How to rebuild and move on when everything you ever knew is gone
May 15, 2015 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I've discovered that I have a taste for stories of people leaving insular communities. Do you have a favorite memoir, movie, or other story about such a person?

I felt deeply moved by the story of Will Ream on TAL, who left a fringe Mormon cult, and of Shulem Deen on Reply All (part II), who was banished from a Hasidic community. I'm hoping to spend some time this summer reading Deen's memoir, but I would love to find more stories about people leaving their community, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and what it's like to make a new life. Bonus points for women!
posted by faethverity to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you liked Shulem Deen's writing, you might like other writing about leaving the Hasidic/religious Jewish world. It's been having a "moment," and there's plenty to find. Shulem started a website called Unpious that has great archives. Book authors include Deborah Feldman, Leah Vincent, Shalom Auslander, Reva Mann, Matthue Roth, and many others. Keyords you're looking for include "OTD (off the derech)", and "ex-frum." There's a lot out there.
posted by femmegrrr at 12:06 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is right up this alley, from a lighthearted take.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I loved the book Escape by Carolyn Jessop about leaving the FLDS.
posted by misseva at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: A Price Above Rubies
posted by cjorgensen at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might like "Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape" by Jenna Miscavige Hill. I found it fascinating.

Also seconding "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop.
posted by meggan at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: Actually, I looked up that Beyond Belief book and Goodreads helpfully suggested a list of this sort of thing: "People who have left cults or religious fundamentalism." It reminded me that I've also read "Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Wall and liked it.
posted by meggan at 12:43 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: Speaking of Carolyn Jessup, and books: I cannot help myself from recommending Under the Banner of Heaven, from Jon Krakauer. It contains a few tales of leaving the faith, but it's a must-read along with Escape to fully explain the backstory of Mormonism.
posted by Dashy at 12:50 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Leah Vincent.

Also Julia Scheeres.
posted by BibiRose at 12:52 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: Miriam Toews has explored the leaving of insular Mennonite communites in a couple of her novels.
posted by clawsoon at 12:54 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Infidel is on my reading list.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:57 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: "Logan's Run". (It's hard to get more insular than that.)

Please note: the book, not the movie. They changed things quite a lot for the movie.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:42 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: Here is an oldie: I Leap Over the Wall by Monica Baldwin. Memoir, a nun leaves the convent in 1941 after 27 enclosed years. Out of print but may be available second-hand.
posted by glasseyes at 4:05 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What comes to mind- Growing Up Amish: A Memoir, by Ira Wagner.
posted by mbidi at 4:53 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For a non-religious example, Rae Yang's memoir Spider Eaters is amazing. She was the child of well-off intellectuals, joined Mao's Cultural Revolution as part of the infamous Red Guard as a teenager. She ends up working on a pig farm, where she reflects on the violence and corruption she's seen before she manages to escape to the US with a student visa. So it's kind of leaving multiple insular communities.
posted by Caravantea at 5:24 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whit by Iain Banks -
posted by chr1sb0y at 6:01 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: Why I Left the Amish by Saloma Furlong. It's on Amazon; on phone, sorry no link.
posted by Otter_Handler at 6:16 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: "Rite of Passage" by Alexi Panshin (science fiction )
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 7:11 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult, by a woman raised in the Sri Chinmoy cult in the NYC area in the 70s/80s.
posted by Miko at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: I very much enjoyed Wool, which takes place in a dystopian future.
posted by qwip at 8:24 PM on May 15, 2015

Best answer: I really liked Deborah Feldman's memoir, Unorthodox: the Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:48 AM on May 16, 2015

Best answer: Maybe Safe?
posted by Bron at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2015

Best answer: Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck (memoir)

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (YA novel) about a girl who escapes a Mormon cult

When Night Is Falling (1996 film about Camille, a Christian college professor who fall in love with a woman)
posted by alicat at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2015

Best answer: A classic of sorts might be Thomas Wolfe. He left his small town of Asheville for the big city and the world, and wrote about it, twice. First in Look Homeward, Angel and its sequel, Of Time and the River, as Eugene Gant; and then in The Web and the Rock and its sequel, You Can't Go Home Again, as George Webber. He died tragically at 38 and those second two were published posthumously. The residents of Asheville were famously annoyed with his writing about them in such detail.
posted by Rash at 12:47 PM on May 16, 2015

Best answer: Sons of Perdition is on Netflix.
posted by AllShoesNoSocks at 1:08 PM on May 16, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you all for this wealth of suggestions! I'm looking forward to pursuing these leads!

Also, I devoured both Kimmy Schmidt and Wool and loved them. I hadn't thought of them as part of this category before, but they totally are!
posted by faethverity at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2015

Best answer: Lauren Groff's Arcadia is about a boy who grows up in Arcadia, a fictional commune similar to The Farm; the last 2/3 of the novel is about what happens when he and his family leave Arcadia.

(The article I linked to about The Farm is actually an interview of 8 people who left that commune.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2015

Best answer: On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-rae Lee, a dystopian future/post-apocalyptic novel. A young woman leaves her walled-in city to search for her boyfriend, who has disappeared somewhere into the "open counties". Really beautifully written.
posted by spectacularicity at 7:50 AM on May 18, 2015

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