Elizabeth Smart and Chris Smart, 2013
St. Martin's Press
For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.
Now for the first time, in her memoir My Story, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.
In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker. In 2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine. (From the publisher.)
• Birth—November 3, 1987
• Where—Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
• Education—Brigham Young University (currently enrolled)
• Currently—living in Park City, Utah
Elizabeth Ann Smart-Gilmour is an American activist and contributor for ABC News. She first gained widespread attention at the age of 14 when she was kidnapped from her home and rescued nine months later.
Smart was abducted from her bedroom in her family's Salt Lake City home on June 5, 2002 at the age of 14. She was found nine months later on March 12, 2003, in Sandy, Utah, 18 miles from her home, in the company of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. Her abduction and rescue were widely reported and were the subject of a made-for-TV movie and non-fiction book.
On October 1, 2009, Smart testified to being threatened, tied, and raped daily while she was held captive.
On November 16, 2009, Barzee announced she would plead guilty to assisting in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, as part of an agreement with prosecutors. On May 19, 2010, Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. As part of a plea deal between the defense and federal prosecutors, federal Judge Dale A. Kimball gave Barzee credit for seven years that she already has served.
On March 1, 2010, Mitchell was found competent to stand trial for the kidnapping and sexual assault charges in federal court by judge Kimball; his trial began on November 8, 2010, and on December 10, 2010, the jury found Mitchell guilty on both counts. On May 25, 2011, Mitchell was sentenced to two life-terms in federal prison.
Activism and journalism
On March 8, 2006, Smart went to Congress to support sexual predator legislation and the AMBER Alert system, and on July 26, 2006, she spoke after the signing of the Adam Walsh Act. In May 2008, she traveled to Washington, D.C., where she helped present a book, You're Not Alone, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has entries written by her as well as four other recovered young adults.
In 2009, Smart commented on the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, stressing that dwelling upon the past is unproductive. On October 27, 2009 Elizabeth spoke at the 2009 Women's Conference in California hosted by Maria Shriver, on overcoming obstacles in life.
In 2011, Smart founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which aims to support the Internet Crimes Against Children task force and to educate children about violent and sexual crime.
On July 7, 2011 it was announced that she would be a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons.
On May 1, 2013 in a speech at a human trafficking conference at Johns Hopkins University Smart discussed the need to emphasize individual self-worth in fighting human trafficking.
I thought,"Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away." And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.
Smart went on to ask that listeners teach children how to gain self-worth and avoid becoming a victim.
Elizabeth Ann Smart was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Edward and Lois Smart. She has four brothers and a sister and is the second-oldest child in her family. Smart attended Brigham Young University (BYU), studying music as a harp performance major.
On November 11, 2009, Smart left to serve a Mormon mission in Paris. Smart returned temporarily from her mission in November 2010 to serve as the chief witness in the federal trial of Brian David Mitchell. After the end of the trial she returned to France to finish her mission, coming home to Utah in the spring of 2011.
In January 2012, Smart became engaged to Matthew Gilmour, a native of Scotand, after a courtship of one year. The couple met while serving as missionaries in the France Paris Mission. They married on February 18, 2012, in a private ceremony in the Laie Hawaii Temple.
Elizabeth published a memoir of her experience. Co-authored with Chris Stewart, the book details both Smart's kidnapping and the formation of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which works to promote awareness about abduction. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/09/2013.)
Smart’s memoir is as compelling as it is disturbing. Her stoic Mormon faith, moreover, will both inspire and mystify readers.... What many readers will not easily grasp is how she retained her hope. My Story might have better answered those questions had Smart continued with the narrative of her life beyond 2003 and discussed her education, her mission, and her marriage. Still, even had Smart fleshed out her past 10 years, her resilience likely would remain a mystery of faith, a final tender mercy in her story of suffering and survival
John G. Turner - Boston Globe
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:
• How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
• Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
• Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)
Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for My Story:
1. Describe Elizabeth's kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell. Smart herself calls him a “manipulative, antisocial and narcissistic pedophile.” Is there anything in his background to suggest he would end up as a kidnapper and serial raper? Is someone like Mitchell evil? Or is he sick, mentally deranged?
2. What about Mitchell's partner, Wanda Ileen Barzee? She herself is a mother; one wonders what would prompt her to maltreat a child like Elizabeth. Brazee receieved a sentence of 15 years, seven of which the judge said she had already served. How do you feel about that?
3. One of the most remarkable aspects of Elizabeth's experience is how she used her faith to maintain hope. Would you have been able to hold onto your beliefs in light of relenting cruelty and fear?
4. In addition to her faith, what else inspired in her the will to live?
5. Elizabeth speaks of near-rescues, in particular, one in the library when a detective questioned Mitchell. Why didn't she cry out?
6. Why did it take six years for the courts to finally try and convict Mitchell. What was holding up the system?
7. What can be done about child abducters? How can society protect its young children from predatators like Mitchell?
8. Elizabeth Smart has said that it does no good to look back. Yet in her many public appearances and her work with her foundation, is she not doing just that? Wouldn't it be too painful? Or is her work precisely what helps to heal those wounds?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
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