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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Uncultured: A Memoir by Daniella Mestyanek Young

Young offers a brutally honest behind-the-scenes look at the systematic abuse she suffered in The Children of God cult and a front-row view of the misogyny and gaslighting she experienced in the military in this powerful memoir of resilience, reflection, and self-discovery.

Daniella Mestyanek Young grew up the daughter of high-ranking members of The Children of God cult in Brazil. Her mother was forced to marry the cult's leader when she was thirteen and worked as secretary for "The Family" for many years.

While in the cult, Daniella was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, while being told these acts reflected God's love. She was not allowed to attend school.

Young doesn't flinch away from sharing the grueling details of the generational abuse, hunger, male-dominated power structures, and various methods of deprivation that kept her and other cult members under control of the Uncles, as the group called the men in charge.

At age 15, after years of excruciating systematic suffering, Young escaped to Texas, enrolled in school, and made a new life for herself. After various naïve missteps during her entry into a more typical American life, she graduated and gravitated toward the armed forces in intelligence. She spent years fighting against destructive misogynistic power structures and making her way, struggling with mental health issues, and trying to establish an identity within a constrictive, gaslighting environment.

I'm fascinated by a peek into a secret scene, and cults and the military each fit the bill. Young's pain in both avenues is substantial and horrifying, and she is brutally honest. Yet Uncultured is primarily an affecting account of Young's impressive perseverance, hard-fought growth, personal reflections, and significant strength.

I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of St. Martin's Press and NetGalley.

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