From being quoted in The New Yorker to being a guest on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” San Diego State professor Joanna Brooks is making the national rounds as the go-to source for understanding Mormonism. This climb to fame stemmed from her recently published book, “The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith.”
“I wanted to tell a story that gave a glance inside real Mormon life, showed how human Mormons really are and helped people understand why we care so much about our faith,” Brooks said.
The memoir tells the story of Brooks’ personal struggle with her faith while a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Brooks grew up a devout Mormon in Orange County and later attended the LDS church institution, Brigham Young University. At BYU, Brooks became a part of the Mormon feminist movement while the university’s feminist faculty was under intense scrutiny, so much that many quit or were fired by the time Brooks graduated.
“That’s left a lifetime impression on me,” Brooks said. “I learned that you can’t be afraid. You have to just act your conscience.”
Brooks said she was “a thinker and a bit of a rebel at heart” during her college years, where she discovered she was more liberal than most of her conservative peers. A few years after college, Brooks left the church because her progressive views did not align with the LDS church at the time. Brooks eventually returned to the LDS church, finding a way to embrace both her religious faith and liberal activism as she describes in “The Book of Mormon Girl.”
Since her college years, Brooks has become an activist in new areas.
As chair for the department of English and Comparative Literature at SDSU and a mother of two young daughters, Brooks focuses her campus involvement on the fight against budget cuts by protesting and speaking out.
“My daughters are 6 and 8, so I see cuts all down the line from college to elementary school,” Brooks said. “It is incredibly shortsighted for society to short-change our investments in young people and your education. It makes me angry.”
In her literature classes, Brooks teaches students the skills to think critically and ask hard questions not only about literature, but important issues affecting students as well.
“Those are the skills that allow you to live with your eyes open and to anticipate and get ahead of changes in the world around you,” she concluded.
The skills she teaches students every semester are the same skills Brooks has mastered herself.
Anyone who is struggling to adapt to changes within the world or within themselves should be able to relate to the personal struggles Brooks describes in her book.