“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, the one that led to our deep friendship. Ursula died in January, two years ago.
“Judith came to Powell’s 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