You read about them from time to time in the newspaper. There
was the little boy who died in agony from ruptured bowels as his
parents' religious community prayed over him instead of calling for an
ambulance. There are girls who are raised to be child brides to much
older males. There were the youngest victims of a mass suicide who
received Kool Aid laced with poison from their also doomed parents.
Of course, those are the extreme examples. In many communities,
possibly even yours, there are families who combine religious
extremism with abuse to make their children's lives hellish while
flying under the radar of children's protective services. In burned
Ellen Hopkins gives us a very vivid example.
Pattyn (named after a famous military general as are all six
sisters) is the oldest daughter of a very bitter man. His first
marriage had ended badly. After their first son died in Somalia and
their second son was shunned for being gay his wife blew her brains
out with a .357. In his second marriage he has not been blessed with
the son he covets. He keeps regular company with Johnny Walker, often
drinking to the point of beating his wife so badly that she often
can't leave the house.
Pattyn's life begins to change when she has a dream with sexual
content. Her Mormon church has taught her that she can go to Hell for
having impure thoughts. But can she be expected to keep her dreams
properly chaste? There is no safe family member or friend with whom
she can discuss her dilemma.
Pattyn feels like an outsider in her home and church. She
resents the role of women in the Latter Day Saints community.
"I was tired of my mom's
to her religion, to her husband's
sick quest for an heir,
to his abuse."
She has begun to go out into the desert to target practice. One day
this brings her into the realm of boys who have not shared her
restricted upbringing. Much to her amazement one thinks she's
pretty. All seems to be going well until their taboo relationship is
brought to the attention of Daddy Dearest.
"Damn good thing I
Didn't catch you in the act.
You'd both be dead."
Burned is a treat for fans of Ellen Hopkins novels in prose.
It's also a powerful and poignant look into families made toxic by a
volatile combination of extreme religious beliefs and mental health
On a personal note, UMaine had an amazing outdoor organizational
fair. The mall was covered with tables. Every kind of organization
you can imagine was represented, not to mention plenty of free
refreshments perfect for a slightly muggy day like iced coffee, snow
cones, ice cream, and root beer floats. There was a decidedly festive
atmosphere. The event was very well attended.
A great big shout out goes out to the organizations who took the time
to table and the people who made the event possible. It takes a lot
of work to create festivities that, ironically, spontaneous.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod