To the Moon and Back: A Child­hood Un­der the In­flu­ence

Lisa Kohn

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

He­liotrope Books (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $16.50 (242pp), 978-1-942762-44-7

Lisa Kohn’s mem­oir of grow­ing up in the 1960s and 1970s un­der the in­flu­ence of the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church—the “Moonies” cult—is at once heartrend­ing and mind-blow­ing.

Kohn’s up­bring­ing was turbulent. She lived in two worlds: on week­ends, she and her brother vis­ited their mother, who aban­doned them for the Moonies; dur­ing the week they stayed with their fa­ther, a bar­tender who con­sid­ered “slut” a term of en­dear­ment and en­cour­aged the use of recre­ational drugs. She strug­gled to find a place in the Moonies, al­ways won­der­ing where she truly be­longed.

Kohn straight­for­wardly re­calls her feel­ings of aban­don­ment be­cause her mother chose the church, church du­ties, and even tak­ing care of other peo­ple’s chil­dren be­fore her own chil­dren. She re­calls beg­ging her mother to spend time with her, and sit­ting out­side of her mother’s door, wait­ing to be ac­knowl­edged.

At var­i­ous points in her life, Kohn truly be­lieved that Sun Myung Moon was the “True Par­ent” of hu­man­ity; she was fully im­mersed, at­tend­ing a con­tin­ual stream of work­shops and lec­tures, and recit­ing “The Pledge” weekly to reaf­firm her com­mit­ment. She at­tended her mother’s Bless­ing, a large-scale wed­ding cer­e­mony with cou­ples whose mar­riages were ar­ranged by the leader. She looked for­ward to the day when she, too, would ex­pe­ri­ence the ela­tion of be­ing Blessed.

Within the cult, Kohn was taught that even kiss­ing a boy went against church val­ues; when she ex­pe­ri­enced nor­mal de­sire, she be­came de­spon­dent. For years, she ag­o­nized over such con­tra­dic­tions. Dis­as­trous con­se­quences, in­clud­ing drug abuse and anorexia, plagued her for years. From this er­ratic past she learned harsh life les­sons, was forced to­ward in­de­pen­dence, and ul­ti­mately achieved peace.

Kohn’s jour­ney is as riv­et­ing as it is shock­ing. To the Moon and Back is an un­flinch­ingly can­did and rev­e­la­tory book. HI­LARY DANINHIRSCH

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