A memoir written by Mary Jayne Blackmore, the daughter of polygamist and Mormon leader Winston Blackmore, will be hitting the shelves of bookstores on Oct. 23.
Balancing Bountiful will explore Blackmore’s life growing up in the polygamist community of Bountiful, as well as her journeys around the world and how these experiences contributed to the shaping of her understanding of faith, community, family and feminism.
“The last 12 years, I’ve been full-on with the media — doing interviews, answering questions, being on a few documentaries about Bountiful,” said Blackmore. “I realized there was no way to tell my story without just writing it. It really is — for me — about claiming the narrative of my family, from my perspective.”
Blackmore began writing the book six years ago, and it spans her life from the age of five until July 2020 as a 37-year-old.
“It’s my story, and I don’t claim in any way that this is the story of Bountiful. This is my story. I’m not trying to tell anyone else’s story for them, or say this is true for every woman in the community,” she said. “This is truly about me coming to independence in my own womanhood.”
Her memoir chronicles what she described as an idyllic childhood that revolved around riding ponies, raising pet lambs, baking bread with her grandma and playing in the barnyard with her cousins in Bountiful.
“I lived in a house that had lots of mothers in it and lots of siblings. There was lots of love, lots of meals shared around the big dinner table,” she said.
Her church-assigned marriage at the age of 17 is also touched upon, as well as the split in her church community in 2002 when her father was revoked of his leadership position by Warren Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“We moved to Utah to follow the leadership of Warren Jeffs in the community there. We lived there for a year, and by that time we had our second child,” she said. “I then stood up and said I can’t raise children here.”
She details how she decided to leave the church and move back home to Bountiful in 2003.
“I could see that there was this division in my community that was really disrupting our way of life, our school and everything we had established over the years,” she said. “I made a decision to go to university and get an education to become a teacher.”
The book explores her challenges of navigating the Southern Utah University environment and dealing with her father’s arrest in 2009 shortly after graduating.
“About a year later, my husband and I divorced. That period of time for me was very challenging. I had to re-define my place in my family, in my community as a divorced woman,” she said. “Also my place as a mother, a professional woman — just a whole new identity.”
From that point on, the book revolves around her journey of self-discovery, which was accelerated by her experiences in travelling to countries such as New Zealand, Turkey and India.
“That was about five years of real, intentional self-discovery to know myself,” she said. “Being out in the world and having these experiences really showed me that the challenges that women face in my community in Bountiful are the same as the challenges that women face everywhere.”
The book then goes into detail about how her father’s second arrest in 2016 on polygamy charges and subsequent sentencing led her to ask more questions about the idea of family and what it means to be a woman.
“What is the right kind of family? What is the right kind of woman? What is the right kind of feminist?” she said. “We’ve got all these laws that say these things and want to protect people, but what does it mean to have laws defining family, the right kind of family and wrong kind of family?”
She said that she hopes to challenge the reader’s own biases when reading her story.
“I think that people will see themselves in this story. Even though it is an interesting, sensational context, I do feel that there are so many elements of this story that are every woman’s story,” she said. “The journey to be a woman is so interesting in our Western culture. It takes a lot to get to 40, and I’m almost there.”
Creston readers can find the book available for purchase at Black Bear Books on Oct. 23.
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