For Part 1, see here.
5. How do you envision your memoir contributing to both Mormon studies and Chicano studies?
While all of us want a legacy most of us never do enough to make it beyond a footnote or a family member’s sacrament meeting talk. So, speaking as someone who doesn’t know how he will fare in history, I will tell you how I wish this work could contribute to both Mormon and Chicano studies. The first and obvious way is to let people know that it is possible to be part of multiple communities, be loyal to them and prosper from their contradictions. Second, I want Mormons specifically to know that their history is incomplete until they deal with those they treated or allowed to be treated as stepchildren of God. As Joanna Brooks said in her endorsement of the book, “the Mormon people have a great deal to learn by turning the time over to our brothers and sisters of color”. That valuable lesson from Saints of color comes not because we know or do better but because our experiences reveal the expansive parameters of our faith. We have dealt with complications all our lives and as white Mormons confront more and more challenges to their way of doing things, they could learn some valuable lessons from battle tested people of color. To Chicanos and other people of color, I want to say that they have much to learn about their struggles, and how these have often if not always had a spiritual underpinning. And I want them to know that no community is an island unto itself and that they must see themselves as part of a larger whole. My personal narrative in its most basic sense speaks to being comfortable with whom I am—though it was not always easy–while reaching beyond myself. I think Chicanos have to see themselves outside the barrio and Mormons “in the world” in order to appreciate what they bring to the table.
6. How do you envision rank and file Latter-day Saints (both Latino/a and white) using the book?
I hope that Latino Latter-day Saints, especially those who have questions about living a Mormon life within their particular communities find renewed hope that it can be done, and that it is a clarion call to contribute more than tithes and children for the mission field to Mormonism. Our beloved church needs to deal with some difficult challenges and those of us who have had to be vigilant most of our lives have much to add to the changes needed. We have to build a theology that is more expansive and inclusive. The value of my memoir, at least I think so, is that it is about rank and file Mormonism and that Saints of all stripes can find something to learn from my experiences because they deal with so many of the challenges and circumstances of life.
In Chicano studies we need more personal stories beyond those of the “heavy hitters” which tell how Mexican/Latino people live in the barrio and just as important how they navigate the larger world. Too often Chicano studies have been about activism, the struggle against the “gringo” and about those whose lifestyles and personal narratives are often foreign to those of the barrio in which grew up. My story is about a very “regular” person—in spite of some peculiar experiences–who was immensely blessed but who continues in many ways to be rather regular.
7. How did you decide on a publisher? What has been your experience with FDU press?
This one is easy. I was asked to submit my memoir to FDU by someone close to the process. At first I was a bit unsure that my work would fit a “Mormon Studies Series” but after some coaxing I decided to give it a try. It was not an easy process and it took a while and though no one has told me anything about how it went down, I have this lingering suspicion that there was some doubt and maybe debate about whether it was appropriate. My ace up the sleeve were—I would find out later—the press director as well as Rachel Cope, the series editor, who seemed to have really liked it from the start, the former calling it “beautifully” written, and also pointing out that what could be better than a Chicano writing a Mormon work. I think that sometimes the “world” has a better sense of our need to break open the cocoon in which much of Mormon studies has lived. The manuscript received support for publication from the reviewers but not before confronting some rather critical and insensitive criticism that revealed to me that some people are not ready to let go of the current parameters in Mormonism. At the same time the work was better for it.
As for the press itself, I like Harry Keyishian the editor of FDU but they do most of their production and marketing through Rowman and Littlefield and that has been a more complicated situation. I found out only later that R&L caters more to libraries and so their prices are higher and their marketing efforts are geared toward institutions. Still, I’m confident that I will be able to have a paperback edition within a year as I did with my last book. So, I encourage anyone that would like to read the book to get their public and university libraries to buy it. And if they want to purchase it to go to the FDU or Rowman and Littlefield website and use the code UP30AUTH15 to get a 30% discount. I really believe that if you read it you will find it different than anything out there in Mormon nonfiction. I actually think it would also be good in the classroom but that may have to wait for the paperback.
8. In your conclusion, you note a desire to write about your later life, including your time at BYU. Can you give us a sneak peek at what that volume will look like?
I envision that my “next” memoir will be a series of letters that I write to a friend and more thematic in nature, though to be honest I also would like to write about two phases of my life that dwarf all others and those are my time as bishop of two congregations and my years at BYU. During both I travelled abroad quite frequently and engaged in some of my most important research and activism. I don’t know that I would do another chronology—too many boring times in my adult life. I recently wrote a piece for a collection co-edited by Joanna Brooks in which I talked about my time as bishop and found that there were lots of opportunities in which to expand the talk on being Mormon and Chicano. And, of course, talking about BYU opens up a conversation on much of Mormonism. They could be two separate volumes or one titled “Letters to Jesús from BYU”. By the way, when I speak about Jesús I’m talking about a colleague and not the one above. When he calls me and says its Jesús I always ask if it is the one from above or below and he gets a kick out of it every time. My hope is that my next memoir will transcend the boundaries of being both Chicano and Mormon. My life experiences, I believe, provided me the depth to speak to issues and ideas that transcend but without super ceding my ethnicity and my faith.
Thanks, Dr. Garcia!