A teacher and leadership consultant takes readers into the crevices of a cult.
Growing up in New York in the 1970s, debut author Kohn had few points of reference through which she could make sense of the world around her. She and her brother, Robbie, were caught in the throes of their parents’ belief in the Unification Church, founded by a self-appointed messiah, Sun Myung Moon (followers were called Moonies). “As a kid you misinterpret the nasty things that happen to and around you, and you somehow believe you’re to blame,” writes the author. “As a young adult, I internalized this more and more. As an older adult, I still can. I get lost in darkness and desperation. I can feel unworthy or damaged or hopeless. I have my scars and insecurities, my fears that feel like they’ll engulf me. I can be washed over with shame.” The austere tone of this introductory passage doesn’t quite represent the vivacity with which Kohn writes about her struggle breaking out of the mold in which her parents trapped her. The author explores her teenage years, when she interacted with peers who knew nothing about her strict behavioral guidelines, the boyfriends who came in and out of her life as her dogma changed, and her shifting relationship with her father. Some qualify the Unification Church as a cult, and Kohn appears to agree with that line of thought. But this is not just an inside-the-cult book; this is the story of a woman who attempted everything in her power to get out of it. “I learned on my journey through self-help programs that I had experienced covert abuse,” writes the author. “Too much had happened to me and around me, and much of it had been off-kilter.”
If writing is an evacuation tool to process and understand abuse, Kohn has done an excellent job of producing a text that oozes with honesty and truth.