“The relationship between feminism and religion, and religion and the state are topics a lot of us are thinking about right now. I’m posting this text of an introduction Ursula K. Le Guin delivered when I appeared at Powell’s Books in June 2016, at a reading from my memoir, “The Latter Days.” Ursula is one of the writers and thinkers who has been most valuable and helpful to me in forging my own identity as a writer, the girl who, as she puts it, blundered into freedom. When my first novel was published in 1989 Ursula introduced me at a reading at Powell’s. The picture above is from that first event, one that led to our lifelong friendship. Ursula died in January, two years ago. I miss her every day.
“Judith came to Powells back in 1989 to read from her first novel, The Chinchilla Farm. I am happy to welcome her back to read from her new memoir, which gives us the real-life background of that wonderful story of how a girl can blunder into freedom.
Latter Days tells us about what life’s like when your religion is also your government — a government whose decisions are unarguable because authorized directly by God.
The men who wrote the U.S. Constitution were so afraid of the terrific power of a religious state and so aware of the difficulty of combining a hierarchical religion with a democratic government, that – after honest and civil acknowledgments to God — they wrote religion right out of the government of the United States.
Ever since then, organized believers have struggled to sneak it back in. The “religious Right” that is such a powerful force in our politics is not just fundamentalist Christian but also, less noisily, Mormon. Though there are fewer Mormons than Jews (under 6 million) in the United States, we haven’t yet had a Jewish candidate for President, but we just had a Mormon one. The Mormon establishment offers radical conservatives a successful model of non-militarized control of civil life by a religious hierarchy — politically reactionary, patriotic, pro-capitalist, intensely secretive, and entirely male.
Judith Freeman tells us about being a girl growing up inside a power structure that is in many ways like an Islamic state. We see and feel the trust, the security, the real happiness, that prevail in that society — and the subjection of thought to belief, of freedom to authority, and of women to men. Judith is stunningly honest – and yes, she is under ex-communication for it – and also stunningly unresentful. She’s not taking revenge on anybody. She’s hate-free. She’s just getting some air and light into a secretive corner of our troubled Republic. This is a fascinating, timely book – and a very moving one.”
Ursula K. Le Guin