Praise for Johnny Townsend
Kel Munger, Sacramento News and Review
Townsend's stories are "a gay Portnoy's Complaint of Mormonism. Salacious, sweet, sad, insightful, insulting, religiously ethnic, quirky-faithful, and funny."
D. Michael Quinn, author of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power
Johnny Townsend is "an important voice in the Mormon community."
Stephen Carter, editor of Sunstone magazine
"Told from a believably conversational first-person perspective, [The Abominable Gayman's] novelistic focus on Anderson's journey to thoughtful self-acceptance allows for greater character development than often seen in short stories, which makes this well-paced work rich and satisfying, and one of Townsend's strongest. An extremely important contribution to the field of Mormon fiction."
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2011. Kirkus Reviews
"The thirteen stories in Mormon Underwear capture this struggle [between Mormonism and homosexuality] with humor, sadness, insight, and sometimes shocking details... Mormon Underwear provides compelling stories, literally from the inside-out."
Niki D'Andrea, Phoenix New Times
The Circumcision of God "asks questions that are not often asked out loud in Mormonism, and certainly not answered."
Jeff Laver, author of Elder Petersen's Mission Memories
"Townsend's lively writing style and engaging characters in [Zombies for Jesus] make for stories which force us to wake up, smell the (prohibited) coffee, and review our attitudes with regard to reading dogma so doggedly. These are tales which revel in the individual tics and quirks which make us human, Mormon or not, gay or not..."
A.J. Kirby, The Short Review
In Sex among the Saints, "Townsend writes with a deadpan wit and a supple, realistic prose that's full of psychological empathy....he takes his protagonists' moral struggles seriously and invests them with real emotional resonance."
"The Buzzard Tree," from The Circumcision of God, was a finalist for the 2007 Whitney Award for Best Short LDS Fiction.
"The Rift," from The Abominable Gayman, is a "fascinating tale of an untenable situation...a tour de force."
David Lenson, editor, The Massachusetts Review
"Pronouncing the Apostrophe," from The Golem of Rabbi Loew, is "quiet and revealing, an intriguing tale..."
Sima Rabinowitz, Literary Magazine Review, NewPages.com
"Johnny Townsend's short stories cannot be pigeon-holed. His keen observations on the human condition come in many shapes and sizes...reflecting on both his Jewish and Mormon backgrounds as well as life in the vast and varied American gay community. He dares to think and write about people and incidents that frighten away more timid artists. His perspective is sometimes startling, sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, but always compassionate."
Gerald S. Argetsinger, Artistic Director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant (1990-96)
The Circumcision of God is "a collection of short stories that consider the imperfect, silenced majority of Mormons, who may in fact be [the Church's] best hope....[The book leaves] readers regretting the church's willingness to marginalize those who best exemplify its ideals: those who love fiercely despite all obstacles, who brave challenges at great personal risk and who always choose the hard, higher road."
In Mormon Fairy Tales, Johnny Townsend displays "both a wicked sense of irony and a deep well of compassion."
Kel Munger, Sacramento News and Review
"Selling the City of Enoch exists at that awkward intersection where the LDS ideal meets the real world, and Townsend navigates his terrain with humor, insight, and pathos."
Donna Banta, author of False Prophet
The Golem of Rabbi Loew will prompt "gasps of outrage from conservative readers...a strong collection."
"That's one of the reasons why I found Johnny Townsend's new book Mormon Fairy Tales SO MUCH FUN!! Without fretting about what the theology is supposed to be if it were pinned down, Townsend takes you on a voyage to explore the rich-but-undertapped imagination of Mormonism. I loved his portrait of spirit prison! He really nailed it-not in an official doctrine sort of way, but in a sort of 'if you know Mormonism, you know this is what it must be like' way-and what a prison it is!
Johnny Townsend has written at least ten books of Mormon stories. So far, I've read only two (Mormon Fairy Tales and The Circumcision of God), but I'm planning to read the rest-and you should too, if you'd like a fun and interesting new perspective on Mormons in life and imagination!"
C. L. Hanson, Main Street Plaza
Zombies for Jesus is "eerie, erotic, and magical."
"While [Townsend's] many touching vignettes draw deeply from Mormon mythology, history, spirituality and culture, [Mormon Fairy Tales] is neither a gaudy act of proselytism nor angry protest literature from an ex-believer. Like all good fiction, his stories are simply about the joys, the hopes and the sorrows of people."
"In Let the Faggots Burn author Johnny Townsend restores this tragic event [the UpStairs Lounge fire] to its proper place in LGBT history and reminds us that the victims of the blaze were not just 'statistics', but real people with real lives, families, and friends."
Jesse Monteagudo, The Bilerico Project
Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire is "a gripping account of all the horrors that transpired that night, as well as a respectful remembrance of the victims."
Terry Firma, Patheos
In Let the Faggots Burn, "Townsend's heart-rending descriptions of the victims...seem to [make them] come alive once more."
Kit Van Cleave, OutSmart Magazine
Marginal Mormons is "an irreverent, honest look at life outside the mainstream Mormon Church....Throughout his musings on sin and forgiveness, Townsend beautifully demonstrates his characters' internal, perhaps irreconcilable struggles....Rather than anger and disdain, he offers an honest portrayal of people searching for meaning and community in their lives, regardless of their life choices or secrets." Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012.
"The Sneakover Prince" from God's Gargoyles is "one of the most sweet and romantic stor[ies] I have ever read."
Elisa Rolle, Reviews and Ramblings, founder of The Rainbow Awards
"Let the Faggots Burn is a one-of-a-kind piece of history. Without Townsend's diligence and devotion, many details would've been lost forever. With his tremendous foresight and tenacious research, Townsend put a face on this tragedy at a time when few people would talk about it....Through Townsend's vivid writing, you will sense what it must've been like in those final moments as the fire ripped through the UpStairs Lounge. Let the Faggots Burn is a chilling and insightful glimpse into a largely forgotten and ignored chapter of LGBT history."
Robert Camina, writer and producer of the documentary Raid of the Rainbow Lounge
The stories in The Mormon Victorian Society "register the new openness and confidence of gay life in the age of same-sex marriage....What hasn't changed is Townsend's wry, conversational prose, his subtle evocations of character and social dynamics, and his deadpan humor. His warm empathy still glows in this intimate yet clear-eyed engagement with Mormon theology and folkways. Funny, shrewd and finely wrought dissections of the awkward contradictions-and surprising harmonies-between conscience and desire." Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2013.
"Johnny Townsend's 'Partying with St. Roch' [in the anthology Latter-Gay Saints] tells a beautiful, haunting tale."
Kent Brintnall, Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews
"The struggles and solutions of the individuals [in Latter-Gay Saints] will resonate across faith traditions and help readers better understand the cost of excluding gay members from full religious participation."
"This collection of short stories [The Mormon Victorian Society] featuring gay Mormon characters slammed in the face from the first page, wrestled my heart and mind to the floor, and left me panting and wanting more by the end. Johnny Townsend has created so many memorable characters in such few pages. I went weeks thinking about this book. It truly touched me."
Tom Webb, judge for The Rainbow Awards (A Bear on Books)
Dragons of the Book of Mormon is an "entertaining collection....Townsend's prose is sharp, clear, and easy to read, and his characters are well rendered..."
"The pre-eminent documenter of alternative Mormon lifestyles...Townsend has a deep understanding of his characters, and his limpid prose, dry humor and well-grounded (occasionally magical) realism make their spiritual conundrums both compelling and entertaining. [Dragons of the Book of Mormon] is [a]nother of Townsend's critical but affectionate and absorbing tours of Mormon discontent." Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2014.
"Mormon Movie Marathon," from Selling the City of Enoch, "is funny, constructively critical, but also sad because the desire...for belonging is so palpable."
Levi S. Peterson, author of The Backslider and The Canyons of Grace
Selling the City of Enoch is "sharply intelligent...pleasingly complex...The stories are full of...doubters, but there's no vindictiveness in these pages; the characters continuously poke holes in Mormonism's more extravagant absurdities, but they take very little pleasure in doing so....Many of Townsend's stories...have a provocative edge to them, but this [book] displays a great deal of insight as well...a playful, biting and surprisingly warm collection."
Gayrabian Nights is "an allegorical tour de force...a hard-core emotional punch."
Gay.Guy.Reading and Friends
In Gayrabian Nights, "Townsend's prose is always limpid and evocative, and...he finds real drama and emotional depth in the most ordinary of lives."
"Among the most captivating of the prose [in Off the Rocks, in a piece reprinted from the collection A Day at the Temple] was a story by Johnny Townsend illustrating two Mormon missionaries who break the rules of their teachings to spend more time with one another."
Lauren Childers, Windy City Times
Gayrabian Nights is a "complex revelation of how seriously soul damaging the denial of the true self can be."
Ryan Rhodes, author of Free Electricity
In Lying for the Lord, Townsend "gets under the skin of his characters to reveal their complexity and conflicts....shrewd, evocative [and] wryly humorous."
Lying for the Lord is "one of the most gripping books that I've picked up for quite a while. I love the author's writing style, alternately cynical, humorous, biting, scathing, poignant, and touching.... This is the third book of his that I've read, and all are equally engaging. These are stories that need to be told, and the author does it in just the right way."
Heidi Alsop, Ex-Mormon Foundation Board Member
"If you like short stories and you're interested in the lives of Mormons, you should be following the work of Johnny Townsend. Since he writes from an ex-Mormon perspective, believers often dismiss Townsend's work as biased-or as a priori "an attack on the church"-but I think that's a mistake. Johnny Townsend writes his characters with a great deal of compassion and empathy, whether they're in the church or not...or somewhere in between."
C. L. Hanson, Main Street Plaza
"Townsend is a wonderful writer with a wry but sympathetic eye for humans' frailties, and the ways in which religious belief both exacerbate and console them. [Despots of Deseret] contains more vibrant parables about doubts and blasphemies that hide beneath a veneer of piety." Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2015.
In Missionaries Make the Best Companions, "the author treats the clash between religious dogma and liberal humanism with vivid realism, sly humor, and subtle feeling as his characters try to figure out their true missions in life. Another of Townsend's rich dissections of Mormon failures and uncertainties..." Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2015.
Gayrabian Nights "was easily the most original book I've read all year. Funny, touching, topical, and thoroughly enjoyable."
In Invasion of the Spirit Snatchers, "Townsend, a confident and practiced storyteller, skewers the hypocrisies and eccentricities of his characters with precision and affection. The outlandish framing narrative is the most consistent source of shock and humor, but the stories do much to ground the reader in the world-or former world-of the characters....A funny, charming tale about a group of Mormons facing the end of the world."