Don't Shoot the Gentile (Paperback)

By James C. Work

University of Oklahoma Press, 9780806141947, 145pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2011



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 naivete 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.