I had a fairly lonely childhood and spent a lot of time with books. That saved me; it’s not an atypical story. My mother is a single mother of three and we moved around a lot, throughout my childhood, as she completed her education and began her career. In addition to books, another stabilizing factor in my life was Mormonism, even though I always had a feeling of being on the outside of their perfect society. Mormon families are really cliquey and I didn’t have a complete family, so we were never going to get fully invited into their social circles. I still tried my hardest to be—I was very involved in church activities up until the day I left.
I know they loved each other, but I think my parents both married each other at very young ages to escape their families. They divorced when I was two years old, but very briefly came back together a few years later, which resulted in my middle brother and, my mother’s excommunication from the church for sex outside of wedlock. She worked her way back into the fold and we practiced all throughout my childhood. She was excommunicated a second time, when I was eleven, for having another child out of wedlock. She never went back after that.
I was already a sort of depressed child and then I just got really angry—with the world and, especially, with my mom. As we fought more I went deeper into Mormonism; I had kept going after she left. I was raised to moralize literally everything and it has taken me a long time to get over that (even caffeine is taboo in Mormonism). So, based on my mother’s own Mormon-based teachings, I believed sex outside of marriage was a sin, period. That made her not only a sinner but a hypocrite. I clung to the church and was at a vulnerable age when, more than ever, I felt I needed to fit in. When the popular girls at church called my mom a slut, I cruelly, shamefully, agreed. But even that did not win me a place in their circle. Books were still my most constant companions.
Then, when I was fifteen, the Bishop called me in to discuss my reading habit. He wanted to screen my books before I read them to make sure they were appropriate for a young Mormon woman. I made a snap decision to leave. He was kind about my decision, but I felt he was also confident that I would come back and, I resented it. It was hard, at the time, to lose what I felt was a safety net and huge part of my identity, but I have never gone back. And, I’ve kept reading.