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Don't Shoot the Gentile

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When James Work took a teaching job at the College of Southern Utah in the mid-1960s, he knew little about teaching and even less about the customs of his Mormon neighbors. For starters, he did not know he was a “Gentile,” the Mormon term for anyone not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But just as he learned to be a religious diplomat and a blac When James Work took a teaching job at the College of Southern Utah in the mid-1960s, he knew little about teaching and even less about the customs of his Mormon neighbors. For starters, he did not know he was a “Gentile,” the Mormon term for anyone not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But just as he learned to be a religious diplomat and a black-market bourbon runner, he also discovered that his master’s degree in literature apparently qualified him to teach journalism,  photography, creative writing, advanced essay and feature article writing, freshman composition, and “vocabulary building.” With deadpan humor, Work pokes fun at his own naïveté in Don’t Shoot the Gentile, a memoir of his rookie years teaching at a small college in a small, mostly Mormon town. From the first pages, Work tells how he navigated the sometimes tricky process of being an outsider, pulling readers—no matter their religious affiliation—into his universal fish-out-of-water tale. The title is drawn from a hunting trip Work made with fellow faculty members, all Mormons. When a load of buckshot whizzed over his head, one of the party hollered, “Don’t shoot the Gentile! We’ll have to hire another one!” Today the College of Southern Utah is a university, and Cedar City, like most small towns in the West, is no longer so culturally isolated. James Work left in 1967 to pursue a doctorate, but his remembrances of the place and its people will do more than make readers—Mormon and non-Mormon alike—laugh out loud. Work’s memoir will resonate with anyone who remembers the challenges and small triumphs of a first job in a new, strange place.


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When James Work took a teaching job at the College of Southern Utah in the mid-1960s, he knew little about teaching and even less about the customs of his Mormon neighbors. For starters, he did not know he was a “Gentile,” the Mormon term for anyone not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But just as he learned to be a religious diplomat and a blac When James Work took a teaching job at the College of Southern Utah in the mid-1960s, he knew little about teaching and even less about the customs of his Mormon neighbors. For starters, he did not know he was a “Gentile,” the Mormon term for anyone not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But just as he learned to be a religious diplomat and a black-market bourbon runner, he also discovered that his master’s degree in literature apparently qualified him to teach journalism,  photography, creative writing, advanced essay and feature article writing, freshman composition, and “vocabulary building.” With deadpan humor, Work pokes fun at his own naïveté in Don’t Shoot the Gentile, a memoir of his rookie years teaching at a small college in a small, mostly Mormon town. From the first pages, Work tells how he navigated the sometimes tricky process of being an outsider, pulling readers—no matter their religious affiliation—into his universal fish-out-of-water tale. The title is drawn from a hunting trip Work made with fellow faculty members, all Mormons. When a load of buckshot whizzed over his head, one of the party hollered, “Don’t shoot the Gentile! We’ll have to hire another one!” Today the College of Southern Utah is a university, and Cedar City, like most small towns in the West, is no longer so culturally isolated. James Work left in 1967 to pursue a doctorate, but his remembrances of the place and its people will do more than make readers—Mormon and non-Mormon alike—laugh out loud. Work’s memoir will resonate with anyone who remembers the challenges and small triumphs of a first job in a new, strange place.

21 review for Don't Shoot the Gentile

  1. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    This was a fun easy read that made you laugh (if your LDS). Made me wonder if he was converted.

  2. 5 out of 5

    LibraryLady

    Interesting account of a "gentile" English professor adapting to life and work in a LDS community during the 1960s. Interesting account of a "gentile" English professor adapting to life and work in a LDS community during the 1960s.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jean

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charla

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

  8. 4 out of 5

    Saradavidson71

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maya

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cjt

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jambush

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  15. 4 out of 5

    Louann Reid

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robin Hyman

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kacy Thompson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christine Jeffords

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Rix

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  21. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Smedly

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