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Helen Zuman is a tree-hugging dirt worshipper devoted to turning waste into food and the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant prose. She holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and a Half-FA in memoir from Hunter College. Raised in Brooklyn, she lives with her husband in Beacon, NY and Black Mountain, NC.
A Harvard grad seeks a mate in a cult that forbids monogamy. To pursue love on her own terms, she must brave exile and learn self-trust. When recent Harvard grad Helen Zuman moved to Zendik Farm in 1999, she was thrilled to discover that the Zendiks used go-betweens to arrange sexual assignations, or “dates,” in […]
Just as the Zendik community, a cult, pulled Helen Zuman in and held her, her account of her time there will pull you in and hold you. Her clear-eyed observations of her fellow idealists—and of herself—are honest, compelling, and sophisticated.
– DANIEL MENAKER, author of My Mistake: A Memoir
[Zuman’s] whip-smart prose…conveys the squalid exuberance of Zendik’s blend of idealism and fraud [in this] engrossing and offbeat story of ideological bonds that chafe—and sometimes liberate.
– KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)
Zuman’s entertaining depiction of life in a cult pits the appeal of belonging versus the desire for self-determination. An enlightening read.
– JULIA SCHEERES, author of A Thousand Lives and Jesus Land
by helenzuman in General
A few months ago, I had my first experience of handing a copy of Mating in Captivity to a potential reader and receiving cash in return. Since the story of money I’ve lived with for decades dictates that income mainly accrues through labor for hire, this was a delightful surprise. Yes, I’d spent countless hours […]
Once upon a time, in a coffee shop in Park Slope, I met up with a fellow ex-Zendik who’d lived at the Farm for a couple years (to my five). His outlook on his Zendik experience was essentially positive; he’d stayed as long as it served him, no longer. Soon after, I formed a hypothesis: […]
News reports about the cult NXIVM — whose leader, Keith Raniere, now awaits trial in Brooklyn on charges of sex trafficking and forced labor — brim with horrifying details. Female “slaves” were branded with Raniere’s initials. They dieted to the point of gauntness, and handed over damning “collateral” as insurance against defection. Of course, the particulars of the story […]