Media

Reprintable Review
from Winning Writers

Critique by Jendi Reiter
From Mormon to Mermaid
By Lorelei Kay
North Street Book Prize 2022
First Prize, Creative Nonfiction

Lorelei Kay’s relatable memoir, From Mormon to Mermaid: One Woman’s Voyage from Oppression to Freedom, depicts a feminist awakening that set this devout wife and mother on a stormy but liberating journey away from the religion she once loved. Lest her story be dismissed as one disgruntled woman’s misinterpretation of Mormon creeds and practices, Lorelei backs up her claims with news sources and church documents demonstrating how thoroughly male superiority is built into the Church of Latter-Day Saints. As they say on Twitter, she has the receipts.

By her account, Lorelei had a happy, normal childhood in a Salt Lake City family descended from the original 19th-century Mormon settlers. This isn’t a sensational tale of underage polygamy or lawbreaking cults. Her father named her for a legendary mermaid and encouraged her to study and ask questions. Her mother delighted the family and neighborhood kids with the art projects and talent shows she organized. Creative exploration was encouraged…up to a point.

The author recalls how her Sunday School teacher told her at age seven, “When the prophet speaks, the thinking is done.” Lorelei’s father made a convoluted effort to reconcile this directive with believers’ free will, but her subsequent life showed that the compromise was unworkable.

Like many traditional religious organizations, the Mormon church depended on an army of female volunteers whose leadership was not acknowledged or compensated. When Lorelei was a teenager, the church threw its financial and political clout behind blocking the Equal Rights Amendment. Decades later, they were instrumental in passing Proposition 8, the (thankfully short-lived) ban on same-sex marriage in California. The author’s devotion to the church was continually tested by cognitive dissonance between the amount of labor that women did, and the official stance that excluded them from authority.

Where even to begin with the years of microaggressions and WTF moments that finally made this woman say “enough” in middle age? Perhaps with the bishop whose sex advice for her troubled marriage boiled down to saying oral sex was a sin, so she should provide the pleasure her husband wanted, but “it’s up to you to get him not to want it.” Or with the church’s quiet backtracking on their historic doctrine denying full membership to Black people, a reversal accompanied by no apologies or efforts to publicize the change to its white-dominated congregations. Or when Lorelei’s young daughter is in tears because her Patriarchal blessing is so generic and seemingly uninspired by the Spirit, compared to blessings from the early history of the church.

First-round judge Annie Mydla said of this book: “At a time when religious fanaticism is growing stronger in our country and worldwide, I’m finding books with an inside view irresistible… The author is not content to escape and then expose the unhealthy aspects of the system she was born into. She also finds something rich and strange within herself… [The mermaid theme] communicates that freedom is not just escape, it also involves the responsibility of creating new and sustainable conditions in which the real self can live every day.”

I normally recommend that memoirists build their story arc around a significant incident or short time period in their life, rather than survey their whole life chronologically. However, the latter technique not only works in From Mormon to Mermaid, it’s the only way she could have effectively depicted the slow accretion of sexist hurts and unanswered questions that ultimately became a load too heavy to bear. I’m grateful, too, when an author provides date-stamps in chapter headings for a tale that spans decades. I was always able to orient myself in time and location in this narrative.

The recurring metaphors of mermaids and oceans gave consistency to the storytelling, but became repetitive and sentimental after a while. Nonetheless, the watery feminine archetype was a good choice to juxtapose with the patriarchal religion of the Utah desert.

The book design was straightforward and legible, enhanced with family photos that conveyed the vibes of each decade. At 200 pages, plus endnotes, it was pleasantly concise and moved along smoothly. The cover design of a mermaid silhouetted against a gold and purple sunset was eye-catching and modern. This educational and inspiring memoir would be a great pick for a women’s book club—though the men in leadership are the ones who really need Lorelei’s prophetic word!

Lorelei Kay is a multi-award-winning author of the memoir From Mormon to Mermaid — One Woman’s Voyage from Oppression to Freedom. Her book shines a burning light into the rarely disclosed corners of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Reprintable Sample Interview

Interview by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Award-winning author of the best sellers
And Not to Yield and The Renegade
March 10, 2016

RLE: What would you say was the turning point which began your long ride into disenchantment with the Mormon Church?

Lorelei: In a bizarre twist of fate, the whole thing started by my doing what my bishop asked of me. When he called me to teach the adult scripture class called Gospel Doctrine, I put my whole heart into it. I prayed over every lesson and every scripture. But every place I turned, I found contradictions, challenges, and conflicts which undermined everything I had been taught. The third year of teaching when I came upon the Book of Abraham cover up, that final betrayal shattered my remaining Mormon faith.

Or to say it even shorter, I studied and prayed my way out.

RLE: For our readers, can you give a brief outline of how the Mormon Church perceives women from your perspective?

Lorelei: The Mormon woman functions as eternal popcorn—she only exists to pop out children. The male children she pops out can grow up to be gods, and her female children can grow up to – pop out more children. Pop pop pop. That’s her role. And her daughter’s role. And her granddaughter’s role. Popping out wombs which can pop out more male gods.

Although Mormon doctrine technically includes a female deity, we don’t know her name, and god knows you must not pray to her. Just keep popping out the popcorn, do what your man says, and try not to think too much.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently encapsulated the Mormon view of women. VOA News quoted him saying, “Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood.” He went on to say that women and men could not be treated equally “because it goes against the laws of nature.” (November 24, 2014). If the Mormon prophet had said it himself, it couldn’t more accurately describe the role of a Mormon woman.

RLE: Recently, the Mormon Church has begun to make itself more open and visible to the general public. We know the official reason, but what do you see as the reason?

Lorelei: In one of my favorite movies, “The Wizard of Oz,” a wizard controls a curtain to cover up the truth so Dorothy will believe he holds great power. It works, until Dorothy grabs that curtain and yanks it back.

The internet allows searchers to pull back the curtain of deceit the Church has thrown over its history for decades. Now people can sit in their living rooms, turn on their computer, and search out the secrets the Church would rather keep buried. With so many people asking way too many questions, the Church feels compelled to address some of the controversies behind their curtain.

The essays the leaders are sending down the chute on lds.org are an attempt at damage control, but they skimp on the truth and dance around the facts. Also, the information is so well hidden on the website and so rarely referenced; few Mormons even know they exist. The magic curtain called the internet has simply exposed more embarrassing Church history than any Mormon website can explain away.

RLE: Appendix/footnotes are unusual for a memoir. What inspired you to include all the references?

Lorelei: When I shared my memoir with a good friend who had been an active Mormon, he said, “No one is going to believe the shocking doctrines you share about the Mormon Church—unless you give them proof.” He suggested footnotes, which I tried at one point. But it looked too scholarly, not friendly enough. So I moved them all to the back under the title of Appendix. That way, no one can say I misunderstood, or my family misinterpreted doctrine, or my bishop didn’t explain things correctly. I quote Mormon scripture and prophets. I give references. There can be no question about my claims about the doctrines espoused by the Mormon Church. I back up every claim I make.

Q: Who is your target audience and what do you envision as the book’s takeaway value for them?

A: Women! Men! Inquiring minds! Mormons struggling with their faith! Mormons not struggling who want to understand why people leave! People who want to understand how Mormon doctrine influences the daily life of its members.

Many people hear, “Family first,” and have a lofty false impression about Mormon family life. The truth is, “Follow the Prophet” comes first, often at the expense of the family. And while the men are taught to work toward godhood, the women are kept bound to the shoreline by men who wield all the power.

I tell my story of my life as a Mormon woman to encourage people to break free from damaging doctrines and limiting belief systems—and claim their own authentic lives.

Q: Who or what has had the greatest influence on your decision to be a writer?

A: When I was in third grade, my father sat me down and helped me with my first poem. I was hooked.

I also saw my father’s dedication to writing his own book about the Book of Mormon and writing family history. Since he couldn’t find any room in our small home for writing, he carved out a place in the crawl space under the house, made a desk using an old door sitting on cinder blocks, and set his Royal manual typewriter on top. And he wrote.

I have inherited a glorious heritage of commitment to writing.

Q: What constitutes a safety net for you … or do you have one?

A: The California Writers Club has been a terrific safety net. Friends there have provided critique, information, networking, and support. The club we have here in the High Desert is a tremendous asset.

Q: What is your definition of happiness?

A: Living a life at peace with internal beliefs, and being able to explore new, fun adventures. For me, writing is always an adventure.

What’s next? Are you going to continue writing about the Mormon Church? How your life continues to change and grows?

Lorelei: When I left the Church I said, “The first fifty years were for the Mormon Church—the next fifty years are for me! Now it’s my turn.

My father, still my hero, always encouraged me with my writing and poetry. I’m spending more time writing poetry and I’ve had poems published in magazines, showcases, and blogs. I’m excitedly working on my next project, a book of poetry inspired by my memoir From Mormon to Mermaid.

I’m also working in collaboration with my sister, Lisa Marie Hatch, on a book of poems written by our father. Our title will be “A Soldier and His Redhead.” While my dad was in the army before being shipped overseas to Italy in WWII, my mom followed him around in a bus in New York City. The book will also include some of my mother’s poetry and artwork. *

A new activity I’m enjoying is climbing rocks and hills in a Jeep. The places we can go! The vistas we can see! The world is such a huge, beautiful place, and I’m seeing more of it through the window of a Jeep these days. I still love to hike a pine-scented mountain trail.

But the crash of an ocean wave, the screech of a soaring seagull, and the sight of a sandy beach always call to my inner mermaid. As I say in my memoir:

A symbol of transformation,
mermaids whisper from the sea—
Be true to your inner heartstrings,
And your truth will set you free.

*We published this book in 2022.

About the Author

A mermaid at heart, Lorelei Kay is the author of the multi award-winning memoir From Mormon to Mermaid. She also writes poetry that’s been published in magazines, anthologies, and online.

She loves beaches, waterfalls, Jacuzzis, and bubble baths. In fact, she finds soaking in bubbles particularly conducive to writing!

Unsurprisingly, her namesake is the Lorelei—the German mermaid who perches on the River Rhine—who her father learned of when he served in Italy as a soldier in WWII.

She became hooked on writing when her father sat her on his knee and helped her create her first poem.

Lorelei grew up in Salt Lake City and became an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—known as the Mormon Church—on her eighth birthday when her father baptized her in a font in the Temple Square Tabernacle.

At home her mother told her stories of her pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains to find religious freedom.

Lorelei performed the Mormon ritual of being baptized for the dead in the Salt Lake temple. She took organ lessons in the basement of the Tabernacle and even had the opportunity to play the world-famous Tabernacle Organ.

She later attended Brigham Young University and was sealed to her husband for time and all eternity in the Los Angeles temple.

Lorelei’s transformation began when her bishop called her to teach Gospel Doctrine, the scripture class for adults, which included the Bible, Book of Mormon, and “Doctrine and Covenants,” which is Church History.

Like anything else her bishop asked her to do, she put her whole heart and soul into it.

As she continued to study and pray, she began to realize the depth of problems and complications in Mormon doctrine and history.

And that is when–all halibut broke loose.

LORELEI’S BOOKS!

Fifty years in the living
Ten years in the writing

From Mormon
to Mermaid

A Mormon woman discovers stunning untruths in the doctrine of the “one true church” she’s built her life around.

Born into a devout Mormon family—and named after the mermaid Lorelei on the River Rhine—Lorelei strives for eternal salvation. When her bishop calls her to teach the adult scripture class, she delves deeper than ever into the Book of Mormon and Church history. What could go wrong?

As she upturns more and more doctrinal rocks, she realizes the depth of deception upon which she’s based her life.

From Mormon to Mermaid is a compelling memoir of a woman’s five-decade search for value and truth. The four-time award winning tale shines a burning light into the rarely disclosed corners of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religion that keeps woman bound to the will of the men who wield all the power.

Also available in Kindle edition

Oh! The Places
We’ve Been!

After the fun rhyming style of Dr. Seuss, Lorelei’s hiking boots travel through valley and vales, dust-crusted trails, even hiways and byways with “bootiful” skill.

Come join in their adventures!

A SOLDIER & his REDHEAD

Our Soldier, Jesse LaVerd Dobson, was drafted into service on April 21, 1941. He first served stateside, then
in North Africa and Italy during World War II.

His Redhead, Flora Adams, married him on December 9, 1942—two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His Redhead spent months following her Soldier around on Greyhound buses from one base to another, sometimes falling asleep on the long back seat as the bus rumbled through the night. All this so they could spend precious bits of time together before his unit was shipped overseas.

While apart, our Soldier kept their love shining bright sending letters home including his own heart-felt poetry. His Redhead sent back a few of her own.

Our Soldier put them all in a red hand-tooled leather booklet as pictured on this cover—which he illustrated with drawings of falling stars that arched over their marriage for 42 years.

Our Soldier’s two daughters produced this tribute book. Lisa Marie Potter designed the book based on the one he made for his Redhead, and Lorelei Kay wrote the preface.

Nasty Women’s Almanac
Poetry Edition

Why a “Nasty Woman”?

During the final moments of the 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Donald interrupted Hillary by calling her a “nasty woman.” His comment immediately created a feminist rallying cry.

Within minutes, #NastyWoman and #IAmANastyWoman were trending on social media as women on the internet took back the word.

After Trump’s inauguration, on January 21, 2017, millions of women participated in the largest recorded single-day protest in US history. They were joined by women from all seven continents around the world.

An estimated five million women marched in defense of women’s rights, human rights, and other issues, on that historic day.

In their honor, Lorelei Kay offers this definition for a Nasty Woman:

A woman who transforms an insult into a mantra, kicks off her high heels, and rallies for a brighter day.

In the spirit of solidarity and a future bright with equality, she presents this book of inspirational feminine poetry.

 

Also available in Kindle edition

Nasty Women’s Almanac
Quotes by Strong Women

In the honor of the five million woman who marched after Trump’s inauguration in defense of human rights, women’s rights, and other issues, Lorelei Kay offers this definition for a Nasty Woman:

A woman who transforms an insult into a mantra, kicks off her high heels, and rallies for a brighter day.

In the spirit of solidarity and working toward a better future, Lorelei presents these inspirational quotes from strong women to empower women everywhere.

 

Also available in Kindle edition

LORELEI’S AWARDS!

NORTH STREET BOOK PRIZE

On February 15, 2023, Winning Writers announced the winners of the Eighth Annual North Street Book Prize for self-published books, and Lorelei Kay’s memoir From Mormon to Mermaid won FIRST PRIZE!

Winning Writers is one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, 2015-2019, 2022) and one of the “100 Best Websites for Writers” (The Write Life, 2016).

Dog Ear Publishing

The original publisher of From Mormon to Mermaid awarded Lorelei Kay’s Memoir their coveted Literary Award of Excellence!

The Managing Editor at Dog Ear Publishing, Stephanie Seiiert-Stringham, gives Lorelei’s memoir high praises. She says, “I love this book. It is a deep look at what it’s like to be a women in the Mormon Church. The author shares her story with humor, affection, irony, and grace. She describes her journey frankly, and touchingly. This is definitely an enlightening look into Mormonism and its unique peculiarities.”

eLit Awards

From Mormon to Mermaid was honored as the Gold Medal Winner, the highest award in the field of Memoir, from eLit Awards!

The eLit Awards are an annual program committed to illuminating and honoring the very best of English language digital publishing entertainment. The eLit awards are an industry-wide, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the electronic publishing industry. The contest is presented by Jenkins Group Inc., a Michigan-based book publishing and marketing services company that has operated the popular independent Publisher Book Awards contest since 1996.

Shelf Unbound

Shelf Unbound recognized From Mormon to Mermaid in their annual competition as Runner-up for best independently published book!

Shelf Unbound was given an A+ rating by the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Praise and Endorsements for
From Mormon to Mermaid

REVIEWS FROM AMAZON

Reading this book, I felt as if I were watching a chrysalis escaping an unholy detention and blossoming forth in full color and freedom.

From Mormon to Mermaid is a must read!

Most memorable line in this book: ‘Either way, I was still on my knees.’

Be warned. You must schedule enough time to read this book, because you won’t be able to put it down.

This is a heart-wrenching but delightful book.

Lorelei’s writing is heartbreaking because of her sincerity and vulnerability.

The aquatic metaphor, sustained throughout, never got old

I suspect the image of the dolphins of Thought and Logic (her “sidekicks”) will stay with me for a very long time.

I’m so so grateful for women like Lorelei who inspire me to create my own waves and a big splash by telling my own experiences.

A book of trials and courage that flows like a sea current.

Five stars for this honest, hopeful, provocative and beautifully written memoir.”

From Mormon to Mermaid is an examination of courage in the face of oppression — a timely treatise.

I love how this book is written! The doctrine and teachings are referenced in the back of the book supporting the author’s story!

Well written and inspiring.

The information about Mormon history, doctrine, and social reality was impressively well researched and accurate.