Painfully devastating and vulnerable. Heavily symbolic and packed with religious trauma her story is truly something you will think about nonstop. While reading you can't help but feel terribly sorry about what happened to this innocent young girl.
Uncultured is an honest and powerful memoir from Daniella Mestyanek Young, detailing her experience growing up in The Children of God cult. I’m so glad that Daniella got to use her voice to tell us about her experience and I left wanting to know more. I hope this brings negative attention to the cult and its members today and I know that many others will be inspired by her resilience.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a free advanced copy of this book to read and review.
Hard to read books but a necessary one. I think everyone needs to read this book and really think about it.
Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was left wanting with this book. The first half was exactly what I wanted and what I was expecting with the marketing of the book as a memoir about "The Family". I did appreciate the parallels and information on how the military is cult-like and the home found there, no matter how unhealthy it was, and how that all plays into her journey. But that's not how 2/3 of the dust jacket reads. Take that how you will.
Told in a beautiful, propulsive voice and with clear-eyed honesty, Uncultured explores the dangers unleashed when harmful group mentality goes unrecognized, and is emblematic of the many ways women have to contort themselves to survive.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read and review an advanced readers copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own.
This memoir follows the life of Daniella Mestyanek, a woman raised in a religious cult who escapes in her teenage years only to find herself joining a new group with striking similarities to her old one. As I'm sure you can tell from the description, this book is a really hard read. Reading about Mestyanek's childhood years especially, the intense physical and psychological abuse she suffered within the Children of God is enough to make you sick to your stomach. It seems impossible to grasp that she was able to get out at all, until you reflect on the fact that it's her own writing in this book.
I never read synopses for books on my TBR, so I wasn't sure where the book was going to go when I was only halfway through she had escaped the cult. The chapters on her joining the army were deeply upsetting but also very eye opening. Mestyanek's story is raw and heartbreaking and difficult to fathom, but I'm inspired by her courage and her ability to progress through life's challenges. I do wish that we got more information on her family and what happened to them in her adult years, but overall a really captivating memoir that will stick with me.
I really enjoyed this memoir. Seeing the parallels that between cult life and military life were eye opening. Daniella shared her story in a way that made you want to hear more. In a way that had you rooting for her.
Wow, what a story! I learned so much not just about the inner workings of a religious cult, but also far more than I'd ever known about the army & the experience and treatment of women within it. It was fascinating to see how Daniella escaped one cult only to get embedded into another organization with so many of the same characteristics.
*Thank you to NetGalley & St. Martin's Press for this ARC! This book is now available for purchase wherever books are sold, or you can request from your local library.
This was definitely a difficult and emotional read considering the subject matter. I can't fathom what growing up in a cult must be like, but we are giving an unflinching look into the horrors. It had to be very hard to share her story but the author did a great job.
I thought I would be able to read this one but I’m going to have to DNF this and try the audio. Will update my review of the audio when completed.
Daniella Mestyanek Young was raised in the religious cult "The Children of God' as the daughter of high-ranking members. Beholden to their strict rules, she suffers physical, emotional, and sexual abuse - masked as godly discipline and divine love - while being forbidden a traditional education. At the age of 15, she escapes to Texas where she enrolls in and excels at high school, graduating as valedictorian of her college class. She joins the military to begin a career as an intelligence officer to find out that her new world, surrounded by men on the sands of Afghanistan is remarkably similar to the one she desperately tried to leave behind.
One word: wow. This is an incredible story of hope and perseverance. It shows how indoctrination and wanting to belong can make an otherwise average person do inhumane things. The parallels between the cult and the army were frightening but made sense - if you think about it, in both groups, you are expected to work towards the common goal, no matter the personal cost of it or whether it aligns with your personal beliefs and values. I highly recommend this book; it was eye-opening and educational, and Daniella's story deserves to be heard.
Thank you so much to St. Martin's Press for my eGalley.
I really liked the parallels drawn between the military and the cult mindset. This book was jarring, engaging, and interesting. I think the author handled the story eloquently.
This one was heartbreaking. I felt like the writing was stilted at times, but it's understandable. Daniella isn't an experienced writer, and that's okay.
I'll post a full review soon! Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley.
This book fell somewhere between True Crime and the Educated/Hillbilly Elegy type of gritty memoir, but it ultimately wasn't a 5 star read for me.
Uncultured is the heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring story of one woman’s journey from a cult to the military to independence.
Toss all the emotions in a blender, and that’s what I felt while reading.
Despite the odds, despite a childhood that would break most of us, Daniella held on to her autonomy and eventually broke away from the cult she’d been born into. Then she joined the military, only to find herself facing gender roles and a power structure all too familiar to her upbringing.
I’m in awe of Daniella’s determination and resilience. This is a powerful story that we can all learn from.
*I somehow managed to get way behind on my NetGalley eARCs, and this is one of many that slipped through the cracks. I was excited to find the audiobook available on Hoopla. The author narrates herself, adding an even more personal touch to this memoir.*
Uncultured by Daniella Mestyanek Young
Behind the tall, foreboding gates of a commune in Brazil, Daniella Mestyanek Young was raised in the religious cult The Children of God, also known as The Family, as the daughter of high-ranking members. Her great-grandmother donated land for one of The Family’s first communes in Texas. Her mother, at thirteen, was forced to marry the leader and served as his secretary for many years. Beholden to The Family’s strict rules, Daniella suffers physical, emotional, and sexual abuse—masked as godly discipline and divine love—and is forbidden from getting a traditional education.
At fifteen years old, fed up with The Family and determined to build a better and freer life for herself, Daniella escapes to Texas. There, she bravely enrolls herself in high school and excels, later graduating as valedictorian of her college class, then electing to join the military to begin a career as an intelligence officer, where she believes she will finally belong.
But she soon learns that her new world—surrounded by men on the sands of Afghanistan—looks remarkably similar to the one she desperately tried to leave behind.
I really enjoyed Uncultured. I find the stories of cults rather fascinating and enjoy learning about them, the hows and the whys. Uncultured was one of the best and most interesting memoirs that I've read. I highly recommend it.
Whew! What a story.
Cults are intriguing to read and hear about, to watch documentaries of. The behaviors and personalities of those who lead and the reasoning or state of mind of those who follow are things that, if I had more spare time, I would love to dive into, just to learn more.
But for those literally trapped in cults, the children who don't have a say, it is not fascinating; it's devastating.
Daniella is so brave, not just to share her story, but to do all that she has done to get her to where she is today. Gosh, she has been through so much and her determination to make life so different from what was handed to her is wonderful to see.
Reminiscent of Educated, memoir lovers will enjoy this one.
This is a hard read. Memoirs typically are but this one was filled with very crazy and upsetting things! I love a cultish book but this felt like many stories wrapped in one. It makes me wonder how someone could experience this many things in one life!
Thank you for the advanced copy!
I received this book complimentary from NetGalley but all opinions are my own.
This was an interesting memoir. I had never heard of Children of God/The Family but god it’s horrifying. I am firmly against religion in general (I staunchly believe religion is abusive in childhood and don’t see the point in adulthood outside of liking ritual and routine). I am not a huge military proponent either but Daniella Mestyanek was a great storyteller. I could imagine Belo Horizonte and Kandahar. I could picture her family and the uncles and aunts. I felt that Daniella writes a strong story and is clearly a great writer. I’d probably read more by her.
This was one of my favorite books in a long time! The writing was beautiful, and the characters were wonderful. I couldn’t put this one down!