AML Awards 2006 – 2007

2007 Janet Kay Jensen Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys Marilyn Brown Novel Award Janet Kay Jensen’s Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys starts out as a nice little romance between an active LDS man and a woman who was raised in a fundamentalist splinter group. They overcome this issue as the story progresses with wit and keen insight to explore how polygamy still colors the way Mormons are perceived, as well as how practicing polygamists may be perceived by active LDS members. Once the romantic tension is resolved, a kidnapping is introduced into the story, but this potentially heart-stopping twist is twisted again as the author takes a humorous approach that brings to mind aspects of O. Henry’s “Ransom of Red Chief.” Jensen’s writing is clever, and her romantic characters and their friends and loved ones are sympathetically and engagingly portrayed. She is to be congratulated for her original approach to a timely issue.
2007 Helynne Hollstein Hansen Voices at the Crossroads Marilyn Brown Novel Award Voices at the Crossroads by Helynne Hollstein Hansen is an intelligent, ambitious novel that takes a collegiate coming-of-age story and elevates it to a unique exploration of French philosophy, Mormon culture, the pressures of academia, and the costs and benefits of individualism. By utilizing the voices of multiple narrators, Hansen is able to combine discussions of esoteric philosophical ideas with a fairly simple, but compelling, love story—and all this sprinkled with a dash of the supernatural. One character’s frequent otherworldly visitations by French philosophers like Simone de Beauvoir are not only believable, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of this novel. Hanson deserves much credit for bringing so many disparate themes together to create a truly original work of fiction.
2007 Todd Petersen Rift Marilyn Brown Novel Award Jens Thorson is a wise-but-grouchy, rural-Utah retiree, who feuds with his bishop, buries his longsuffering wife, and rescues Angie, a wayward girl who happens to be his enemy’s daughter. Aided by his band of brothers who “slum” at the barbershop, Thorson’s charitable habits collide with the inevitable orneriness brought on by the twilight of his life, whether it be fixing a screen door in the wind, rescuing his neighbor’s home from a flood by using a stolen backhoe, or offering a post-modern hometeaching message that attributes evil and suffering to a chaotic world. When Angie’s pregnancy fails, Thorson’s last-ditch attempt for greatness evaporates at the departure of a young woman he neither understood nor held close. Although the MBNA judges had suggestions for the novel (as they did all the contest novels this year), Petersen’s prose was so accurately earthy and dry—like the desert surrounding the fictitious hamlet in central Utah. It seemed as if the author were paying homage to another Petersen (Levi, no relation) as well as John Bennion, Lee Nelson, and other Utah desert novelists who employ the Old Testament God of the Wilderness as a harsh judge who only grudgingly meters out His mercy to an occasional dutiful son. Interestingly, Jens Thorsen could be viewed as a imitation of Levi Petersen himself: brimming with charity but lacking an appropriate measure of political-correct—scratch that—religious correctness, and cursed with just the right amount of moral indignation. Kudos to the younger Petersen for capturing the essence of angels who happen to take the form of crotchety old Utahns.
2007 Anne Perry Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters From the beginning of her career, Anne Perry has set the standard for LDS writers publishing in the international market. She was born in October of 1938 at Blackheath, London, England, but she didn’t sell her first novel until she was in her late 30s. Since then, she has published 24 books in the Thomas Pitt series, which started in 1979, with the 25th coming out at the end of March 2008; 15 books in the William Monk series, which started in 1990; five in her World War I series, which started in 2003; five Christmas novellas, starting in 2003, with a sixth coming out this Christmas; two fantasy novels; four other novels; six anthologies, two as editor; a nonfiction collection, and two more novels scheduled for 2009—over 60 books in 30 years, most of them mysteries, with over 20 million copies sold worldwide. Why mysteries? In her own words: “I found that I was totally absorbed by what happens to people under pressure of investigation, how old relationships and trusts are eroded, and new ones formed.” Mysteries or not, her work emphasizes the effort involved in discovering truth. Her characters continually worry about whether what they are doing is the right, best thing to do, and they agonize over the consequences for the innocent as truth is pursued. Her settings are painstakingly researched, her characters are strong and believable—people her readers care deeply about—and her plots are clever and incisive as well as thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. The Association for Mormon Letters would like to recognize Anne Perry for her outstanding contribution to Mormon letters and express our hope that she will continue to influence and inspire readers and writers for many years yet.
2007 Gideon Burton “Mormons and Film” Special Award The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present a special award in criticism to Randy Astle and Gideon O. Burton for “Mormons and Film,” a special issue of BYU Studies. Mormons have been fascinated by the power of the moving image since the inception of the cinema. This special issue chronicles the history of Mormon involvement in the development, production, and use of motion pictures, as well as presenting a broad cross-section of scholarly commentary on and critical engagement with issues pertinent to helping us understand the successes and challenges of Mormon film. The backbone of the issue is Astle and Burton’s “A History of Mormon Cinema,” which performs the important service of organizing Mormon film history into five periods or “waves.” Each wave is defined by an important development in the world of cinema that clarifies or redefines the complex relationship between Mormon culture and film. The concept of waves will be useful for many years as scholars continue to analyze and categorize new information relating to this fascinating field. The history is amplified by the inclusion of remarkable and rarely seen photographs beautifully reproduced by the BYU Studies staff. Additionally, the issue presents critical analyses of specific films; theoretical discussions of the character of Mormon culture, Mormon aesthetics, and Mormon spirituality in film; and diverse articles suggesting business models, proposals for future films, and analyses of film styles. The issue also includes reviews of recent films by and about Mormons. With such a variety of articles and approaches, the BYU Studies film issue not only lays the foundation for future studies of Mormon cinema, it also suggests specific directions for scholarship in the near future. It is the most important contribution to the study of Mormons and film to date and suggests the need for a new journal devoted exclusively to the discipline. In short, it is groundbreaking scholarship that whets our appetite for exciting new approaches, theories, and knowledge about how film encourages ever more exciting ways of representing and understanding our culture and our faith.
2007 Segullah Special Award Every so often, a publication comes along that changes the literary landscape by speaking in a new way or to a new audience. Members of that new audience, perhaps overlooked in the past, suddenly find intellectual and spiritual company, and rejoice in it. The publication of Segullah¸ a literary journal for Mormon women, and its accompanying blog and web presence has brought about such a change, and the conversation will never be the same. What began as simply a forum for an LDS women’s writing group to share their work with their friends has grown, in just over two years, into a large community of women who express joy in discovering an intellectually-challenging but faith-upholding forum. Spreading mostly by word-of-mouth, the Segullah community continues to grow faster than its founders ever imagined, providing a place where women can discuss their thoughts about the difficulties and joys of living a committed life in an atmosphere of faith. Between its beautifully produced journal and its vibrant online community, Segullah has entered the market as an entity to be respected. For filling a niche that had long been empty, for starting a conversation about whether and how to explore ambiguities and doubt within a believing community, and for excellence in writing and art, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present a special award to Segullah.
2007 Carol Cornwall Madsen An Advocate for Women: The Public Life of Emmeline B. Wells, 1870-1920 Biography In An Advocate for Women: The Public Life of Emmeline B. Wells, 1870-1920, Carol Cornwall Madsen eloquently portrays the struggle of the nineteenth-century woman to define her role in a male-dominated society. Madsen follows the paths of Emmeline Wells “as a dedicated suffragist, a well-known editor, a friend and co-worker of many national leaders of the controversial women’s movement.” Emmeline, a prominent local LDS figure, made herself a powerful force on the national scene. Madsen reveals Emmeline as both a public and private person, a woman of ambition and tender feelings. Through carefully crafted writing, with much detail and insight, Madsen presents to the reader an incredible yet believable historical figure. Articulate in her writing, careful in her historical detail, and honest in her presentation, Carol Cornwall Madsen has rightfully earned the Association for Mormon Letters’ 2007 Award for Biography.
2007 Carol Lynn Pearson Facing East Drama Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East could be have been just another salvo in an on-going culture war over gay marriage, gay rights and family values. A gay LDS man in his twenties has committed suicide. His parents find themselves unable to leave the graveside, and are confronted by his equally distraught partner. The fireworks that ensue could have led to nothing more than formal, argumentative set pieces; the play that resulted could have deteriorated to polemics. But in Pearson’s skillful hands, the only real agenda promoted is compassion. A talented, kind, loving man is dead. Three people who loved him have to confront that loss, and their own failings and weaknesses. A father learns to reassess his professional choices, and the damage done by an inflexibly corporatized ideology. A mother learns, for the first time, of the love and service her son and his partner received from a bishop who put Christ-like friendship side by side with institutional imperatives. And a gay man admits, finally, that much of what he loved in his dead friend was his devotion to his Mormon faith. Pearson knows her Mormonism, knows its language and its rites. We know that when the play’s anguished trio finish their conversation, a meal awaits them, prepared by the Relief Society. The policies of the Church are defended by characters we find sympathetic, and questioned by characters we find equally compelling. We know these people, and every Sunday, in our wards and stakes, we hear these voices. And in the audience, watching the play in performance, we also saw the faces of our brothers and sisters. In productions in Salt Lake City, in New York, in San Francisco and elsewhere, audiences from the gay community and from the LDS community watched, and wept together, united by a shared sense of loss and a shared commitment to compassion. Ultimately, the play urges us, whenever gifted young men die, to set aside our differences, and mourn. For its compassion, its even-handed wisdom and its tragic power, the Association for Mormon Letters honors Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East.
2007 Helen Whitney The Mormons Film PBS’s documentary The Mormons is arguably the most in-depth nonfiction investigation ever undertaken of the LDS Church on film. The first and thus far only coproduction between the high profile shows Frontline and American Experience, the two combined programs ran a total of four hours over two evenings, airing nationally and being seen by millions of viewers. Producer-director Helen Whitney and her crew and advisors succeeded in tapping as broad a range of scholars, Church leaders, rank and file Church members, former members, and others as has ever been assembled for a motion picture on Mormonism. The result is an engaging exploration of the Church’s history and current social makeup, and a great step forward in nonfiction LDS cinema. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present this award for Film to Helen Whitney for The Mormons.
2007 Terryl L. Givens People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture Criticism The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present its 2007 award in Criticism to Terryl Givens for People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture, published by Oxford University Press. Terryl Givens’ distinctive contribution to Mormon Letters is driven by a developing and highly effective integration of contemporary literary theory with more traditional modes of literary history. His interpretive insight allows him to interrogate the culture and probe its strengths and weaknesses with both skill and power. His eloquent style illuminates and clarifies the important questions he raises and answers. In People of Paradox, he employs methods subtly derived from culture studies to illustrate and illuminate how paradox generates vital cultural energy in Mormon society. His identification of four generative paradoxes, conflicts between “authority and radical freedom,” “searching and certainty,” “the sacred and the banal,” “election and exile,” provides a rich critical framework within which to understand the expansiveness of Mormon culture and to evaluate its highest achievements. At the same time, he relies on the tradition of the humanities to place the Mormon life of the mind in the easily accessible categories of the visual arts, architecture, music and dance, drama, poetry, fiction, and film. Each chapter is a thorough and compact exploration of how paradox informs and enlivens each Mormon art. People of Paradox thereby announces the coming of age of Mormon culture. No single work has previously sought to explore Mormon culture on this scale. No previous critic has found the culture worthy of such focused and extensive study. The results are felicitous indeed, as we now have a single volume filled with rich insights guaranteed to stimulate further critical investigation. With The Viper on the Hearth and By the Hand of Mormon, People of Paradox will take its proper place alongside the works of Hugh Nibley, Eugene England, Richard Cracroft, and Truman Madsen at the very core of demonstrating how our faith generates and respects the life of the mind, has profound intellectual substance, rewards critical inquiry, rises above the parochial, and invites the honest seeker after truth to search out the eternal in Mormon experience.
2007 Sigrid Olsen “The Nature of Comets” Short Fiction “The Nature of Comets” talks of death and love, and love in death. Sigrid Olsen pairs two girls who die young—one a child of the twentieth century, the other a millennia-old archaeological find—and links them through the scientist and brother who understands them both. Though far separated in time, both young lives illustrate how love and sacrifice make us human in any age.
2007 Darin Cozzens “Light of the New Day” Short Fiction “Light of a New Day” presents its readers with the old, but not worn, scenes of the harvest—the planting, the nourishing, the gathering in. We come to know and understand the characters—and there are only two of them—well indeed. Darin Cozzens uses particularly strong visual images; prayer-worn linoleum and baled snakes and fresh fudge are but a few that enrich the narrative detail. The story ends with hope, not knowledge, but a faith that all will be well.
2007 Lisa Torcasso Downing “Clothing Esther” Short Fiction In an age when minimalism is expected, perhaps even preferred, the breathtaking “Clothing Esther” seems almost rococo. Carl Sandburg’s famous simile comes to mind: “Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” Lisa Torcasso Downing gives an account of one of the most solemn, sacred, and private practices in the Church: the clothing of the dead. Remaining both respectful and realistic, she weaves into this story a family’s history, turning both into a narrative of strength and memory, full of the surprises and gentle truths that separate a people and a way of life from the world. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present this year’s award in Short Fiction to “Clothing Esther.”
2007 Brandon Sanderson Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians Young Adult Literature Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians begins by deliberately undermining the reader’s faith in narrator Alcatraz Smedry—a technique not often used in juvenile fiction, and therefore startlingly effective. This is only the first of the ways in which the novel challenges our assumptions about what we know and how we know it. The idea that everything we know about the world is wrong is played for laughs, but underlying the humor is the very serious observation that we can’t know truth if our methods for discerning it are faulty. Inherited abilities that seem like curses—a talent for falling down, or a talent for breaking things—turn out to be useful gifts under exactly the right circumstances, suggesting that blessings are often a matter of perception. Though in style and concept this novel fits squarely into the popular subgenre of snarky, self-aware juvenile fiction a la Lemony Snicket, its highly subversive nature makes it stand out from the crowd.
2007 Mette Ivie Harrison The Princess and the Hound Young Adult Literature The Princess and the Hound takes what is possibly the most overused cliché in fantasy literature—the person who can communicate with animals—and turns it into a deeply moving tale of loss and belonging. Though the plot focuses mainly on the ramifications of having a talent that can mean death if you use it and death if you neglect it, the center of the story is the relationship between two young people who have, for different reasons, never truly been able to trust another human being. As Prince George does his best to convince Princess Beatrice, his affianced bride and a total stranger, that theirs should be more than a marriage of diplomatic necessity, he learns that he has as much changing to do as she does—and that the first person he should learn to trust is himself. The novel’s climax brings the stories of George, the princess, and her hound together with the fulfillment of an ancient legend, initiating a change that will affect not only them but, eventually, the world. In the end, though they still have a long way to go, they have the promise that the beginning they’ve made will be a foundation on which to build a life together.
2007 Ann Dee Ellis This Is What I Did: Young Adult Literature You know Logan Paloney. He’s the quiet kid, the introverted one, the one the bullies pick on first. But no life can be so easily reduced to a handful of casual assumptions, and behind the face of the kid who seems shy and a little slow is an individual whose world is no less complex for his inability to talk about it. In Ann Dee Ellis’s debut novel, Logan’s thoughts, shared only with the reader, tell the story of what really happened when he witnessed a horrible crime—a memory Logan fears to confront because of his own actions and what they mean. As Logan circles around this pain, he reveals more about himself: his inability to talk to his parents, who are busy with their own problems; his struggles with the bullies at Scouts; his growing friendship with a quirky, outgoing girl who seems not to care what people think of her. Logan’s references to the mysterious crime by turn implicate and exonerate him, keeping readers guessing until almost the last minute as to what actually happened that night. With a unique style that tightly links content with form, the story is as much told through images, word play, and free verse as through narrative. The result is a short but intense novel that ranges from the depths to which humans can fall to the heights of redemption and forgiveness—especially of oneself. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present the 2007 award for Young Adult Fiction to Ann Dee Ellis for This Is What I Did:.
2007 Brandon Sanderson The Well of Ascension Novel In fantasy literature, the trilogy format—one large story broken into three volumes—often leads to what’s known as the “middle novel problem,” in which the second volume lags in pacing and plot development compared to the other two and is usually branded “boring.” Brandon Sanderson deserves recognition for conquering this problem with The Well of Ascension, book two of his fantasy trilogy, The Final Empire. While this novel is still very much a part of the larger story, it is also interesting enough to stand on its own, and its ending provides both plot resolution for this single volume and a terrifying cliffhanger of an ending to impel the reader on to the final episode. It is a remarkable accomplishment and advancement for fantasy literature that we hope will serve as inspiration for future authors.
2007 Dean Hughes Before the Dawn Novel Though historical fiction is well represented in Mormon literature, few novels focus on the years of the Great Depression despite its tremendous impact on an entire generation of Latter-day Saints. In Before the Dawn, Dean Hughes not only portrays the devastation of economic depression on a small Utah town, he does so as a backdrop to another part of history: the development of the modern Relief Society program. As the people of Richards, Utah, slowly see what they believed to be a typical economic slowdown turn into long-term privation and difficulty, the women of the Relief Society discover that their shallow social bonds and careless understanding (and misunderstanding) of one another disintegrate under real trials, to be replaced by true charity and love for one another. Before the Dawn is a valuable addition not only to Mormon historical fiction, but to Mormon literature as a whole.
2007 Coke Newell On the Road to Heaven Novel The journey of a Colorado mountain hippie that begins with Jack Kerouac and a mélange of Eastern philosophies seems unlikely to end in conversion to the Mormon faith and an LDS mission to Colombia. Yet it is precisely that contradiction that makes On the Road to Heaven such a valuable addition to Mormon literature. Part memoir, part conversion story, part missionary narrative, the novel is unified by the idea that truth is essential, that it is knowable, and that the search for truth can and should change the course of one’s life. This idea challenges our assumptions that it is more remarkable that protagonist Kit West, hitchhiker, pot-smoker, hippie, can find a place within the LDS faith and culture than that any of us, with our unique stories and histories, can. This autobiographical novel illustrates beautifully the idea that it doesn’t matter so much where we come from as where we choose to be. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present the 2007 Award in the Novel to Coke Newell for On the Road to Heaven.
2006 Patricia Karamesines “The Birds of Summer” Personal Essay
2006 Wilfried Decoo “The Unspeakable” Personal Essay
2006 Tom Russell Angie Film
2006 Melissa Puente Sisterz in Zion Film
2006 Aaron Orullian “Judgement Day” Short Fiction
2006 Heather Marx “Brother Singh” Short Fiction
2006 Virginia Baker “And Cry the Name of David” Short Fiction
2006 Janette Rallison It’s a Mall World After All Young Adult Literature Janette Rallison’s recent novels about teenage life are by turns hilarious and insightful. In It’s a Mall World After All, Rallison’s heroine struggles to overcome her prejudices about her best friend’s boyfriend, who in the past had humiliated and tormented her. She jumps to conclusions when finding him in what looks like compromising situations, only to find that there are, in fact, perfectly reasonable explanations for them. As she searches for more evidence to back up her suspicions, she comes to know, and like, his best friend. Though the typical story would have her discover the irrationality of her prejudice and learn that the boyfriend was a really good guy all along’-after all, he has at least one really great friend’-the plot becomes something more as we find that her suspicions are correct after all. Rallison’s story becomes both a wonderful romance and a powerful illustration of friendship.
2006 Shannon Hale River Secrets Young Adult Literature In River Secrets, the third volume of the series that began with The Goose Girl and continued with Enna Burning, Shannon Hale has once again written a wonderfully entertaining fantasy that, underneath, explores what it means to be human. Young Razo’s wit is his defense against the fact that he is smaller and weaker than almost everyone else; his discovery that strength sometimes comes in unexpected shapes is also the center of the novel, in which two kingdoms strive to understand each other despite their vast differences. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present this 2006 Honorable Mention for Young Adult Fiction to River Secrets.
2006 Brandon Mull Fablehaven Young Adult Literature In this life we learn that there is opposition for everything. In Fablehaven, the opposition abounds. Besides the usual good verses evil, there is honesty verses deceit and beauty verses ugliness. There is a younger brother who is always pushing the limits of the rules set down for him and an older sister who is obedient and considerate of others. While the brother is on a path that can potentially destroy the fantasy and the real worlds they live in, the sister learns to trust herself and finds that she has great qualities of leadership. Fablehaven sparks our imagination by taking us to a fantasy world where we make friends with a golem, eat soup with satyrs, milk a fifty foot tall cow, talk to mermaids and watch fairies dance inside of bubbles. It teaches us that we need to be aware of the world we live in, to live in harmony with people and nature and that rules are there for a reason. Brandon Mull has captured all of that and more in his first novel about a land full of imaginative creatures. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present the 2006 award for Young Adult Fiction to Fablehaven.
2006 James V. D’Arc, Blaine L. Gale, E. Hunter Hale, and Richard I. Hale Trapped By the Mormons Special Award When Trapped By the Mormons premiered in London in 1922, it was dismissed by critics and public alike as “rubbishy melodrama” not worthy of serious attention. It has, however, carried the reputation of the first wave of anti-Mormon films (1911-1922) on its shoulders for eighty years. Despite this notoriety, the film has been nearly impossible to find on VHS, and no decent DVD version has ever been created. Brothers Richard and E. Hunter Hale changed that in 2006. They decided it was time to make this little film do some good for the Church. Together with researcher and author James D’Arc, they not only painstakingly restored it on a DVD full of worthwhile bonus features, but donated all the proceeds to the LDS Church’s Perpetual Education Fund as well. The work—which included restoring the picture, creating the score, retyping the original novel, and other tasks—was truly a labor of love, performed by a group of Mormons toward a film designed to destroy their faith but which has become an endearing and, now, enduring, component of their culture. The personnel at Grapevine Video in Phoenix and the Organ Loft cinema in Ogden, particularly organist Blaine Gale, who provided the perfect score, all deserve praise for bringing a classic work from LDS cinema’s past appropriately into the present. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to recognize their efforts with its 2006 Special Award.
2006 Rick Walton Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters Most adults seem to lose their connection to childhood as they grow up. Clearly, Rick Walton has not. His ability to communicate with children in a way they both understand and appreciate is a rare gift. His stories show that he knows well what it’s like to be a child, and the proof is that children love them. From the beginning, when he published his first original collections of riddles, Walton has used his love of language to shape the books he writes. Whether explaining adverbs, as in Suddenly, Alligator!, or playing around with compound words, as in the delightful Once There Was a Bull… Frog, Walton combines fun, energetic storytelling with an education most children don’t even realize they’re getting. Over the course of his twenty-year career, with more than fifty books for children to his credit—and many more to come—Rick Walton has more than left his mark on the field of children’s literature; he has in many ways set the standard for aspiring writers to strive toward. We are pleased to present this award to Rick Walton for his exceptional contribution to Mormon literature.
2006 Kristen Carson ‘‘Atta Boy’ Short Fiction “‘Atta Boy” vaults us into a narrative in which time is as much the subject as the characters. In an almost Faulknerian way, Carson finds the pulse of ambition and uses that tick to reveal the inner voices that can haunt us all, if allowed. We should be looking to the eternities, of course, but in the meantime, we have so many other things to worry us onward into the night, or at least the next priesthood interview. This story excels at showing the ironies of those worries as opposed the unvarnished truths about ourselves. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present Kristen Carson with the 2006 Award for Short Fiction.
2006 Angela Hallstrom Service to AML With the tragic passing of Laraine Wilkins, Irreantum was left without a leader. Laraine had begun to mold Irreantum into a literary and critical journal that she hoped would carry more and more weight within the realm of Mormon letters. Her loss left a lot of strings dangling, both in terms of her overall vision and goals and also in the millions of material details that go into producing a journal. It was Angela Hallstrom, Irreantum’s short fiction editor, who put her life on hold for several months in order to step in and pull off a miracle. Angela spent hours combing through Laraine’s notes and computer files, sleuthing out what plans Laraine had made, whom she had contacted with promises to publish, and the printing procedures that were already partially in place. It was a monumental effort and resulted in one of our best issues yet. For her personal sacrifice, organizational and artistic skill, and great service to the Association for Mormon Letters, we wish to recognize Angela Hallstrom.
2006 John Bennion ‘Like the Lilies of the Field’ Personal Essay In his moving personal essay, ‘Like the Lilies of the Field,’ John Bennion explores how his childhood with an alcoholic father challenged and damaged him. Interweaving flashbacks, a recent Study Abroad trip to England, and an even more recent struggle with depression, Bennion brings readers along his personal journey toward confidence and redemption. He searches not for perfection but for those moments that are ‘close enough for this life.’ His frank discussion will, at very least, captivate the mind of the casual reader; more careful readers cannot help but be personally impacted and changed as they follow Bennion’s quest’as they, too, search to ‘remember that God loves [them] with and through and despite [their] flaws.’ John Bennion’s careful description and intense honesty create a powerful exploration of pain, sin, love, and forgiveness. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present John Bennion with its 2006 Award for Personal Essay.
2006 Brandon Sanderson Mistborn Novel Brandon Sanderson exploded into the mainstream fantasy world in 2005 with his debut novel Elantris, a gripping story with deeply LDS-informed themes. His 2006 novel, Mistborn, shows his growing ability and confidence as a writer of thoughtful, moral fantasy stories. Its central plot is driven by the question of what happens when the man who saves the world, earning immortality in the process, turns out to be a despotic ruler intent on forcing the entire world to dance to his tune. What if your prophesied savior becomes an oppressive god who is all too present and willing to make his presence felt? Throughout the story, Sanderson explores the degrading effects of oppression and how one can choose to rise above it through his main character, who learns how to trust others, love them, and be loyal to them when the whole world tells her how unwise that can be. In the end, the novel is a compelling exposition of the power of faith and sacrifice in overcoming evils that appear invincible.
2006 Orson Scott Card Empire Novel Orson Scott Card once again has shown us how to follow the commandment to “magnify your calling.” Just as he did more than write a movie novelization with The Abyss, he has transcended the standard gaming tie-in novel with Empire. Yes, it has the action, the intrigue, and the “cool gadgets” of a great game, but it also makes the reader think. Are we heading for a divided political house that really will not be able to stand? Is compromise the answer, and if so, what kind of compromise? In a novel that appears to be about the potential dangers of a two-party system gone to extremes, Card manages to hint at some very good reasons for the need for “opposition in all things.” Empire is more than a cautionary tale, however. It’s an exploration of the lives and hearts of real characters, not just figures doing battle in a game. It’s an examination of how people look at their choices, and how they decide what their true priorities are. It asks us each to think, not just feel; to act, not just react. And it reminds us that even when good men do something, evil can gain the upper hand, and that we need to pay attention to what is going on around us. Card paints a very possible future, one we may see with our own eyes, and we can hope that by magnifying a gaming tie-in, he has prepared our minds for more than just a game.
2006 Toni Sorensen Brown Redemption Road Novel The question ‘How can a loving, all-powerful God let innocent people suffer?’ is a familiar one these days, one that too often comes with the implication that because suffering exists, God must either be uncaring or nonexistent. In her novel Redemption Road, Toni Sorensen Brown uses this question not as a refutation of God’s existence, but as a springboard for an exploration of how faith can operate in a fallen, corrupt world. Set against the backdrop of modern Nairobi, the story tells of Lana, a young woman disaffected with the LDS Church who has tried to get as far away from her Utah Mormon roots as she can. Having traveled halfway around the world, she still finds herself caught up in the same questions about life that drove her away in the first place. Lana’s affection for the people she meets, especially the young orphan boy Jomo, entangle her in a world of illness, suffering, indifference, and death’-a world that seems designed to make people question the existence of God. Yet it is this world that brings Lana to an understanding of her own relationship with God that, for her, would have been impossible to find anywhere else. Brown tells this story with a straightforward honesty that allows the reader to explore the contradictions that lie in the heart of gospel life’faith versus hopelessness, privilege versus poverty, cruelty versus love. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present the 2006 Award in the Novel to Redemption Road.
2006 Annie Poon The Book of Visions Film While the history of LDS animation has very few highlights, it portends an extremely bright future. Foremost among those advancing the art is New York City-based artist Annie Poon, whose stylistically innovative paper cut-out work has already been recognized by organizations such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Nickelodeon. In The Book of Visions, Poon’s first color film, she juxtaposes the divine calling of Joseph Smith with those of two other youths, Joan of Arc and the twentieth-century Sioux chief Black Elk. Thus, for Latter-day Saints, the film defamiliarizes Joseph Smith’s story in two ways: through the startlingly original visual style and, particularly, through the inclusion of two revelatory experiences from outside the LDS canon. Poon presents them all as having equal veracity and thus challenges LDS viewers to accept a new revelation for perhaps the first time. The film thus frees Joseph Smith from the built up rhetoric of LDS thought, and challenges us to assess our belief in revelation anew. For those who can accept such a possibility, the film promises spiritual experiences to all who seek them, not just the chosen few. The Association for Mormon Letters honors Annie Poon’s vision with the 2006 Award for Film.
2006 Tim Slover Treasure Drama With the blend of theatricality, elegance, humor and humanity that characterize his previous work, Tim Slover’s Treasure parses the dialogue between our personal morality and public intercourse and asserts that, at their best, art and politics and religion and love are the sibling eternal conversations that enable us to discover and rediscover the treasure of our hearts and to reconcile the accounts of our lives. In Treasure, as the fledgling American government spreads its wings, Alexander Hamilton finds the implementation of his designs for the country’s socio-economic well-being blocked by his personal indiscretions. Only by dismantling the barriers built with his own brashness can he open a gate of opportunity for his fellow Americans. But the greater renovation occurs in Hamilton’s private space, as he and his wife invest their hopes in higher purposes and set out to construct their reconciliation. Rilke observed that ‘Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky.’ Slover likewise reminds us that each transaction of our lives ‘ public or private ‘ acknowledges the spaces between us and, in the most profitable exchanges among us, reveals the richness of the bonds that unite us. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present its 2006 award for Drama to Tim Slover’s Treasure.
2006 Patricia Karamesines “The Rhetoric of Stealing God” Criticism We are all familiar with the kinds of religious discourse used to comfort those who are enduring great trials. The grieving wife is told that her husband died because God had a greater purpose for him in Heaven. Parents of severely autistic children hear that their disability means they were too perfect to require testing in the mortal world. Such language is meant to be a comfort, but in her essay ‘The Rhetoric of Stealing God’ Patricia Karamesines identifies it instead as well-meaning but ultimately selfish discourse which serves more to protect the speaker than to comfort the hearer. Her essay, which is centered on her experiences as mother to a daughter born with severe brain injuries, deals primarily with cultural criticism, but its linguistic focus makes it hard not to see the implications for faith-centered literature. ‘Mortal crises,’ she writes, ‘are in truth powerful situations,’ and her caution against exploiting such crises to palliate our own or others’ fears or spiritual doubts extends to every kind of language we use, written or spoken. Ultimately, Karamesines’s hope is for the kind of rhetoric that builds rather than destroys, as she writes in conclusion: ‘The language of belief can do better than have the appearance of meaning or doing good; that is, it must do better than merely seem to speak with the tongues of angels.’ The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to award Patricia Karamesines with its 2006 Award for Criticism.

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