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Can you imagine cutting away bits of wrist skin with a toenail clipper until it meets the tender sheath of the vein? Alysa Phillips can. This young author, who became entangled with a menacing boyfriend, his cult-leader father, and the deranged vagabond who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, helps us understand such acts of harm to one’s own body. Psychologist Dena Bohn asserts that Alysa’s stunning memoir, Stranger in My Skin, not only helps us to understand the dynamics of self-injury, which usually manifest after trauma, but also “shatters some of its popular myths.” 

Stranger in My Skin is the taut, compelling tale of Alysa Phillips's strange struggle toward adulthood. Growing up in a conventional Utah town with an exacting father who even counts the family's food, she becomes involved with a polygamous cult, begins an obsession of self-mutilation, and later tries unsuccessful "geographical cures” on her own. Despite the unusual particulars of this story, there is something universal in it that can move the reader to mull over the simple sigh of a co-worker, wondering at the mysterious complexities of human suffering, and of human endurance.



“Even after years of listening to stories of childhood abuse and sexual assault, reading this intelligent young author's intimate psychological journey took me to a deeper understanding. It was a Being John Malkovich experience, a sensation that made it difficult to put the book down, as though her life continued while I was away and I wanted to be there in case she needed me. It felt that intimate. Any reader of Stranger in My Skin will gain an understanding of the phenomenon of self-injury and experience the shattering of some of its popular myths. The author's incredible tenacity to educate herself, work emotionally, and break her silence with written word, is an impeccable depiction of how survivors describe being drawn to ‘follow their soul's way.’ ”

-Dena Bohn, Psy.D., L.P.



"What are you here for?" Matt asked me.

"Words," I said.

I was going to explain how my heart danced when I wrote and how finding the truth was the only thing really worth living for, but Matt didn't need the explanation. He nodded.  “Yes," he said. "I can see that."



Author Bio:
Alysa Phillips holds a B.A. in journalism from Brigham YoungUniversity. She has set up house in Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Utah. At 27, Alysa attends graduate school at Emerson College. She and her husband live in Boston.

Author PhotoAuthor Statement:
One of the few things in my life that makes sense is my need to write this book. I’ve always guarded my memories with a kind of hyper-vigilance and feel like now I can finally put some of my experiences away. I also wrote this memoir with the hope it would find those who need a friend. In my own life, certain lyrics of a song or words of an author, spelled out with the right rhythm, have calmed my heart and given me courage to go on for another day.”




       I didn't know I was ugly until I met Joel Adams. I may have suspected it now and then, but until I had someone who loved me enough to point out my flaws, I was oblivious.
       Joel was almost twenty-five when he received revelation from God commanding him to marry me. I was nineteen. On our first date, he asked me, "Why aren't you wearing make-up?" We were at a Mexican restaurant on State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.
       "I am.” I’d powdered my face and brushed on black mascara.
       Joel said, "You need more.”
       Joel was one of ten children born to Jeremiah and May Adams. Jeremiah had quit his job as a high school chemistry teacher, and now spent all his time researching medical journals and talking to God.
       An entire book had come to Jeremiah by direct revelation. It held the secrets of life and death, the methods behind every act of faith since God created heaven and earth. One night, the heavens had opened in Jeremiah's room and passages of the book poured down. It was all he could do to write the words as they came to him. In the space of twelve hours, God explained to Jeremiah how miracles were done and he learned the scientific formulas Jesus used to heal during his earthly ministry. When the final words were written, Jeremiah knew how to cure every disease from baldness to schizophrenia and AIDS.
       When Joel announced his plans to marry me, Jeremiah told him, "Make sure she doesn't have any flaws that might be hereditary. You don't want a woman with skin conditions or bad features. Think about your future children." As an afterthought, he added, "And pick a woman who looks good naked."
       Joel proposed three weeks after we met. My face was caked in dark make-up. He broke up with his girlfriend the next day.


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Excerpt from Outlet