes, I added grammatically incorrect punctuation marks to emphasize my enthusiasm. And also because I’m a rebel… or something.

Just a little FYI to top it all off, the TV show is officially airing on Starz now (you’re welcome!). That said, no bibliophile of good repute would watch a show without first having the REAL story from which to criticize the re-making. Am I right?? 

August22014

"It’s funny how sometimes in life you can look at something for years and years, and for years and years the picture never changes. Then suddenly, out of the blue, a new piece of information comes in. Even though the picture doesn’t change, we start seeing the scene in a completely different light." 
"There is no magic, and training tools and techniques are only as good as the person using them. For me, what it’s about is getting involved and giving guidance… trying hard, making mistakes, getting it right… falling down, then getting back up again… and most of all becoming part of the process."
"The difference for me is that lightness is primarily on the outside of the horse and is mostly technique-based, while softness comes from inside of the horse and is a combination of technique, trust, conviction, and feel that is exchanged between rider and horse and back again. Softness is a conversation and a way to be, rather than a thing to do." 
"If I had to guess," the old man continued, "I’d say the reason you’re feeling bad here is because you went and did something with this horse that not a lot of folks ever do. You gave him your heart." … "In return, this horse gave you himself, and that doesn’t happen very often." 

Book: Whole Heart Whole HorseAuthor: Mark RashidPublished: Skyhorse Publishing (2009, 2014)
My Review: After marathon-reading a bunch of Mark Rashid’s books (the next one up is in the mail as we speak, by the way), I’ve come to the conclusion that this man is the epitome of everything I want to be as an equestrian— and probably as a human being, as well. Calm, soft, thoughtful, creative, humble, self-aware and aware of others…
Rashid has a respect for the life around him that is uniquely genuine and commendable. No one is perfect, of course, (including Mark Rashid) but it is my belief that the closest we come to perfection is being ever-mindful of our weaknesses and actively working toward growing into a better version of ourselves. If there is even a smidgeon of truth in these memoirs, Rashid is quite an impressive illustration of self-awareness and lifelong growth.
The process of being a good human and, in this case a good horseman, never ends, and as a mentor of mine once said, there is no arrival time. The piece that matters is doing it, showing up; trying once, trying again, and trying each time after that until either your life or your passion has gone.

"It’s funny how sometimes in life you can look at something for years and years, and for years and years the picture never changes. Then suddenly, out of the blue, a new piece of information comes in. Even though the picture doesn’t change, we start seeing the scene in a completely different light." 

"There is no magic, and training tools and techniques are only as good as the person using them. For me, what it’s about is getting involved and giving guidance… trying hard, making mistakes, getting it right… falling down, then getting back up again… and most of all becoming part of the process."

"The difference for me is that lightness is primarily on the outside of the horse and is mostly technique-based, while softness comes from inside of the horse and is a combination of technique, trust, conviction, and feel that is exchanged between rider and horse and back again. Softness is a conversation and a way to be, rather than a thing to do." 

"If I had to guess," the old man continued, "I’d say the reason you’re feeling bad here is because you went and did something with this horse that not a lot of folks ever do. You gave him your heart." … "In return, this horse gave you himself, and that doesn’t happen very often." 

Book: Whole Heart Whole Horse
Author: Mark Rashid
Published: Skyhorse Publishing (2009, 2014)

My Review: After marathon-reading a bunch of Mark Rashid’s books (the next one up is in the mail as we speak, by the way), I’ve come to the conclusion that this man is the epitome of everything I want to be as an equestrian— and probably as a human being, as well. Calm, soft, thoughtful, creative, humble, self-aware and aware of others…

Rashid has a respect for the life around him that is uniquely genuine and commendable. No one is perfect, of course, (including Mark Rashid) but it is my belief that the closest we come to perfection is being ever-mindful of our weaknesses and actively working toward growing into a better version of ourselves. If there is even a smidgeon of truth in these memoirs, Rashid is quite an impressive illustration of self-awareness and lifelong growth.

The process of being a good human and, in this case a good horseman, never ends, and as a mentor of mine once said, there is no arrival time. The piece that matters is doing it, showing up; trying once, trying again, and trying each time after that until either your life or your passion has gone.

August12014

"Belief wasn’t something that could be compromised to fit changing circumstances: a man embraced and practiced the divine revelations of Joseph Smith or he did not. One had to be either willing to denounce human laws for the laws of God or he was an apostate."
"You have no business trying to embarrass the boys by talking about these secret things," she said. "They have a sex drive and that’s that." The teenager tried to put up an argument but was overmatched. "You can;t blame boys for acting that way," the woman said. "And you deserve what you get for dressing like that." "I didn’t dress this way," Sara replied, "when I was five." 
"In spite of the rise of Warren Jeffs and the growing human damage created by the "sacred principle" of polygamy, the official Mormon Church ignored these developments… [It] wanted nothing to do with its bastard cousin down in Dixie, even if the fundamentalists were living truer to Smith’s ideas than were the faithful in Salt Lake City."
"We shouldn’t be focused just on Warren Jeffs," one boy said after the Prophet was caught, "but on fighting religious terrorism as a whole. You can’t change everything all at once. There’s no fix-it pill for this problem. But what you can do is talk to the person on your right and to the person on your left and help them understand." 
"It’s very easy to criticize our government, which is bound to make mistakes when trying to confront and solve entangled problems. But every now and then, those in charge come close to living out the wisdom behind the principles that created the United States… These people not only give us hope, but the opportunity to think about what power is and the best way to use it." 

Book: When Men Become GodsAuthor: Stephen SingularPublished: St. Martin’s Press (2008, 2009)
My Review: It’s official. I think I’ve read all there is to read about this FLDS business. At least without having enough information about the little community to write a dissertation on the topic. Now it’s down to slightly different versions of essentially the same memoir. The weird part (and quite unfortunate part for those of you who read these little book blurbs) is that I’m still fascinated. 
Religions practice, particularly cult culture, is incredibly interesting. Not only is it difficult to imagine that these communities function as utterly isolated sub-sections of our own society, but also that enough people have escaped and generously offered us bits of their world and knowledge so that we can begin to understand. Bit by bit, we put the puzzle together and learn how the master manipulators and evil geniuses of the world manage to brainwash entire populations, scam our enormous national and state governments, and commit heinous crimes with barely the bat of an eyelid from the criminal justice system. 
And, for anyone who’s as nerdy about public administration and political science as I am, the complexity of managing this type of phenomenon in a country with such a strong belief in freedom is mind-boggling. Our systems are not set up to effectively or efficiently respond to the institutionalized abuse and neglect of hundreds of children, for instance. Or the impossible task of sorting out welfare benefits for a family with 15 wives and 70 children. And what about the pre-meditated and terrifyingly destructive brainwashing of thousands upon thousands of “consenting” adults? Who, by the way, are not really consenting as they have been given no choice.
The FLDS culture is the ultimate legal and constitutional nightmare. And we’ve been ignoring it, thus letting it become thoroughly corrupt and increasingly out of control, for almost two centuries. How on earth do you even begin to remedy that? Which traditions are protected by “religious freedom” and which are simply criminal and subject to outside intervention? What is the first step (or any of the subsequent steps for that matter) in charging, arresting, and prosecuting hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals simultaneously? 
So I challenge you! Riddle me that!

"Belief wasn’t something that could be compromised to fit changing circumstances: a man embraced and practiced the divine revelations of Joseph Smith or he did not. One had to be either willing to denounce human laws for the laws of God or he was an apostate."

"You have no business trying to embarrass the boys by talking about these secret things," she said. "They have a sex drive and that’s that." The teenager tried to put up an argument but was overmatched. "You can;t blame boys for acting that way," the woman said. "And you deserve what you get for dressing like that." "I didn’t dress this way," Sara replied, "when I was five." 

"In spite of the rise of Warren Jeffs and the growing human damage created by the "sacred principle" of polygamy, the official Mormon Church ignored these developments… [It] wanted nothing to do with its bastard cousin down in Dixie, even if the fundamentalists were living truer to Smith’s ideas than were the faithful in Salt Lake City."

"We shouldn’t be focused just on Warren Jeffs," one boy said after the Prophet was caught, "but on fighting religious terrorism as a whole. You can’t change everything all at once. There’s no fix-it pill for this problem. But what you can do is talk to the person on your right and to the person on your left and help them understand." 

"It’s very easy to criticize our government, which is bound to make mistakes when trying to confront and solve entangled problems. But every now and then, those in charge come close to living out the wisdom behind the principles that created the United States… These people not only give us hope, but the opportunity to think about what power is and the best way to use it." 

Book: When Men Become Gods
Author: Stephen Singular
Published: St. Martin’s Press (2008, 2009)

My Review: It’s official. I think I’ve read all there is to read about this FLDS business. At least without having enough information about the little community to write a dissertation on the topic. Now it’s down to slightly different versions of essentially the same memoir. The weird part (and quite unfortunate part for those of you who read these little book blurbs) is that I’m still fascinated. 

Religions practice, particularly cult culture, is incredibly interesting. Not only is it difficult to imagine that these communities function as utterly isolated sub-sections of our own society, but also that enough people have escaped and generously offered us bits of their world and knowledge so that we can begin to understand. Bit by bit, we put the puzzle together and learn how the master manipulators and evil geniuses of the world manage to brainwash entire populations, scam our enormous national and state governments, and commit heinous crimes with barely the bat of an eyelid from the criminal justice system. 

And, for anyone who’s as nerdy about public administration and political science as I am, the complexity of managing this type of phenomenon in a country with such a strong belief in freedom is mind-boggling. Our systems are not set up to effectively or efficiently respond to the institutionalized abuse and neglect of hundreds of children, for instance. Or the impossible task of sorting out welfare benefits for a family with 15 wives and 70 children. And what about the pre-meditated and terrifyingly destructive brainwashing of thousands upon thousands of “consenting” adults? Who, by the way, are not really consenting as they have been given no choice.

The FLDS culture is the ultimate legal and constitutional nightmare. And we’ve been ignoring it, thus letting it become thoroughly corrupt and increasingly out of control, for almost two centuries. How on earth do you even begin to remedy that? Which traditions are protected by “religious freedom” and which are simply criminal and subject to outside intervention? What is the first step (or any of the subsequent steps for that matter) in charging, arresting, and prosecuting hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals simultaneously? 

So I challenge you! Riddle me that!

July292014

"Once you understand how a horse communicates," the old man said, as he lit another cigarette, "you can understand how he thinks. Once you understand how he thinks, you can understand what’s important to him. And that’s the key." 
"He taught me the difference between a horse that was scared, one that was mad, and one that was somewhere in between. He showed me how to teach the ones that have trouble learning, learn from the ones that are trying to teach, and help the ones that wanted to be helped. He taught me that the best horses aren’t always the biggest, the prettiest, or the shiniest. Sometimes they’re the little skinny ones with the broom tails and big ears that stand in the back of the pen." 
"From working with the old man and Bennie, I learned two very important things about working with horses that have turned out, even to this day, to be the keys to success. One is that a horse will only learn what we have to show him if we are showing him in a way he can understand. That, I have come to realize, is really the single most important part of working with horses. The other thing is that horses will almost always learn what we have to show them. We just need to remember that they can only learn as fast as they can learn, not necessarily as fast as we can teach." 

Book: A Good Horse Is Never A Bad ColorAuthor: Mark RashidPublished: Skyhorse Publishing (2011, 2nd Ed.)
My Review: The more Mark Rashid I read, the more I like Mark Rashid. He’s one of those genuine, gentle people who makes you want to find your calm and your quiet. And despite the fact that he’s exceptional at what he does, thanks to an incredible mentor of his own, he writes with an admirable and rare (particularly in the horse world) sense of humility. Genuine? Gentle? Humble? No wonder he’s so successful with his equine companions! 
Much like his other books, this is a zen and soulful kind of read. It’s simple and flows easy, but it’s wonderfully deep and philosophical in message. While intentionally avoiding the feel of a more sterile, step-by-step horse training handbook, Rashid’s narratives and stories contain soft-spoken advice and practical tricks to use in everyday life pulled from his own learning experiences. 
Highly recommended. Good for people, good for horses. Win-win. 

"Once you understand how a horse communicates," the old man said, as he lit another cigarette, "you can understand how he thinks. Once you understand how he thinks, you can understand what’s important to him. And that’s the key." 

"He taught me the difference between a horse that was scared, one that was mad, and one that was somewhere in between. He showed me how to teach the ones that have trouble learning, learn from the ones that are trying to teach, and help the ones that wanted to be helped. He taught me that the best horses aren’t always the biggest, the prettiest, or the shiniest. Sometimes they’re the little skinny ones with the broom tails and big ears that stand in the back of the pen." 

"From working with the old man and Bennie, I learned two very important things about working with horses that have turned out, even to this day, to be the keys to success. One is that a horse will only learn what we have to show him if we are showing him in a way he can understand. That, I have come to realize, is really the single most important part of working with horses. The other thing is that horses will almost always learn what we have to show them. We just need to remember that they can only learn as fast as they can learn, not necessarily as fast as we can teach." 

Book: A Good Horse Is Never A Bad Color
Author: Mark Rashid
Published: Skyhorse Publishing (2011, 2nd Ed.)

My Review: The more Mark Rashid I read, the more I like Mark Rashid. He’s one of those genuine, gentle people who makes you want to find your calm and your quiet. And despite the fact that he’s exceptional at what he does, thanks to an incredible mentor of his own, he writes with an admirable and rare (particularly in the horse world) sense of humility. Genuine? Gentle? Humble? No wonder he’s so successful with his equine companions! 

Much like his other books, this is a zen and soulful kind of read. It’s simple and flows easy, but it’s wonderfully deep and philosophical in message. While intentionally avoiding the feel of a more sterile, step-by-step horse training handbook, Rashid’s narratives and stories contain soft-spoken advice and practical tricks to use in everyday life pulled from his own learning experiences. 

Highly recommended. Good for people, good for horses. Win-win. 

July212014

"However, for my money there is a big difference between trying to make a horse understand something and trying to help a horse understand." 
"I guess sometimes we get so tanged up in trying to find ways to teach our horses to do things or in finding training "techniques" to help us solve our horse’s problems, that we forget to take the most important factor into consideration— the horse. It seems to me that by giving our horses half a chance to tell us what’s on their minds and genuinely listening to what they have to say, we can open the door to a whole new line of communication with them, one that perhaps wasn’t even there before." 
"Things hat I used to get from my horses, such as lead changes and four-stride trot/canter/trot transitions… I see those now as gifts. Gifts that were in that moment, willingly given from my horse to me. I think there is definitely a connection between what I am able to give my horse and what the horse is able to give back to me. Things like technique, mechanics, and goals shouldn’t ever compromise the gifts from the horse." 

Book: Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive LeadershipAuthor: Mark RashidPublished: Skyhorse Publishing (1993, 2011) 
My Review: I’ve never had a quiet mind. Since the day I was born, my brain has been over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-stimulated, over-worked (mostly as a consequence of my own silly choices). And in that constant racing, it’s been easy to forget the importance of being still.
I find that I need books like this (and folks like Mark Rashid) to remind me to hush occasionally, and to simply be present in the moment. This is an especially important reminder when working with horses; often the quieter you are, the more space you create for connection. Quiet leaves room for clear and creative thought, conscious communication, and honest attention to the powerful details that are instantly overlooked in the race toward meaningless goals and the implementation of technique.
Being soft yet direct and earning the trust of those who rely almost solely on consistency takes practice and serious commitment. It’s a skill that is not often come by or valued in our frantic and over-caffeinated world. But, when it comes down to it, there’s truly nothing more valuable if you’re looking to develop a partnership based on respect and understanding with a 1,200 pound being who speaks a foreign, yet much more natural and soulful language. 
Become a passive leader, Rashid suggests. Speak with your body and your actions, lead by example. Most importantly, leave all the harshness and mindlessness of everyday life at the barn door. Make room for quiet.
Who knows, maybe if I practice enough, I’ll learn to let go of harshness and mindlessness altogether. A happy thought, if you ask me. I can’t think of a single reason to hold onto such destruction. 

"However, for my money there is a big difference between trying to make a horse understand something and trying to help a horse understand." 

"I guess sometimes we get so tanged up in trying to find ways to teach our horses to do things or in finding training "techniques" to help us solve our horse’s problems, that we forget to take the most important factor into consideration— the horse. It seems to me that by giving our horses half a chance to tell us what’s on their minds and genuinely listening to what they have to say, we can open the door to a whole new line of communication with them, one that perhaps wasn’t even there before." 

"Things hat I used to get from my horses, such as lead changes and four-stride trot/canter/trot transitions… I see those now as gifts. Gifts that were in that moment, willingly given from my horse to me. I think there is definitely a connection between what I am able to give my horse and what the horse is able to give back to me. Things like technique, mechanics, and goals shouldn’t ever compromise the gifts from the horse." 

Book: Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership
Author: Mark Rashid
Published: Skyhorse Publishing (1993, 2011) 

My Review: I’ve never had a quiet mind. Since the day I was born, my brain has been over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-stimulated, over-worked (mostly as a consequence of my own silly choices). And in that constant racing, it’s been easy to forget the importance of being still.

I find that I need books like this (and folks like Mark Rashid) to remind me to hush occasionally, and to simply be present in the moment. This is an especially important reminder when working with horses; often the quieter you are, the more space you create for connection. Quiet leaves room for clear and creative thought, conscious communication, and honest attention to the powerful details that are instantly overlooked in the race toward meaningless goals and the implementation of technique.

Being soft yet direct and earning the trust of those who rely almost solely on consistency takes practice and serious commitment. It’s a skill that is not often come by or valued in our frantic and over-caffeinated world. But, when it comes down to it, there’s truly nothing more valuable if you’re looking to develop a partnership based on respect and understanding with a 1,200 pound being who speaks a foreign, yet much more natural and soulful language. 

Become a passive leader, Rashid suggests. Speak with your body and your actions, lead by example. Most importantly, leave all the harshness and mindlessness of everyday life at the barn door. Make room for quiet.

Who knows, maybe if I practice enough, I’ll learn to let go of harshness and mindlessness altogether. A happy thought, if you ask me. I can’t think of a single reason to hold onto such destruction. 

July92014

"My parents were aware that it was my choice to remain in the Sea Org, but they also knew I was brainwashed. The last thing you want to tell a person who is brainwashed is that they are brainwashed." 
"In many ways, the Celebrity Centre was the perfect stage for the act that Scientology put on for the celebrities. The accommodations were gorgeous, and the beautiful grounds made the experience enjoyable. Everything was tightly controlled and orchestrated, and if the celebrities themselves took things at face value, they’d simply see the act and never witness what went on behind the curtain. There was never any risk that they would get exposed to child labor or something similar that the Church didn’t want them to see. Sea Org members at the Celebrity Centre appeared happy because it was their job to do that, so celebrities wouldn’t know from talking to them or watching them whether they’d been paid their forty-five dollars that week, or if they missed their families."

Book: Beyond BeliefAuthor: Jenna Miscavige Hill Published: HarperCollins (2013)
My Review: Shifting gears a bit with this one, from the appalling abuses of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) to the appalling abuses of Scientology. Not that much of a shift, I suppose, but a shift nonetheless! 
Despite major philosophical and practical differences, both FLDS and Scientology demonstrate cult definitions to a tee. Cults, as opposed to other more socially acceptable religious organizations, are typically characterized by relatively small groups of people who have been strategically isolated from others, coerced and brainwashed, and micromanaged to the point of complete incapacitation by leaders (typically “representing” various religious figures) who demand excessive devotion and submission of individual will in exchange for salvation, ultimate contentment, or similar grandiose purposes. 
While FLDS leaders seem to inflict significantly more extreme trauma upon individual survivors (institutionalized rape, underage marriage, physical abuse, neglect, etc.), Scientologist leaders also leave their mark, as Hill points out, with practices involving extensive child labor, strategic separation of families, intimidation techniques, and physical/financial manipulation. And, to give credit where credit is due, Scientology is WAY more famous than the FLDS; I mean, they have Tom Cruise and John Travolta toting the line! How could NOT be Ultimate Truth?!
Regardless of the techniques used, the goal of cult leaders is 100% the same: power and control. Ensuring complete power and control over individuals ensures money and status, primarily through leeching off lower-level believers who have little-to-no capacity to change their circumstances, even if they so desired (which is uncommon, as brainwashing is typically quite thorough and cult principles fundamentally internalized over time). Often, the majority of believers live in squalor and fear while the leaders they worship are enjoying a luxurious existence, showered with riches stolen in the name of religious salvation.
Convenient for these “prophets,” is it not? 
Overall, this memoir was fairly insightful and paints a basic, Cult 101-esque picture of modern-day Scientology. My only legitimate complaint is with the many grammatical and spelling errors, which may not be of concern to most (normal) people. I, on the other hand, would like to have a word with the person who calls herself Jenna Hill’s editor! 

"My parents were aware that it was my choice to remain in the Sea Org, but they also knew I was brainwashed. The last thing you want to tell a person who is brainwashed is that they are brainwashed." 

"In many ways, the Celebrity Centre was the perfect stage for the act that Scientology put on for the celebrities. The accommodations were gorgeous, and the beautiful grounds made the experience enjoyable. Everything was tightly controlled and orchestrated, and if the celebrities themselves took things at face value, they’d simply see the act and never witness what went on behind the curtain. There was never any risk that they would get exposed to child labor or something similar that the Church didn’t want them to see. Sea Org members at the Celebrity Centre appeared happy because it was their job to do that, so celebrities wouldn’t know from talking to them or watching them whether they’d been paid their forty-five dollars that week, or if they missed their families."

Book: Beyond Belief
Author: Jenna Miscavige Hill 
Published: HarperCollins (2013)

My Review: Shifting gears a bit with this one, from the appalling abuses of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) to the appalling abuses of Scientology. Not that much of a shift, I suppose, but a shift nonetheless! 

Despite major philosophical and practical differences, both FLDS and Scientology demonstrate cult definitions to a tee. Cults, as opposed to other more socially acceptable religious organizations, are typically characterized by relatively small groups of people who have been strategically isolated from others, coerced and brainwashed, and micromanaged to the point of complete incapacitation by leaders (typically “representing” various religious figures) who demand excessive devotion and submission of individual will in exchange for salvation, ultimate contentment, or similar grandiose purposes. 

While FLDS leaders seem to inflict significantly more extreme trauma upon individual survivors (institutionalized rape, underage marriage, physical abuse, neglect, etc.), Scientologist leaders also leave their mark, as Hill points out, with practices involving extensive child labor, strategic separation of families, intimidation techniques, and physical/financial manipulation. And, to give credit where credit is due, Scientology is WAY more famous than the FLDS; I mean, they have Tom Cruise and John Travolta toting the line! How could NOT be Ultimate Truth?!

Regardless of the techniques used, the goal of cult leaders is 100% the same: power and control. Ensuring complete power and control over individuals ensures money and status, primarily through leeching off lower-level believers who have little-to-no capacity to change their circumstances, even if they so desired (which is uncommon, as brainwashing is typically quite thorough and cult principles fundamentally internalized over time). Often, the majority of believers live in squalor and fear while the leaders they worship are enjoying a luxurious existence, showered with riches stolen in the name of religious salvation.

Convenient for these “prophets,” is it not? 

Overall, this memoir was fairly insightful and paints a basic, Cult 101-esque picture of modern-day Scientology. My only legitimate complaint is with the many grammatical and spelling errors, which may not be of concern to most (normal) people. I, on the other hand, would like to have a word with the person who calls herself Jenna Hill’s editor! 

June262014

"It irritated me that Uncle Rulon utilized his position to make his preferences suddenly seem like they were what God wanted from us."
"If a girl didn’t ever know she had a choice, she had no choice."
"I stepped reverently from that chapel with a startling realization. Man was fallible. No one, not the Dalai Lama nor any Prophet, pope, or minister, was beyond reproach. To follow blindly was to shut down our sacred voice of reason and deny the God that lived in each of us." 
"Never treat another in a manner which would make them feel small; not anyone, not even yourself." 

Book: The Witness Wore RedAuthor: Rebecca Musser with M. Bridget CookPublished: Grand Central Publishing (2013)
My Review: I know, I know, I know. You all probably need a break from the series of disturbing cult books, and I hear you. I get it. But lucky for me, I own this little space of zen, so I can obsess and rant and review to my morbid little heart’s content! For those of you who’ve had enough FLDS-cult-activist talk, please feel free to go ahead and click that little red x button at the top of left. For the rest of you, my iron willed allies in justice, I invite you to stay, read, commiserate. 
AND THEN DO SOMETHING. 
Of all the memoirs I’ve read by FLDS escapees, this is by far the most gentle. And by gentle, I mean gentle in everything. It was gentle toward her community, her home (much more forgiving and kind than other memoirs I’ve read). Gentle toward her family members and loved ones. Gentle, even, toward ill-equipped, under-prepared, and willfully ignorant government agencies that, time and time again, have failed to live up to the tasks entrusted to them. Even her language was gentle.  
Soft spoken as she is, Musser’s true brilliance is in her ability to be both respectfully gentle and fiercely honest in the same breath. No easy task, eh?
And, using this impressive approach, Musser ultimately reveals a more complex, human truth than has been discussed before. Despite the plethora of harsh, intensely critical pieces, Musser is able to highlight that there are in fact two sides to every story. For every well-meaning CPS worker there’s a terrified and confused family. For every arrest and conviction, there are difficult religious and familial ramifications. For every abuser, there’s a genuinely healthy mother/father/sister/brother. For every sorrow, there is a modicum of happiness. 
I think Musser would likely agree, however, that there’s a time to shelve the gentle and bring out the fierce. Acknowledging humanity in us all is admirable and productive, but that revelation does not warrant total amnesty for despicable behavior. Particularly behavior that involves brainwashing an entire community of thousands to believe that sexual abuse, rape, underage marriage, child neglect, abandonment, tax evasion, welfare fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, kidnapping, illegal eviction, and hostage holding is God’s will and their only salvation. 
Yeah, I’m looking at you, Warren Jeffs. You are NOT EXCUSED. 
So my nerdy, compassionate, bookworm allies, I again invite and challenge you to action. 
Do anything. Take a stand, pull up a chair. Listen. LISTEN. Read, inform. Offer a hand, a blanket, a home, a refuge. Make a friend, be a mentor, learn a culture, learn a language. Donate. Give time, give money, give love, give service. Embody compassion, empathy, hope. Reject ignorance, ask hard questions, get mad, stay present. Petition the government, create accountability. Fight the man, the system, the oppressor. Heal the hurt, bring people with you into better worlds. 
What else were you going to do today, anyway? 
Because really, who needs Grey’s Anatomy when you have one short, itty bitty life to make this world a better place? 
Hop to it, kids. Hop to it. 

"It irritated me that Uncle Rulon utilized his position to make his preferences suddenly seem like they were what God wanted from us."

"If a girl didn’t ever know she had a choice, she had no choice."

"I stepped reverently from that chapel with a startling realization. Man was fallible. No one, not the Dalai Lama nor any Prophet, pope, or minister, was beyond reproach. To follow blindly was to shut down our sacred voice of reason and deny the God that lived in each of us." 

"Never treat another in a manner which would make them feel small; not anyone, not even yourself." 

Book: The Witness Wore Red
Author: Rebecca Musser with M. Bridget Cook
Published: Grand Central Publishing (2013)

My Review: I know, I know, I know. You all probably need a break from the series of disturbing cult books, and I hear you. I get it. But lucky for me, I own this little space of zen, so I can obsess and rant and review to my morbid little heart’s content! For those of you who’ve had enough FLDS-cult-activist talk, please feel free to go ahead and click that little red x button at the top of left. For the rest of you, my iron willed allies in justice, I invite you to stay, read, commiserate. 

AND THEN DO SOMETHING. 

Of all the memoirs I’ve read by FLDS escapees, this is by far the most gentle. And by gentle, I mean gentle in everything. It was gentle toward her community, her home (much more forgiving and kind than other memoirs I’ve read). Gentle toward her family members and loved ones. Gentle, even, toward ill-equipped, under-prepared, and willfully ignorant government agencies that, time and time again, have failed to live up to the tasks entrusted to them. Even her language was gentle.  

Soft spoken as she is, Musser’s true brilliance is in her ability to be both respectfully gentle and fiercely honest in the same breath. No easy task, eh?

And, using this impressive approach, Musser ultimately reveals a more complex, human truth than has been discussed before. Despite the plethora of harsh, intensely critical pieces, Musser is able to highlight that there are in fact two sides to every story. For every well-meaning CPS worker there’s a terrified and confused family. For every arrest and conviction, there are difficult religious and familial ramifications. For every abuser, there’s a genuinely healthy mother/father/sister/brother. For every sorrow, there is a modicum of happiness. 

I think Musser would likely agree, however, that there’s a time to shelve the gentle and bring out the fierce. Acknowledging humanity in us all is admirable and productive, but that revelation does not warrant total amnesty for despicable behavior. Particularly behavior that involves brainwashing an entire community of thousands to believe that sexual abuse, rape, underage marriage, child neglect, abandonment, tax evasion, welfare fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, kidnapping, illegal eviction, and hostage holding is God’s will and their only salvation. 

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Warren Jeffs. You are NOT EXCUSED. 

So my nerdy, compassionate, bookworm allies, I again invite and challenge you to action. 

Do anything. Take a stand, pull up a chair. Listen. LISTEN. Read, inform. Offer a hand, a blanket, a home, a refuge. Make a friend, be a mentor, learn a culture, learn a language. Donate. Give time, give money, give love, give service. Embody compassion, empathy, hope. Reject ignorance, ask hard questions, get mad, stay present. Petition the government, create accountability. Fight the man, the system, the oppressor. Heal the hurt, bring people with you into better worlds. 

What else were you going to do today, anyway? 

Because really, who needs Grey’s Anatomy when you have one short, itty bitty life to make this world a better place? 

Hop to it, kids. Hop to it. 

June202014

"Keep Sweet" is the sacred song of the church, preached with relentless passion. It covers a multitude of sins. It means be modest and pure; obey your parents; obey your husband. But to me and thousands of other abused kids, keep sweet meant keep silent as your father is molesting you. Say nothing as your mom or dad beats you with their fists, a belt, a steel pipe. Do as your told when, as a young teenager, you’re ripped away from the boy you love and ordered to marry a man in his seventies. Smile sweetly through your pain because there is nothing you can do about it." 
"Because of inbreeding, Colorado City and Hildale have the world’s highest rate of fumarase deficiency— more than half the cases of this enzyme deficiency in the world are right in my home town. These babies have terrible seizures. None has an IQ over 25. Some have brains that are literally half water." 
"They don’t want to arrest me," I replied. "They want me dead." "Why?" "Because I take their biggest asset— their daughters." 

Book: Church of LiesAuthor: Flora JessopPublished: Jossey-Bass (2009)
My Review: I’m on a cult kick. Light, uplifting summer reading, is it not?
Cults are difficult to read about in general. Memoirs by cult survivors are even harder. I think this is because while facts are disturbing on a logical level, raw emotions and lived experience are where things really start to hit home. Well-written memoirs poke at us in a much deeper way; they remind us of our connection to one another and provide an emotional sense of experiences that we may not have lived ourselves. Walking a mile in another’s shoes, so to speak. 
Flora Jessop, a little spitfire of a woman, does just that in Church of Lies. She brings the facts to life; gives the inhumanity of the FLDS community a name, a face, feelings. Born to FLDS parents in a polygamist community, Jessop seemed destined to suffer the brutality and lifelong imprisonment that FLDS women have somehow managed to live for decades. But, being a naturally rebellious and fiery little girl, she didn’t. She ran and, miraculously, made it out. 
After escaping from abusive hands and her fate of miserable FLDS baby-breeding, Jessop wanted to experience a different kind of life. And experience she did— all the good, bad, and ugly of the world. Ten years later, having developed a sense of self and regained her own mental and physical health, Jessop became a rescuer of runaways and a fierce enemy of the FLDS way of life. 
At times going quite beyond the boundaries of appropriate self-care and preservation, Jessop risked life and limb to help women and children follow her path to freedom. No easy task, easing the thoroughly brainwashed and terrified into a world that they’ve grown to accept as utterly evil and dangerous. 
A heart-wrenching read at times, Jessop uses this memoir as a space to uncover the depravities and criminal offenses that have gone on uninterrupted within our society for far too long. She relives molestation and rape perpetrated by her father, sickening abuse sustained by friends and family members, infuriating ineptitude and undermining actions of the U.S. criminal justice systems. The list of horrors goes on and on.
I always think it’s important to read hard things. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose, but knowledge is right. And knowledge is power. So put on your big kid pants, inform yourself, and do something about whatever injustice you find compelling. Is there a better purpose than doing good in this world? I think not. 

"Keep Sweet" is the sacred song of the church, preached with relentless passion. It covers a multitude of sins. It means be modest and pure; obey your parents; obey your husband. But to me and thousands of other abused kids, keep sweet meant keep silent as your father is molesting you. Say nothing as your mom or dad beats you with their fists, a belt, a steel pipe. Do as your told when, as a young teenager, you’re ripped away from the boy you love and ordered to marry a man in his seventies. Smile sweetly through your pain because there is nothing you can do about it." 

"Because of inbreeding, Colorado City and Hildale have the world’s highest rate of fumarase deficiency— more than half the cases of this enzyme deficiency in the world are right in my home town. These babies have terrible seizures. None has an IQ over 25. Some have brains that are literally half water." 

"They don’t want to arrest me," I replied. "They want me dead." "Why?" "Because I take their biggest asset— their daughters." 

Book: Church of Lies
Author: Flora Jessop
Published: Jossey-Bass (2009)

My Review: I’m on a cult kick. Light, uplifting summer reading, is it not?

Cults are difficult to read about in general. Memoirs by cult survivors are even harder. I think this is because while facts are disturbing on a logical level, raw emotions and lived experience are where things really start to hit home. Well-written memoirs poke at us in a much deeper way; they remind us of our connection to one another and provide an emotional sense of experiences that we may not have lived ourselves. Walking a mile in another’s shoes, so to speak. 

Flora Jessop, a little spitfire of a woman, does just that in Church of Lies. She brings the facts to life; gives the inhumanity of the FLDS community a name, a face, feelings. Born to FLDS parents in a polygamist community, Jessop seemed destined to suffer the brutality and lifelong imprisonment that FLDS women have somehow managed to live for decades. But, being a naturally rebellious and fiery little girl, she didn’t. She ran and, miraculously, made it out. 

After escaping from abusive hands and her fate of miserable FLDS baby-breeding, Jessop wanted to experience a different kind of life. And experience she did— all the good, bad, and ugly of the world. Ten years later, having developed a sense of self and regained her own mental and physical health, Jessop became a rescuer of runaways and a fierce enemy of the FLDS way of life. 

At times going quite beyond the boundaries of appropriate self-care and preservation, Jessop risked life and limb to help women and children follow her path to freedom. No easy task, easing the thoroughly brainwashed and terrified into a world that they’ve grown to accept as utterly evil and dangerous. 

A heart-wrenching read at times, Jessop uses this memoir as a space to uncover the depravities and criminal offenses that have gone on uninterrupted within our society for far too long. She relives molestation and rape perpetrated by her father, sickening abuse sustained by friends and family members, infuriating ineptitude and undermining actions of the U.S. criminal justice systems. The list of horrors goes on and on.

I always think it’s important to read hard things. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose, but knowledge is right. And knowledge is power. So put on your big kid pants, inform yourself, and do something about whatever injustice you find compelling. Is there a better purpose than doing good in this world? I think not. 

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