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Behind the Stories: Jessica Joe

Growing up in the Mormon community, Jessica Joe has a unique perspective on the pressure on young women to marry and procreate. The force of her personality bursts from the pages in her contribution to Keeping It Under Wraps. In Despite My Mormon Upbringing, Jessica shares openly her resistance to being pushed into motherhood and traditional roles within the church and community.

Get to know Jessica on Instagram and on Twitter! You'll find more of her work on her portfolio website. And find out all about her below.

How much of your life do you give to writing?

Definitely a large portion of it, especially these days. I’ve been a writer since the first grade, always journaling, writing letters, endless short stories. I love public speaking and I’m very comfortable communicating -- especially with large crowds, but where the spoken word fails, writing fills in the gaps. I’m also a visual learner with A.D.D., so I always deeply connected with writing as a type of ally to help me excel in school and life. I’ve always known I would choose a writing career once out of high school, but once I left my mother’s house, I got caught up in the busy world of working and paying bills and friends and dating -- I basically let my dream of writing sit on the back burner of my life for about 5 years.

Then 2020 hit and all I had was alone time to sit with the darkness and face myself during quarantine and once I got down to the nitty gritty, I realized I was hiding from myself and needed to invest in myself and my writing career now. I took 12 different classes on freelance writing that year and today I’m writing full-time. I find myself excited to wake up in the early mornings and get going on my work, my writing, which is really my passion.

What made you write this piece in particular?

There’s never been much interest for me in writing about parenthood, being that I have never had an interest in being a parent, but when I read that this anthology would allow voices to be uncensored and encouraged both sides of the spectrum (having children, not having children and all the other rays of beliefs in between) I felt pushed to share my story and it all came out fluidly. In less than 2 hours, I submitted my piece and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.

Technically, I did raise my little brother from ages 3-8, switching to online school while I was in high school in order to do so. My mom was recently single and working two jobs with little to no child support, so I stepped in to make sure she was able to provide and my little brother had the care and attention he needed. So, I do have some form of parenting experience under my belt there, but I had decided at a young age I would never have children myself. I always found huge opposition to that stance in my Mormon community, so much so, that I rarely spoke it out loud and if it slipped I would sometimes back my stance up with, “but, you know, I’m young, maybe one day I will.” About four years ago I have fully come out about my opinions and I actually left the church when I was 17.

Though I will always love and appreciate the Mormon community, which is full of loving, beautiful people, I found I had no real place there as a woman choosing not to have children and I am thankful I found a place to freely share my story here at Keeping it Under Wraps. Now my beliefs have a safe home and can finally rest.

How does this piece fit with your wider writing? Do you write in other genres?

This story is my story of rebellion and being true to myself. It stems from the core essence of who I really am, a humble maverick of sorts, by the mere fact that I refuse to comply with the status quo if it is not my truth. The pressure is unbelievable to marry and have kids in the LDS community, unbelievable. You are taught from as soon as you can perceive, that men lead the church and communities and women have children. I could have easily folded and just gone with the status quo, married and had children at age 20, which is basically expected to one degree or another, and made my parents and community proud. I could have fit in.

Instead I held fast to the truth inside of me, the blaring fact that it may not actually be in my destiny to have children at all and that that stance in itself is a righteous and holy one, despite what the crowd says, because it is what my heart says. I mostly write short science fiction stories and in this way, a piece of this story at Keeping it Under Wraps is present in all of my writing. Again, its about my own personal, inner rebellion. It’s facing the world and all the opposition maskless, because I refuse to hide, not in my life and certainly not in my writing. You’ll find this same theme of rebellion in almost all my writing.

How can readers further support your writing?

To follow my writing journey, you can follow me on these social media platforms. Thank you to the readers of Parenthood, Uncensored and thank you to the editors and incredible folks at Keeping it Under Wraps. What you do is important, magic and truly transforming.

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