October 06, 2011

God's Brothel by Andrea Moore-Emmett

Sometimes it is just amazing what humans can do to each other. Especially those atrocities done in the name of religion in this case. Moore-Emmett is not unfamiliar to polygamy. Growing up in a Mormon household there always flirted the disaster of a polygamous marriage for her. Luckily, she was able to get out of it and has spent a good portion of her life helping Mormon women escape polygamy and running programs to help them in the transition. This book is about her telling some of their stories.

The first part of this book goes through some of the history and beliefs of the polygamous sects. While she does include some Christian polygamist groups the majority of this book deals with those who associate themselves as Mormon.

The next and largest part of the book is the stories of women who have escaped. Eighteen women are interviewed and while they come from mostly different sects, their stories are hauntingly familiar. Abuse, sexual abuse, child marriage, abandonment, starvation, and other atrocities are just some of the recurring themes. Sometimes these women even had to leave their children behind as Utah has some government and local police officials who are polygamists as well and make it hard for them to escape with their families intact. There are also the threats of death and blood atonement as well for these ladies.

However, as horrible as their stories are they do give hope that people are trying to change what is happening. Abuse isn't being swept under the rug in the guise of "religious freedom" in some cases and groups are working to further laws to protect these children and women. While many of the women will carry guilt and problems to work through for the rest of their lives, they breathe a little easier knowing they have freed themselves from a worse fate.

I did find interesting that some of these women weren't even Mormon to begin with but fell in with the religion because of the falsities and allure of being accepted presented. It shows what harm low self esteem can do to a person that they would allow themselves to become second class citizens or chattal. But the stories of the women that did that in this book do end on a happy note of them leaving these disastorous relationships.

This is certainly a book that will shock and I think its important that these stories be told. No one should be degraded like this or treated with such abuse. No one should have to watch their children be abused in the name of god. Even if it is only writing a book, Moore-Emmett is helping to make these voices heard.

Moore-Emmett does a wonderful job of putting together these stories. While her writing can get a bit redundant with tons of names of associated polygamists thrown in and groups listed, the majority of her work is easy to read. She also has spent a lot of time researching and thoughtfully includes those citations as well.

My only complaint on this book was that for the most part it didn't really describe the reality of escaping from the sects. From reading other books on the subject I know it isn't easy. However, in most of these stories it almost seemed as if they got up and left when they felt like it. I'm sure this isn't the case so I would have liked to learn more about that aspect.

This book definitely made me feel sick at times but opened my eyes to whats out there. I will be doing more research on the subject I am sure.

God's Brothel
Copyright 2004
219 pages
Also includes a dictionary and reader's guide.

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