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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
[I wrote this piece in June 2018; someone added a (none too helpful) entry on sex cults to the Urban Dictionary that September.] If you google the term “sex cult,” you’ll find plenty of supposed examples—including, most notably, NXIVM, the Rajneeshees (profiled in Wild, Wild Country), and the Children of God. What you won’t find […]
by helenzuman in General
About seven and a half weeks ago—the day I discovered that Vice UK’s ten-minute video about my Zendik story was on its way to going viral—I started feeling intense pain in my teeth. Checking my trusty Prescription for Nutritional Healing for an entry on toothache, I found only an entry on tooth decay: according to author […]
This year, the Communal Studies Association awarded Mating in Captivity the 2020 Timothy Miller Outstanding Book Award—and sent me a beautiful wooden plaque, handcrafted in Amana, Iowa, which now hangs to the left of my desk on my (wooden) studio wall. In addition, they asked me to record an acceptance speech, to be aired at their […]