The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance [NOOK Book]

Overview

"A wickedly funny debut. Baker is both self-absorbed and generous, whip-smart and naïve; she apologizes for none of it."
-People


It's lonely being a Mormon in New York City. Every year, Elna Baker attends the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. This year, her Queen Bee costume (which involves a funnel stinger stuck to her butt) isn't attracting the attention she'd anticipated. So once again, ...
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The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

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Overview

"A wickedly funny debut. Baker is both self-absorbed and generous, whip-smart and naïve; she apologizes for none of it."
-People


It's lonely being a Mormon in New York City. Every year, Elna Baker attends the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. This year, her Queen Bee costume (which involves a funnel stinger stuck to her butt) isn't attracting the attention she'd anticipated. So once again, Elna finds herself alone, standing at the punch bowl, stocking up on Oreos, a virgin in a room full of thirty-year-old virgins doing the Funky Chicken. But loneliness is nothing compared to what Elna feels when she loses eighty pounds, finds herself suddenly beautiful...and in love with an atheist.

Brazenly honest, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance is Elna Baker's hilarious and heartfelt chronicle of her attempt to find love in a city full of strangers and see if she can steer clear of temptation and just get by on God.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Debut memoir from a 20-something Mormon stand-up comedian. Baker was once just a funny fat girl weighing in at nearly 250 pounds. Then she rapidly shed the pounds ("In five and a half months I lost eighty pounds, which is the equivalent of pooping out a fourth grader") and emerged as a slim beauty, still funny and ready for romance-up to a point. The author writes that she was ready for some kind of amorous encounter, but as a practicing LDS believer, sex before marriage is prohibited-as is drinking. "Mormons are known for saying no," she writes. "No sex, no drugs, no alcohol and no caffeine. NO." So she relates, in unrelenting cuteness, her romantic adventures-not having sex with lots of dreamy guys, but kissing and telling all. For New York Mormon singles events, Baker concocted some truly unfortunate costumes, including a fortune cookie that got crushed and looked like a certain part of the female anatomy. She discusses her situation with The Almighty (a largely one-way discussion) and her struggles to suppress her sexuality while defending her spirituality: "I thought, he only wants to see me naked because I lost weight and I look more attractive now. And this only happened because I prayed and asked God for a miracle. Misusing my new body would be like taking a gift from God and defiling it . . . Is it right to suppress my sexuality? Or do religious choices just make me happy because I was trained to feel this way?" For the most part, Baker spins a witty girly-girl story, a romantic caper for ladies about trying to find a job, a boyfriend and, ultimately, herself. A sexy, lubricious outing by a formerly zaftig comic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101148778
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 251,113
  • File size: 913 KB

Meet the Author

Elna Baker
ELNA BAKER is a Mormon stand-up comedian and writer. She has performed in many of New York City’s hottest venues, including Caroline’s and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, as well as on NPR’s This American Life, and received grants for her work from Yaddo and Breadloaf. Baker lives in New York City.
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Elna Baker has a background most people would consider exotic and unique. She graduated from New York University with a theatre degree after spending much of her life in London and Madrid. She's visited countries many Americans know only via news items and high school geography books. The problem is that she spent most of these years being overweight, and also, Mormon, and it's put her at a bit of a disadvantage as she attempts to enter the secular social scene of New York City after college. This city, filled with over-sexed, over-stimulated people of all ages, is more exotic and unfamiliar to her than any of the places she's visited beyond the United States.

Life in the city post-NYU, unemployed and a little directionless, serves her with some interesting life lessons. She sells ridiculously expensive dolls through an equally ridiculous "adoption program" at FAO Schwarz that teaches her about money, ethnic diversity among the rich and undeserving, and the actions she will and won't accept from other people. She learns that coming from a religious background championing abstinence from both premarital sexual conduct and alcohol can cause her some problems in the bar scene of New York City, particularly with members of the opposite gender. And she learns that she has limited control over her life in most aspects but one: her weight.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance is a funny, moving, eloquent memoir from a young woman who loses weight, becomes beautiful on the outside, and then has to reconcile this change with who she is—and always was—on the inside: a person who thinks critically and deeply about the world around her, and about how others receive her within that world. It details her quest for love within the bounds of religion and outside them, and her introspective examination of her own beliefs and values. It also shows that being misunderstood as a Mormon is nothing compared to having your homemade Fortune Cookie Halloween Costume mistaken for something very different on the subway.

ABOUT ELNA BAKER

Elna Baker is a Mormon stand-up comedian, writer and solo performer who specializes in comedic storytelling. She lives in New York City.

A CONVERSATION WITH ELNA BAKER

Q. You always wanted to be a writer growing up—did you ever imagine that your first book would be a memoir, and in particular a memoir about your experiences as a Mormon and your struggle with your weight? You mention at the end of the book that you found the time to write at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, but what gave you the impetus to write this book? Was it your breakup with Hayes, or with Matt, or at the behest of your friends on the storytelling/comedy scene?

Not in a million years did I imagine I'd write a memoir. As a kid I definitely dreamed of being a writer, but unlike acting, the medium seemed inaccessible. Only there was this other thing that I did naturally: I told stories. During and after college, my mentor, Elizabeth Swados, pushed me to start telling these stories on stage. I would bullet point the material for each show, but I never sat down and actually wrote anything out. My first writing opportunity came through ELLE magazine. After performing in a spoken-word Moth event for ELLE I got the opportunity to write a feature about how I was getting plastic surgery. This article sparked interest from publishers in both teen and Christian fiction—only that's not what I wanted to do, I always envisioned writing a more mainstream book. So instead, I went to Yaddo and started writing the stories that's always come so naturally—the result was the first 80 pages of my book.

Q. After a string of jobs loosely related to acting, you're no longer pursuing acting, but writing. This change in your ambition(s) isn't really covered in the memoir—how do you feel about changing careers? Describe, too, your writing for fashion magazines and your writing for the comedy stage—does it satisfy? Do you see it as a step towards something else?

Professionally, I don't know what I am (all I know is that I'm having an identity crisis as I try answering this). I love to write, I love comedy and I still love acting. At first I worried that writing was going to distract me from acting. Instead I feel like it has taught me to how to be a better actor. For example: in acting school they talked a lot about understanding the intentions of the characters we were portraying. I didn't get this concept until I was working on my book and I got to see how much my own intentions drove my life. It was a weird experience. I felt like I was seeing myself from above, as though I were God watching a character make choices and mistakes—unable to intervene or change the past. This was an enlightening experience on many levels. Now when I perform (whether it's my own comedy or whether I'm playing a character) I approach the role from the writer's perspective and I try to uncover the intention behind each decision the character makes.

Q. You also create comics, which deal with many of the same subjects as your memoir. How does this part of your creative life fit with the storytelling and comedy and work as a published author? What does it allow you to do that the other art forms do not?

I'm not an exceptional artist or anything (in fact, you'll notice the character I draw only faces out—this is not an artistic choice, I just can't draw profile!) but for me comics provide a way of saying things visually that I cannot otherwise express. When I feel blocked I like to draw. It helps me find the basic truth I'm looking for and the best part is that for whatever reason I don't take myself as seriously when I draw. This allows me to really open up and get goofy. I also love how comics can instantly communicate an idea—what would otherwise take three chapters can be nailed in one image if you get the drawing right. On that note, maybe I should take a drawing class? Knowing how to draw profile may very well expand my entire world.

Q. What are you focusing on right now? What will we see from you in the very near future?

Right now I'm developing a television show that I hope to write and perform in. The show picks up where the book left off. I don't want to give anything away, but after I finished writing the book I decided to take a break from being Mormon, like how the Amish have Rumspringa—but my own made up version since the only "break" allowed when you're a Mormon is the KitKat kind. My current writing reflects this period of my life and whether it ends up being a TV series or whether I write another book—this is what I hope to explore creatively.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • There are many subjects of this book, but as one can glean from the title, the most important is the author's relationship to her religion. Discuss the ways you were able to relate to her struggle with Mormonism and its reputation in the world. Have you ever had to defend your faith as she has? Have you ever had to dispel stereotypes or myths as she has? Why or why not? Discuss, too, what Baker has gained from her experience of being a Mormon in a largely secular city.
  • Consider as well the other important subject of this book—Baker's struggle with dieting and her weight. As above, discuss the ways you were able to relate to her struggle. Did you ever have a physical issue or problem that took many years to come to term with? Have you ever used a clinic or a specific program to lose weight? If so, describe your experience and compare it to Baker's.
  • Also, discuss how much this book dispelled or confirmed any preconceived notions you may have held about either Mormons or people who are overweight. Before this book, were you aware of how isolated people in either group were made to feel by society? Describe how Baker's experience has shaped or changed your perspective of people who struggle with either religious beliefs, body issues, or different but essential parts of their identity.
  • While Baker has resisted being classified by others according to her weight or her religion, she's never minded being "the funny one", particularly in her family. Discuss Baker's sense of humor and how it comes through her writing. What parts of the book did you find particularly funny?
  • Similarly, compare this writing to stand-up comedy, which Baker now performs in NYC. What separates this book from standard stand-up comedy, and lends itself more to the types of stories one might hear at "The Moth", the storytelling venue Baker mentions in her book, or This American Life on NPR, for which she read and recorded the chapter "Babies Buying Babies". Identify the quality in her writing that allows her stories to transcend the punch-line driven nature of comedy routines. How would you classify her writing, or describe it to a friend?
  • In the years covered in this memoir, Baker not only changes her looks and some of her beliefs, but she changes her attitude or perspective about the world and her place in it. Discuss how this memoir is not only an account of one person's will to do "the impossible" ("the impossible is nothing!") but it is also a coming-of-age tale. How do we see Elna, the young woman, develop a more concrete idea of her identity over the course of these chapters? Point to particular parts of the text where you see Elna making a conscious or unconscious move away from adolescence, particularly in areas other than her sexuality or her faith.
  • Also, consider the structure of the book, from the reoccurring "Kissing" chapters to the revised charts that outline her beliefs at different points in her life. Discuss the way these chapters and the charts help to give the book focus and also to help the reader realize—as the author did—how much Elna is changing (and in some cases, resolutely not changing) over the course of a few years.
  • Baker read "Babies Buying Babies" in an episode of the radio show This American Life in January of 2008. Discuss the way this story works on its own, separately from the rest of the book, as a piece of social criticism, and how it also works as part of the memoir. What other chapters work this way—turning personal experience into an example of a greater issue or problem that exists within society?
  • What did you think of Elna's decision to get plastic surgery—particularly after her incident with the amphetamines, and her declaration in the hospital, "at the very least, I'll never get plastic surgery"? What does this show about the power of our resolutions? Would you call her a hypocrite for getting the surgery, or would you call her human? As you read "A Body of Work", and about her trepidation before the event, did you think she would go through with it?
  • Compare and contrast Elna's relationship with Matt, the atheist, to that of her relationship with Hayes, the man she almost married. Which relationship were you secretly rooting for while you read the book? Which relationship seemed more genuine, and why? Do you think that she made the best choices for herself? In particular, what did you think of her big decisions in regards to them, like moving out to Utah for Hayes, or traveling to Africa for Matt? What would you have done in Elna's place?
  • What did you think of the book's conclusion? What is your impression of Elna at the end of the book? Throughout the book Elna makes predictions (or receives predictions) about her future. And at the end, she surmises: "I'm a genuine indeterminate. I am what I might be, not what I am" and also, "I have no idea how it's going to work out for me though." What do you believe about Elna? What do you think her future holds?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 74 )
Rating Distribution

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(29)

4 Star

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3 Star

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2009

    Elna does not speak for all Mormons

    I am Mormon and attended the same singles ward in Manhattan as Elna. I would like to point out that Elna is a Mormon in name only. Even five years ago, when I knew Elna, it was clear the only reason she was attending church (or her book title's dance) was to glean interesting experiences for her comedy routine. As far as I could tell, Elna had given up most of her Mormon religious beliefs and was living a lifestyle that was far from an active Mormon. I think this is relevant because non-Mormons will read this book and think that it's an accurate portrayal of a single Mormon woman. In reality, her experience is not representative of a single Mormon woman living in New York City who is actually a believer and trying to live her religion. I do not know of one single, active Mormon woman who would approve of Elna being her spokesperson.

    Elna wants to be unique and interesting, and the fact that she's Mormon is the most interesting thing about her. Elna is not the only single Mormon woman to attend NYU, nor is she the only one pursuing comedy in New York City. There are many Mormon women doing interesting things while still living their faith and without casting it in a distorted, disparaging light.

    7 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing and Honest

    So I am a Mormon and I loved this book. It is rare to hear honest discussions about faith. Elna, armed with humor made faith fun and real. People in the Mormon faith rarely have open dialogue about what they feel and believe. We all assume we believe the same things because after all we are Mormon. I also found this book to be an interesting insight into a woman's sexuality. Rarely do we read such an open account of how a Mormon woman feels about sex. For young Mormons sex is such a mystery it seems almost unreal and magical, like it will be some mystical experience. In reading Elna I was reminded of my views of sexuality before I had sexlife. It was nostalgic, sex is good but looking forward to sex is even better, and no one is better at looking forward to sex with absolutely no idea what it will really be like then Young Adult Mormons.

    Great Job Elna!!

    Keep living the Mormon lifestyle so we can have more of these stories and insights!

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    Ignore the haters

    I'm Mormon and I loved this book. And no, I don't feel like anything in the book painted Elna or Mormons as "bad." It was just a realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a normal person and a Mormon. (Spoiler alert: It's hard.)

    There are many kinds of Mormon people out there, including (unfortunately) people like "anonymous" who want to claim we're all the same, and anyone who isn't the same obviously isn't really Mormon. Too bad for her, and too bad she thinks she can interpret the religious feelings of someone she went to church with for awhile.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2010

    Very interesting book, but Mormons -- be warned!

    I was in a pretty bad mood when I turned a corner in Barnes and Nobles and just happened upon this book. The title alone was highly intriguing to me, and as I am a Mormon, I grabbed it and began to read.

    First of all, the book is absolutely hilarious. It was precisely what I needed to read. The experiences that this girl has had as a single woman in New York City, from a Mormon perspective, were so funny, and much of what she described I could relate to as far as Mormon Culture goes. If you want to buy a book that lets you peek into the weird subculture that is mormonism, this is the book to buy.

    Unfortunately, this is also a coming-of-age book, and her coming-of-age is late (because many Mormons are so behind their peers because of their innocence and lack of exposure to the real world). The main character is between two worlds -- the very confined, closed off world of her religion, and the extremely open and no-holds-barred world of New York, and she has to make a choice. This is not a book her mother would enjoy reading, for sure -- and as I'm probably her mother's age, I read with that perspective and that disappointment.

    Having said this, I looked up her stand-up comedy on YouTube, and she is SO FUNNY. This girl is talented. I really enjoyed the book, and if I could extract myself from MY mormon experience, I would understand her feelings. Everything that she writes about is accurate about the religion and her experience, and it honestly is THAT funny and THAT true to life. I just think that any Mormons out there who read this may not enjoy it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    one of the best books i've ever read

    elna baker is awesome in this book as she recounts growing up in NYC while being a Mormon. she struggles with issues like sex, body image, drinking, and men. she makes you laugh hysterically, want to cry, and learn to apprecciate yourself. she's an excellent role mode for young people everywhere and i highly recommend this book. r y,

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great discussion book but no discussion questions

    This is just such a fun book. So many topics and themes to discuss. I looked everywhere for good discussion questions.
    Lots of reviews but not a one guide.
    This is what I came up with.
    1. What do you think of her disclaimer and dedication to her parents?
    2. What did you think about her charts peppered throughout? Did you feel her illustrations helped you understand her life?
    3. What was the biggest influence on Elna's losing weight?
    4. How would the story of her life in New York been different if she had not become thin? Is her success connected to weight loss?
    5. Like Pocahontas or Mr. Spock or Ariel the Mermaid, Elna Baker's caught between two incompatible worlds. She loves them both so fully, do you think that someday she'll have to choose one over the other"***
    6. Is this just a another comic effect book on how to find a guy in 10 days? What makes it different? the same?
    7. How much do you think is for a comedy put on? Is it a good devise to tell this story?
    8. Thinking of her childhood,was her just say 'Yes' scheme believable?
    9. Will she marry a Mormon? What do you think the church is thinking behind closed doors?
    10. Did the title catch your attention? Did it live up to your expectations?

    **I used this line from a reviewer on B&N to help form the question.

    Hope this helps some of you book reviewers. This is definately a good book to read and enjoy in the long summer .

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    so good I peed

    Yes so true. I didn't think it would be so funny.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Light Hearted Read

    Working in a bookstore, I have the opportunity to read through ALL kinds of new authors. Ms. Baker is quirky, hilariously funny, and at times even heroic. This read took me just an evening to get through, and now several months later, I still find myself chuckling at some of the outrageous stunts she recalled in this book. She offers a "real person" point of view on touchy subjects like religion, sex before marriage, weight loss, and the ever bleak singles scene. With her sense of humor, she also teaches that regardless of your religous background, sex, or age: you have to laugh at yourself! Her humility is admirable, and her writing style is well manicured and quick to entertain. I look forward to the next book, as I highly reccomend this read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a Must Read for any Mormon YSA

    This book is simply HILARIOUS if you are familiar with the Mormon culture. Definitely pick it up. it's a quick read and will renew your sense of humor (if not your faith). :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2010

    Great read!

    You become best friends with author as you experience everything with her. This book is full of comedy, tragedy, and situations you feel like you've experienced as well. I truly enjoyed it. It was inspirational, uplifting, and heart wrenching all at the same time. I'm so happy I bought this book. Great job Elna! Hope you write more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Honest, refreshing

    I love this girl.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2013

    Cute, funny

    I bought this book because I myself have been raised mormon. At 24 married (not in the temple) with 2 young boys I find myself questioning the ways in which I was taught. After struggling alone with the decision for almost a year, I found this book. Honestly I think I thought "if I read this ill know what to do. Well, that is not true and I should hapve known. Just like Elna I will have to make this choice myself with the help of no one. What this book did help me understand was that i'm not the only Mormon out there that's confused. Also im not the only mormon out there brave enough and smart enough to question my faith. How do you really know its true unless you take a step back and question it?

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Loved it

    Shes pretty fun:) an overall good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2010

    Great book - highly recommend

    This book was really good and relatable! I loved her story and it was encouraging and exciting to read all the way through. Definitely check this book out!

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  • Posted November 8, 2010

    Disappointing

    I REALLY wanted to like this book. After reading the first ten or fifteen pages, I had high hopes that I was going to be laughing throughout the book. Unfortunately, the personal stories that comprised of this book were very random, hard to follow, and somewhat annoying. I never felt like I even came close to knowing and understanding the various characters. Overall, a few standout funny lines but a poorly organized and sparatic story

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2010

    Anyone person who has struggled with their religion at any time in their life will love this book. Those who haven't struggled, will love this book too.

    Baker writes about her life and her struggle with being a religious person in New York. The book is lighthearted and very funny. She goes through life trying to figure out if her religion is true and whether or not it is preventing her from living a "normal" life. Any religious or non-religious person will be able to relate to the struggles and situations Baker goes through especially women. I love this book and it was a quick read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Excellant

    Witty, Funny, Enlightening! Could not put the book down. The ending took me completely by surprise. This book goes proudly to my "Favorite Book Shelf".

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Lots of Laughs

    Elna is such an enjoyable writing. Kudos to this book, I was walking in B&N at the Gateway in SLC when I came across it. I loved it! Some things I wish were different in the book but since it's her life story you just take it as is, and it's real.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    Very funny book!

    The writing isn't the best but the story is thought-provoking and hilarious at the same time. A pleasant read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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