One of my favorite aspects of my job is purchasing books for the 200s section of our nonfiction collection–Religion. The number of memoirs and essay collections about people’s religious experiences are vast, passionate, and endlessly fascinating.
I recently purchased Daniella Mestyanek Young’s memoir Uncultured. Young’s story details her childhood in the religious cult, The Children of God, also known as The Family, and the extreme lengths the community goes to to mold their followers into fervent, unquestioning believers.
The memoir is anything but light as Young describes the seemingly endless physical and sexual abuse that the leaders of The Family claimed was “godly discipline and love.” The child abuse that is described in Young’s story is abundant, making the book difficult to read at times, but also quite straightforward. Young conveys the details of her traumatic upbringing in a very to-the-point manner, only veiling the most gruesome details for her own privacy.
When Young turned fifteen, she escaped The Children of God. She moved to Texas to live with a half-sister (of which she has many, due to the sharing of women amongst male cult members), enrolled in high school (her first time in “Systemite” school), finished college, and eventually joins the military and works her way up to a role as an intelligence officer.
At the end of her time enlisted, Young reckons with her life and choices in a way that she hasn’t been able to before. She originally joined the military to find another community to belong to and a group with a shared goal to work towards. Without realizing it, she essentially joined another cult-like group. Just as in The Children of God, the group mentality and abuse of women were integral to the functionality of the system.
Uncultured is clear-cut and determined: Young responsibly takes her readers through the painful but necessary revelations of a global group that has claimed a faith that allows women and children to only exist in service of perverse men. Eye-opening is just one word to describe this exposé on religious cults and the human destruction they ensue.
This title is also available in large print.