Title: Uncultured: A Memoir
Author: Daniella Mestyanek Young
“In the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle, Daniella Mestyanek Young’s Uncultured is more than a memoir about an exceptional upbringing, but about a woman who, no matter the lack of tools given to her, is determined to overcome.
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 a 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.
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.” Per Amazon
This book was equal parts fascinating and horrific to me. Learning about a cult that still exists that is taking the gospel and twisting it so terribly was heartbreaking as a believer. However, Mrs.Young is very open, honest, and genuine about her experiences, from being in the cult to escaping the cult to trying to figure out life outside of the cult. Mrs. Young, despite living through things that would have made a lesser-willed individual give up, graduated college, went into the military, and then retired at the rank of Captain.
Uncultured is a story of how even when you are falling apart on the inside, and perhaps your past is consistently coming up in your mind, it is possible to be successful. Perhaps because of the things she went through at such a young age, she learned the ability to let herself fall apart and then keep on going, a trait that I am told is common among trauma survivors. I received the audiobook version of this memoir, narrated by Mrs.Young herself. While her voice may not be the most trained when it comes to narration, there was a power and a vulnerability behind the voice, and it truly came off as a friend unburdening herself of her story to another friend.
While the stories in this memoir lead to being hopeful, this is not a book we recommend to someone who might have children listening. There are curse words, depictions of sexual abuse, trauma, and things that most would not be ok with young ears hearing or young eyes reading. That being said, it does offer an interesting look into the mindset of a child. As an adult, this book has wormed itself into my brain to where I think about it frequently.
Our final rating of Uncultured: A Memoir is 5 out of 5 Glix. This book is beautiful in its tragedy, broke my heart, and left me feeling hopeful. As a believer, it left me more aware of how I say things, as well as more aware of other ways that could be misconstrued. While Mrs. Young is not a believer of any faith, I truly feel as though God used her words to plant seeds in my life as far as how to respond to others and pray for those still in the mindset that the twisting of the gospel is true.