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Juanita Brooks

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Copyright: 1988
Trim: 6 x 9
Pages: 504 pp.
Illustrations: 21 illus.


Juanita Brooks

The Life Story of a Courageous Historian of the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Levi S. Peterson

With a new preface

Biography / Mormon Studies

Born in 1898 in Bunkerville, Nevada, Juanita Brooks led an early life similar to that of many who grew up in isolated, tightly knit, rural Mormon communities. An early marriage suggested her future would follow a predictable course, but the death of her husband, the need to raise a young son, and a passion for knowledge led her along a different path. At mid-life she became a well-known author with the publication of The Mountain Meadows Massacre. In this book she exposed the killing of some 120 California-bound emigrants traveling through southern Utah in 1857 as an atrocity carried out by a Mormon militia with Indian allies, and not solely as an Indian massacre—as it had been for so long portrayed.

Juanita Brooks was a faithful and active member of the Mormon Church, and her courage to tell the truth about this dark moment in Mormon history established her reputation as a respected historian. While there was no official church condemnation of the book, there was unofficial disapproval and Brooks was shunned by many in her community. She nevertheless doggedly pursued church authorities to revise their stand on the incidents at Mountain Meadows. The desire to tell the truth as she saw it became her hallmark, and Brooks’s life as wife, mother, teacher, community member, and undaunted historian became an uncommon story of personal stamina and intellectual courage.

Levi S. Peterson is a professor emeritus of English at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. He is the author of several books, including his autobiography A Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning (University of Utah Press, 2006), which won the 2007 Turner-Bergera Biography Award from the Mormon History Association.

Table of Contents:

1. Hen Leavitt's Boy
2. Wed and Widowed
3. Moving Up
4. An Undefined Ambition
5. An Indispensable Apprenticeship
6. The Story She Was Born to Tell
7. Giving Voice to John D. Lee
8. A Life at Its Peak
9. Refusing to Retire
10. Old Lovers Gently Rocked
11. Perennial Spunk
12. In the Perspective of the Centuries
Photographs Follow page 424
Juanita Brooks: A Bibliography

Praise and Reviews:

"'I couldn’t lay the book down’ is usually said of a Dorothy Sayers mystery or a John LeCarre novel. But [this book] held me in just such a grip. Peterson’s book tasted good from first to last, and left me hungering for more. The composite effect...of Juanita Brooks’s life, told in the gentle, controlled prose of a master stylist, is awesome. Peterson’s re-creation of the professional life of a determined and ambitious woman is complete and convincing.”
—BYU Studies

“An engaging biography. The author conveys with understanding and empathy a keen sense of Brooks’ personality—particularly in terms of what it was like to be a woman in Mormon country during this period. One of the most important works yet written dealing with twentieth0century developments affecting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of interest of all students of Mormon history and of the American West generally.”
—The Western Library

“Peterson weaves an obviously staggering number of primary sources into a lively narrative which at once portrays an individual and suggests her symbolic role. He captures the contradictory blend of faith and reason, superstition and logic, and conformity and nonconformity which underlie Brooks’, and possibly Utah’s character. Juanita Brooks and the unfolding narrative of Utah History owe a debt to the sensitive and talented Levi Peterson."
—Utah Holiday

“Peterson examines Brooks’ life with uncommon dignity and affection in a prose style stripped of flattery or pretension.”
—Salt Lake Tribune

“Peterson’s book is astounding in its detailed depiction of life and culture in the southern Utah desert, and its description of conflict in the writing of Mormon history. Well written and exhaustively researched, the book contains a complete Brooks bibliography. An important addition to college, university, and public libraries.”

“A remarkable book about a remarkable woman. A gripping account of one woman’s struggle to develop her writing and interpretive talents while responding to family and church commitment.”
—Historical Society of New Mexico Publica

“[A] richly enthralling, highly readable story of the life of a great woman, a fiercely loving and fearlessly critical maverick riding the edge of the herd as long as body and brain would endure. Honors its subject by emulation, and raises the bar a sizable notch higher for all who will yet write the stories of Mormon lives.”
—The Association for Mormon Letters

“Peterson’s understanding of and sympathy for this frail little revolutionary with a keen mind and a purpose to match make it well worth reading.”
—Weber Studies

“Perhaps the best biography of a Utah individual to date and a work of major historical importance. Levi Peterson has added this superb biography to a growing and impressive body of nonfiction that examines the distinctive Mormon experience and ultimately the human condition. This is literature, and it is a literature of which Mormons can be proud.”
—Utah Historical Quarterly

“The author has done a genuine service in making [Brooks’] story known.”
—Wyoming Library Roundup

“Every once in a while you find that rare blending of subject and biographer—a kind of Johnson-Boswell combination which allows insights and understanding beyond what might be accomplished in the usual biography. Such a combination is apparent in this work. A brilliantly told story of a remarkable woman.”
—John Whitmer Historical Association Journal

“Blessedly accessible.”
—Western American Literature


Winner of the 1987 Evans Biography Award

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