Whitney Finalists: Adult Speculative Round Up

Like the young adult speculative category, the adult speculative category this year leans toward dystopian and futuristic worlds. In fact, Amber Argyle’s Winter Queen is the only true fantasy candidate of the ten finalists in the two speculative categories. Two of the other finalists, C. J. Hill’s Echo in Time (Hill is also a finalist for YA speculative) and Stephanie Black’s The Witnesses, are set in futuristic worlds, though Black’s is more overtly dystopian. The remaining two finalists, Heather B. Moore’s The Heart of the Ocean and Jeffrey Savage’s Dark Memories, are both ghost stories, though their similarities end with that–Moore’s book is fairly romantic, and Savage’s book (which kept me up way past my bedtime) is horror, unusual for a Covenant published book. This is the first Whitney finalist nomination for Argyle, but the others are all familiar names in the Whitney circles.

Amber Argyle, Winter Queen

Winter Queen (Fairy Queens, #1)

There’s a lot to like about Argyle’s Winter Queen, starting with this gorgeous cover. I also enjoyed the strong heroine, Ilyenna, who leads the women of her clan and has a confidence most seventeen-year-olds would envy. But when Ilyenna’s clan is ruthlessly attacked and she and a friend are forced to defend themselves against their attackers, Ilyenna finds herself on the brink of death. The winter fairies bring her back to life, but for a price: they want her to be their queen, but to do so would mean abandoning her family and her humanity. Ilyenna refuses, and in consequence finds herself enslaved by the conquering tribe. As she struggles to keep the remnants of her clan together, she finds herself reconsidering the fairies’ offer. Continue reading

Open

imageWhen I lived in the city I was accustomed to the kaleidoscope of smashed glass caught in the cracks and rough patches of sidewalk and road. Beautiful, but terrifying trash. I’ve stepped on enough broken drinking glass shards to know to keep my feet covered when I stepped outside. The day I spied a man running down my Baltimore street without shoes I looked once to see him, again in unbelief, once more in disbelief and again because why would anyone in their right mind run down these glass glittered streets without proper footwear? But up the street he ran anyway, not stepping gingerly, but in stride and purpose. Open and free. I just thought he and anyone else reckless enough to attempt such a task was crazy. Then I met one. Continue reading

Yield

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. ~Mosiah 3:19

There is a scene in the 1998 film Ever After: A Cinderella Story that has stuck in my mind for the past 15 years. It goes like this:

Leonardo da Vinci [at the end of the ball]: She came to tell you the truth, and you’ve fed her to the wolves!

Crown Prince Henry: What do you know? You build flying machines and you walk on water, and yet you know nothing about life!

Leonardo da Vinci: I know that a life without love is no life at all.

Henry: And love without trust? What of that?

Leonardo da Vinci: She’s your match, Henry.

Henry: I am but a servant to my crown and I have made my decision. I will not yield!

Leonardo da Vinci: [sighs sadly] Then you don’t deserve her. [leaves behind Danielle's glass slipper]

i will not yieldThis pivotal moment when Henry, who in his heart knows he has behaved badly, refuses to admit his folly, has often shown up in my life. At the crux of every disagreement, every wrong I commit, there is a moment when those words echo in my mind. I Will Not Yield! 

Of course in the end, Henry does yield, and the result is a humble, beautiful apology. But how much pain and suffering would have been avoided if he had been willing to do so in the first place? And likewise in my own life, how much misery has my pride and stubbornness resulted in when I’m in need of a heaping bowl of humility?

All around us we see examples of problems that have come about because of an unwillingness to humble ourselves. From petty arguments between family members, to the shutdown of the US Government, the resistance to yielding one’s position is nearly embedded in all of us. It’s so pervasive in our “not guilty” society that it’s almost startling when someone quickly takes responsibility and apologizes for their mistakes.

I’ve thought a lot about how we can soften our hearts so that we are more willing to yield to the enticings of the spirit, to do what is right. I’ve wondered what it is about relinquishing our position that we are afraid of. What is it that, even when it’s in our best interest, drives us to steel our resolve and dig in our heels when in our hearts we know we should give ourselves over?

The pursuit to accept personal responsibility when we err is one of the greatest human endeavors. Though the consequences may be expensive, embarrassing, painful, or difficult to endure, the outcome of this decision is becoming a more humble, christlike person. And any time we’re becoming more like him, the Savior supports us and will help us through.

When I was on my mission, someone shared the classic Beware of Pride talk that President Benson had given, and I turned to my companion and said “I’ve never really struggled with pride before. It’s just not something that’s a problem for me”, and I could not have been more sincere – I was utterly earnest at that moment.

The irony of my statement didn’t hit me for a little while, but when it did, it became the silliest inside joke my companion and I ever shared. We laugh about it to this day, and I will never forget the look on her face as she listened to me say that. Because just about everyone on the earth struggles with some form of pride at some point, and that pride contributes to the ruin of families, friendships, neighborhoods, communities, businesses, governments and the natural world.

So when I find myself in this position, I think of Prince Henry and that moment when he adamantly would not yield, and I try to soften and allow myself to be led back on track.  It doesn’t always work, but I keep trying.

What helps you to be accountable when you’ve been in the wrong?

A Testimony of Education

About 8 years ago, I was wading through the prospectus-writing process of my dissertation, a process considerably more painful than writing the dissertation itself. It seemed that my chair and readers were never satisfied with any aspect of the study I was proposing.

In particular, I ran into problems as I tried to define gender in a way that was acceptable to one of my readers and in a way that was acceptable to the 150 Mormon women whose writing I was studying. (For what it’s worth, I define gender as beginning with something we have because I believe in a creation, but I also believe that it’s something we do, that we create, through repetition, through performance, through culture, by constantly respeaking ourselves in subject positions.) At one point, my dissertation reader refused to pass my prospectus because my definition of gender began with a fixed notion.

I was devastated and didn’t know what to do. I turned to my husband to talk things out, then to my academic Mormon friends and to my past professors at BYU to see how they had negotiated similar situations. But I couldn’t find any solutions or answers.

In desperation one afternoon, I locked myself in my closet, away from the 3 year old and 1 year old, cleared a spot free of shoes and dirty clothes, and knelt down. I told my Father about my problem, I told Him I didn’t know what to do, but that I was sure that He could somehow help. I turned over my problem—defining gender!—to Him.

This is one example of how the process of getting an education (a formal education, in this example, but an informal education in many others) has strengthened my relationship with God. In many ways, this has been one of the best consequences of my formal schooling. I’ve been thinking about this blessing this week as my Winter semester online teaching for BYU-Idaho is wrapping up. Next Tuesday is the last day of class. In my class this semester, I have 4 students over 60, 2 students who are young mothers, and 1 student who is returning to school now that her kids are in high school and college. Going back to school has not been easy for any of these students.

I have tried to be a cheerleader for them, posting uplifting quotes in my “Notes from Sister Pavia,” and letting them know that I am praying for them. This week I found this beautiful promise that Elder Henry B. Eyring made in his devotional address at BYU-Idaho on 18 September 2001. Although it was directed to graduates of BYU-Idaho, I do think it has applicability to all out there who are involved in the process of getting an education. Elder Eyring said, “I make a prophesy . . . . Those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become—and this is a prophesy that I am prepared to make and make solemnly—those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve. . . . I further bless you that you may have the capacity to influence others. I bless you that you will be a lifter, a teacher, and leader. I so bless you in your families, in the Church, and in wherever place you may go to serve.”

As for my experience turning gender definitions over to the Lord, it turns out He could and did help. Soon after my closet prayer, my dissertation reader sent me some citations for some feminist theorists and theories that she had come upon and that she believed would help me negotiate the tricky line I was trying to walk.

So to anyone out there involved in trying to learn new things, I want to testify that this process is blessed by the Lord. He will help you as you do your best.

Do you have a testimony of education? How have you grown closer to the Lord through study?