How did you feel when you read your first Mormon novel? Did you read about sacrament meeting and Dad being the bishop and look over your shoulder and wonder, "Can we talk about this stuff?" Or was the romance so hokey, the conversion plot-line so ham-handed, that you wanted to round up and burn every copy before outsiders could get a peek at it and decide we're all even weirder than they previously thought?
Well, thank goodness Mormon literature seems to be growing up a little, offering characters that feel as real as the folks who sit beside you at the driver's license bureau. One good example of credible Mormon fiction is Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark. Clark's people play pranks with ripe oranges. They tell ghost stories at the scout camp-out. They quake under the commands of their cruel gym teachers and they try to figure out whether their older brother's warnings about junior high are credible, or just so much leg-pulling.
And they deal with Grandma. Like too many grandmas, she's not all there, but she has come to live in their house. She often visits Dancer's protagonist, Todd Whitman, in his bedroom in the middle of the night. She totes along a Saturday Night Fever album cover and speaks cryptically of "The Dancer" from her past. Grandma's nocturnal visits are the least credible part of Clark's story, but I played along anyway. He seemed to need the plot device. And anyway, it wasn't too long before we got back to that older brother, whose mind games against Todd raise the spectre of Fred Savage's Wonder Years siblings.
And let me just put in a word for Dancer's publisher, Zarahemla Books.
Judging by Mormon comment boards on the Twilight series, some Mormons don't want to read anything riskier than a conference anecdote and others long for a Mormon tale that's at least as interesting as the most middling book on their library shelves. What we need are readers that understand that the pulpit and the reading chair needn't cancel each other out. One is a place to talk about how we should be. The other is a place to reveal how we are right now, which is messy, mistake-prone, capable of monumental selfishness, but capable of great nobility, too.
Zarahemla and similar publishers (Parables, Covenant) offer Mormon fiction for those who have tried it elsewhere and found it not worth their time or their money.
All publishing houses struggle, but those who cater to whisker-thin niche markets like us Mormons, live a special kind of hand-to-mouth existence. If they topple, Mormon writers have nowhere to send their stuff.
So check 'em out on Amazon. See if they've got something that piques your interest.
Now, since Dancer is set in Arizona, let's go Tex-Mex.
Tex-Mex Chicken Starter
Use this chicken mix for Tex-Mex Chicken Fajitas.
More ideas for using up the Chicken Starter in future posts.