“I Lost Control of My Body” – Escape Chapter 12: Accident

Prepare yourselves for a ridiculous amount of victim-blaming, financial abuse, sexual and reproductive coercion, and food insecurity. Ain’t being an FLDS wife great?

Eleven months into her travesty of a marriage, Carolyn Jessop becomes pregnant. She suffers horrible morning sickness. In the best traditions of religions everywhere, she’s promptly blamed for being ill:

Within the FLDS, any personal problem is seen as the direct result of sin. Serious emotional or physical problems were considered a curse from God. It was also dangerous for a woman to show any incapacitation related to pregnancy because it was viewed within her family as a sin of rebellion – unless, of course, you were Barbara, for whom the double standard applied with regard to her crying bouts during her pregnancy.

Not only do her sister-wives think God has a mad because Carolyn must have fucked up somehow, they also accuse her of being violently ill several times a day just to get attention. And women in this culture, reduced to virtual property and valued only for how many babies they can manage to squeeze out, are often the ones most keen to tear a fellow wife down. Women are pitted against each other in a precarious struggle for pitiful scraps of power. These systems could not survive if they didn’t get their victims to willingly participate in their own victimization, and help keep each other down. No one’s going to encourage women to band together and help one another find their power. The system is set up to reward backstabbers and crush revolutionaries. And, while one woman can acquire considerable power by playing by the rules, she’s at risk of being torn down by the jealous others if she gains too much of their husband’s favor. [Read more…]

“The Shell of a Human Being” – Escape Chapter 11: Honeymoon

Merril Jessop, arguably one of the worst husbands and fathers in the FLDS, decides after two weeks of being wedded to two new wives that the whole family needs a honeymoon. He’ll take his six wives and thirty-four children to the San Diego Zoo. In order to carry out this cunning plan, he rents a bus and assigns an elder son as the driver. But he does precious little else to arrange things, because that’s the sort of asshole he is.

Hold tight, kids, cuz this is gonna be quite a memorable trip.

Content note for rape, neglect.

Of his six wives, one is too detached from reality to know what’s happening. One is too depressed and neglected to give a shit. One is too much of a sociopath to lift a finger. One is too busy trying to curry favor with her new husband to do practical shit. That leaves Carolyn and Cathleen to prepare enough food and pack enough clothing for five days away with a family the size of an over-crowded elementary school classroom. [Read more…]

Books on Atheism for Children?

I’ve got entire lists filled with excellent books about atheism for adults, but the list for children is still rather thin on the ground. I’d like to remedy that ASAP. If you know of any good books for children and teens that explain atheism, help children become skeptical thinkers, and explain religion from a comparative or anthropological viewpoint, let me know about them! I’ll compile a handy list we can keep around for birthdays and holidays.

Thank you, my darlings!

Image shows a kitten lying in front of an open book, looking at the pages. Caption says, "Bok, y u no has kittehs?"

“Coming Undone” – Escape Chapter 10: Cathleen and Tammy Marry Merril

Welcome back to our ongoing Escape review! If you need to catch up, the complete series is here. We’re about to finish Chapter 10: you can find the first half here if you want to refresh your memory. I know it’s been a long time!

CN: Mental illness, ableism, domestic violence, abuse and neglect.

Merril Jessop has two new wives. Tammy has to personally turf one of his daughters out of a bedroom so that she has a room in the same house as her unlawfully-wedded husband. Cathleen, gentle-natured one, is installed in the younger boys’ room, forcing them to squeeze in with other brothers. Lest you think Merril gave her a room because he actually likes her, note that he immediately skedaddled with his favorite wife, Barbara, leaving Cathleen to care for 28 children pretty much by herself. Ruth and Faunita are too consumed by psychosis and depression to help, Carolyn’s at college, and Tammy could give two shits about other people’s children.

So yeah, Merril married Cathleen for political power, and then moved her in because he needed a nanny. Proper Prince Charming, ain’t he just.

And when she finally confronts Merril about it, he tells her to learn how to do stuff from his elder daughters (who are completely MIA) and that she needs to take a nap.

Husband of the fucking Year material right here, yo.

Meanwhile, Tammy’s only concern is how she can get moved into the house and persuade her new hubby to fuck her rather than fuck her over. Yep. He married her, but he still hasn’t slept with her.

When Merril gets home from his post-wedding business trip, he chooses to deal with Ruth’s psychotic behavior by ignoring it. Cathleen about loses her shit, because the man of the family is falling down on his job:

In the FLDS culture, people believe that the mentally ill have invited evil spirits into themselves. Cathleen could not fathom why Merril would allow a wife who’d been taken over by an evil spirit to be running around his home and scaring his children with her bizarre behavior.

Such a healthy attitude towards mental illness. *fatal eyeroll* [Read more…]

Updated for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to History Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.

Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of history books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!

(Due to the fact we’re running out of time, I’m copying the publisher’s blurbs rather than making up my own. Sorry bout that!) [Read more…]

Updated for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Social Justice Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.

Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of social justice books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!

(Due to the fact we’re running out of time, I’m copying the publisher’s blurbs rather than making up my own. Sorry bout that!) [Read more…]

Updated for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Children’s Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.

Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of children’s and YA books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!

(Due to the fact we’re running out of time, I’m copying the publisher’s blurbs rather than making up my own. Sorry bout that!)

Image shows a kitten lying in front of an open book, looking at the pages. Caption says, "Bok, y u no has kittehs?"

Table of Contents

Kids

Teens

 

Kids

Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is OK! by Clay and Gail Morton, illustrated by Alex Merry

Johnny is different. He is never exactly on time, he can’t seem to stick to a routine and he often speaks in cryptic idioms. Johnny is neurotypical, but that’s OK.

A picture book with a difference, Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap turns the tables on common depictions of neurological difference by drolly revealing how people who are not on the autistic spectrum are perceived by those who are. The autistic narrator’s bafflement at his neurotypical friend’s quirks shows that ‘normal’ is simply a matter of perspective.

The Brick Bible for Kids Box Set: The Complete Set by Brendan Powell Smith

The Brick Bible for Kids series has followed in the footsteps of Brendan Powell Smith’s bestselling adult series: The Brick Bible. Now, for the first time, Smith’s visually striking and child-friendly picture books are available in a beautiful hardcover box set, complete with a double-sided, full-color poster for room decoration. This slipcovered set is the gift you’ve been wanting to give your LEGO-loving children for holidays, birthdays, or just because.

Share the inspiring stories of Joseph, Daniel, Noah, David and Goliath, and Jonah, and celebrate the birth of Jesus in the classic Christmas story with your little ones with these LEGO-illustrated books. Each book includes a fun search-and-find activity at the end for additional LEGO fun! Find a place on your shelf for this beautiful six-book collector’s set and continue to be amazed at the Bible as illustrated by a beloved toy.

Me & Dog by Gene Weingarten, illustrated by Eric Shansby

This endearing friendship story about a boy and his dog from a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer gently explores a timeless question: who’s really in charge?

Meet Sid. He’s an ordinary kid. He’s far from perfect. But to Murphy, Sid’s faithful dog, Sid is the whole world. Murphy thinks Sid is the absolute best—and that he’s in charge of everything.

Sid loves Murphy right back, but he can’t help but wonder what Murphy would think if he realized the truth: Sid’s just a kid, and Murphy’s just a dog, and neither one can control the world.

This deceptively simply picture book is the perfect start to a discussion about a subject seldom seen in children’s books—the nonthreatening feel of a world based on fact and reason, and not faith.

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters and Lauren Stringer

All of us are part of an old, old family. The roots of our family tree reach back millions of years to the beginning of life on earth. Open this family album and embark on an amazing journey. You’ll meet some of our oldest relatives–from both the land and the sea–and discover what we inherited from each of them along the many steps of our wondrous past.

Complete with an illustrated timeline and glossary, here is the story of human evolution as it’s never been told before.

Older than The Stars by Karen C. Fox, illustrated by Nancy Davis

How old are you?–Older than you think.

In a way, we are all as old as the universe itself. In fact, every bit of every one of us was created in the Big Bang, billions of years ago.

Stunning illustrations and lively verse tell the story of the cosmic connections that tie human beings to the beginning of the universe. Simple, informative prose provides additional facts.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, “What are they?” comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers.

 

Teens

What If I’m an Atheist?: A Teen’s Guide to Exploring a Life Without Religion by David Seidman

Can you have guidance without God? This thoughtful, one-of-a-kind guide offers answers to all of your questions about atheism and nonbelief.

Have you ever wondered what religion and belief means for your life? Maybe you believe in nothing at all. Does that mean you’re an atheist? What does atheism even mean? Regardless of the religious background you grew up with, it’s natural to question what you believe…or what you don’t. Establishing your views about religion and spirituality is part of becoming an individual, but outside pressures can make it tough to know what is right for you.

What If I’m an Athiest? offers a thoughtful exploration of how atheism or the absence of religion can impact your life. From discussing the practical significance of holidays to offering conversation starters and tips, this guide is an invaluable resource about religion, spirituality, and the lack thereof.

This compassionate, nonjudgmental guide includes peer interviews featuring both religious and atheist teens and provides a safe space to find answers to the questions you may not want ask out loud, so you can decide what you believe—or don’t—for yourself.

Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer by David G. McAfee

This essential guide to coming-out as a non-believer has been written to make it easier for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and non-believers of all ages and backgrounds to be open about their non-religiosity while minimizing the negative interactions in familial, social, and professional circles.

As a survival guide for non-believers who wish to come out, this book provides advice and resources for those interested in publically rejecting religious dogma as well as real stories from non-believers who have experienced coming-out to less-than-supportive family or friends.

Whether you’re new to disbelief and looking for the cleanest possible break from your former faith or you’re a lifelong atheist who wants to establish a sense of community with like-minded people, this guide provides useful resources including: tips for handling potential conflicts with believers, the author’s answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on behalf of believers, and numerous references to support groups, services, and advocacy organizations dedicated to non-theists.

From dealing with grief from a secular perspective to handling potential clashes in religious worldviews between significant others, this book offers multiple perspectives from non-religious individuals who have generously shared their experiences to help those atheists who may find themselves in similar situations.

Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family by Aaron Hartzler

A true story about finding salvation in the strangest places.

Aaron Hartzler grew up in a home where he was taught that at any moment the Rapture could happen. That Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye and scoop Aaron and his family up to heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that every moment of every day might be his last one on planet Earth.

But as Aaron turns sixteen, he finds himself more attached to his earthly life and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want the Rapture to happen just yet–not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Eventually Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.

Whether he’s sneaking out, making out, or playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can’t be found in the Bible. He discovers that the best friends aren’t always the ones your mom and dad approve of, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

In this funny and heartfelt coming-of-age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey to find the person he is without losing the family that loves him. It’s a story about losing your faith and finding your place and your own truth–which is always stranger than fiction.

New for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Fiction Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

So far, we’ve confined our explorations into the wide world of books suitable for atheist people to non-fiction. Fiction is a whole other realm, which we shall dip our tippy-toes into. This is a broad selection of reader recommendations and a few of my own discoveries.

(All descriptions are taken from the book summaries by the publishers.)

Image shows a gray kitty crouching on a book. Caption says, "I am in ur novel, stealing ur wordz!"

Table of Contents

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Mystery

Various and Sundry Fiction [Read more…]

Updated for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Feminist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.

Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of feminist books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!

Image shows a gray and white cat looking disprovingly at the camera. Caption says, "Feminist cat is not amused."

Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality

Everything you need to become a super intersectional trans-inclusive and well-informed feminist is right here. Also includes books suitable for those in your life needing a good sharp shock to set them right. [Read more…]