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New Books on Polygamy

ICSA Today, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2011, 9

New Books on Polygamy


Andrea Moore-Emmett




Previous to the release of my book, God’s Brothel in 2004, the number of books published on the subject of Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy were far and few between. Many of the books that had come before went all but unnoticed and spoke to a limited audience.

However, high profile news stories concerning polygamist groups and individuals finally propelled the issue of polygamy into the conscience of the public, capturing a voyeuristic curiosity. For better or worse, polygamy is now popular fodder for television and other media.

A plethora of new books on polygamy have been released in the last several years. Most are written as personal accounts and, with only some exceptions, focus primarily on the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS). I recommend the following books that have been recently released on the issue of Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy:

Organizational Identification in Polygamy, Amy Osmond Cook, June, 2011, Sourced Media Books. Osmond Cook‘s newly published PhD thesis is currently only available only through: 

http://www.facebook.com/l/44f47rhTHpKVJk9ZkYhDi2I3BCQ/sourcedmediabooks.com. It will be released to the general public soon. This publication is an important and much needed academic case study which takes an in-depth look at the roles of organizational and religious rhetoric in producing highly identified, disciplined, and devoted members of a polygamous organization.
Secrets and Wives, The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy, Sanjiv Bhattacharya, Soft Skull Press, Release date set for May 2011. Bhattacharya’s examination of Mormon fundamentalist polygamy contains explosive information through interviews and documents. The London journalist gained access to several Utah groups and also reports on key figures who have campaigned for and against polygamy. 

Shattered Dreams, Irene Spencer, Center Street, 2007. Spencer writes her personal memoir as a polygamist wife to Ervil LeBaron’s brother living in the LeBaron community in Mexico amid squalor and poverty.
Cult Insanity, Irene Spencer, Center Street, 2009. This book is the sequel to Shattered Dreams. Spencer again writes a personal narrative of living in polygamy in the LeBaron’s Church of the Firstborn, where Blood Atonement is exacted on those deemed as enemies.

Lost Boy, Brent W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz, Broadway Books, 2009. Jeffs’ book is important as a rare personal account from a male point of view in the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS) group. (See ICSA Book Review: 

http://www.icsahome.com/logon/elibdocview.asp?Subject=Book+Review%3A+Lost+Boy) 

When Men Become Gods, Stephen Singular, St. Martin’s Press, 2008. Singular’s focus is on FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and the FLDS group. Through research and extensive interviews Singular charts the group’s history up to 2008. 

Stolen Innocence, Elissa Wall, Harper Collins, 2008. Wall was the star witness against FLDS leader Warren Jeffs during his 2007 trial. Her personal narrative is an excellent inside view of life as a polygamist girl in the FLDS.

Escape, Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer, Visionary Classics, 2007. Details Jessop’s life in polygamy in the FLDS, escaping her polygamous marriage and fight for custody of her children. 

Triumph, Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer, Visionary Classics, 2010. Triumph is the sequel to Escape detailing Jessop's personal insights and much unreported inside information regarding the Texas raid on the FLDS compound in El Dorado.

For those wishing to explore polygamy as it is lived and as it impacts those living in fundamentalist Islam, I recommend the following books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

The Caged Virgin, An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Free Press, 2008. In her book of short essays, Hirsi Ali writes from first hand experience as to the polygamist “cult of virginity” that is the hallmark of Islamic fundamentalism.

Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Free Press, 2007. In this autobiography, Hirsi Ali traces her childhood, where polygamy is a norm for women, through her escape and to her new life in hiding from a jihad on her head.

Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Free Press, 2010. In her sequel to Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi discusses how and why fundamentalist Islamic traditions, including polygamy, are practiced in the United States and other countries where Muslims have immigrated.

Though fictional, these last two books deserve mention due to the quality and style of writing as well as the “true to life” nature of the stories:

Keep Sweet, Michele Dominguez Greene, Simon Pulse, 2010. Greene writes the fictionalized story of a young girl living in a polygamist sect drawing from the numerous stories of women and girls who lived in the FLDS. 

Hidden Wives, Claire Avery, A Forge Book, 2010. A fictionalized account of two sisters based on the author’s research of personal accounts.

Andrea Moore-Emmett is the author of God's Brothel, The Extortion of Sex For Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped. She is the author of several articles covering polygamy for various national magazines and was the researcher for the A&E documentary, Inside Polygamy, which also aired on the BBC. As a journalist, she has been the recipient of five awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Utah Headliners Chapter, including the Don Baker investigative Journalism Award. She was also awarded a Women in Communications Leading Changes Award and the Leadership Council on Abuse and Interpersonal Violence and the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma 2008 Award for Distinguished Service and Excellence in Journalism. Moore-Emmett served as Utah NOW President, a Salt Lake City Mayor's commission and as an advisor to Tapestry Against Polygamy. She has a BA in Sociology.