I had never heard of the Synanon cult before the book Synanon Kid came to my attention; but c’mon, we are all intrigued by such stories, right?
Well, this memoir of CA Wittman’s time in Synanon doesn’t disappoint.
Kidnapped in the night by two women, one of whom was her own mother, Celena spent five formative childhood years in the Synanon cult in California. While this is a story of Synanon, it is also a personal one, of isolation, relationships, and love.
I appreciated Wittman’s creative narratives of her memories including her complicated relationship with her mother and times of deep fear and loneliness within the cult. Growing up in Synanon imparted on Wittman unrealistic, unstable, and untrusting views of the world, and understandably so.
I could relate to Celena’s creation of a robust fantasy life to cope with a confusing, and often violent, reality as a young girl. As she grew older, she learned to talk fast and loud in order to avoid being taken advantage of by others. But she also turned to books, which gave her solace in the knowledge that others dealt with similar oppression and longing in their own lives.
Wittman is a talented writer of memoir; you get about as close to Synanon as you can without being there (and we really wouldn’t want to be there, right?). The reader can almost feel her hunger, fear, confusion, anger, and disappointment.
At only 274 pages, this is a quick and engaging read. If you are interested in memoirs, creative nonfiction, stories about cults, or books by women of color, you will probably enjoy Synanon Kid.
To learn more:
- “Chuck Dederich Still Rules Synanon, but Now He Has 1,300 Subjects and a $22 Million Empire” by Barbara Wilkins in People (1976)
- “The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry” by Maia Szalavitz in Mother Jones (2007)
- African Americans on the Move Book Club
Title: Synanon Kid: A Memoir of Growing Up in the Synanon Cult
Author: C.A. Wittman
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: July 20, 2017
My Rating: Recommended
I won this ebook on GoodReads and decided to review it. Thanks, GoodReads!
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