After some short technical difficulties, I finally connected with today’s guest, Helen Zuman, a tree-hugging dirt worshipper devoted to turning waste into food and the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant prose. She holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and a Half-FA in memoir from Hunter College. Raised in Brooklyn, she lives with her husband in Beacon, NY and Black Mountain, NC.
She is the author of Mating in Captivity (She Writes Press 2018), a memoir of her five years, post-Harvard, in a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Mating in Captivity received a starred review from Kirkus, was named a Kirkus Best Indie Memoir of 2018, was a finalist in Creative Nonfiction for the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses’ 2019 Firecracker Award, and was both first runner-up in memoir and a finalist for First Horizon and Grand Prize honors in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Awards. Other work has appeared in The New Farmers Almanac, in Communities and Livelihood magazines, and on the Foundation for Intentional Community’s website (ic.org).
Mating in Captivity: When recent Harvard grad Helen Zuman moved to Zendik Farm in 1999, she was thrilled to discover that the Zendiks used go-betweens to arrange sexual assignations, or “dates,” in cozy shacks just big enough for a double bed and a nightstand. Here, it seemed, she could learn an honest version of the mating dance – and form a union free of “Deathculture” lies. No one spoke the truth: Arol, the Farm’s matriarch, crushed any love that threatened her hold on her followers’ hearts. An intimate look at a transformative cult journey, Mating in Captivity shows how stories can trap us and free us, how miracles rise out of crisis, how coercion feeds on forsaken self-trust.
In addition to cults, we also talk about the journey to trust oneself, the “infinite growth myth,” gift circles, her connection to a well balanced eco-village that is doing intentional living well and how she takes care of herself (no social media!). I can personally highly recommend her book even for those not remotely curious about how one gets pulled into a cult. It’s extremely well written and uniquely empowering to hear some of the more difficult details of her story.
Looking for an intentional community or wondering about the health of one you’re currently in? Helen’s article may be of help to you. And if you do have friends, family or loved ones you fear are wrapped up in a cult, eh hm, political party, then Helen recommends some resources written by therapist and cult expert Steven Hassan. You can tune in to hear the best thing Helen’s Mom did easing her exit from the cult mind-control.
Today’s show was engineered by Nick Panken of Freedom Highway.
Our show music is from Shana Falana !!!
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