Rekindled: Julia Scheeres in Conversation With
On Cults, California, and Belief Systems
On this episode of Rekindled, Julia Scheeres, author of A Thousand Lives, a book about the Jamestown tragedy, talks to Melanie Abrams, whose recently released novel, Meadowlark, tackles childhood trauma, communes, and more. Scheeres and Abrams talk at length about cults, how they can tip from just a shared cause to a dominating leadership structure, the various belief systems, and finding nuance in these stories. Please buy their books from your favorite local bookstore, or through Bookshop!
From the episode:
Julia Scheeres: Your cult doesn’t have a lot of physical punishment. It’s more the belief system—how did you come up with this? Did you study real intentional communities?
Melanie Abrams: Quite a few! It was interesting because I had two veins of research. One was reading books, documentaries, infiltrating internet forums, one I came across a lot was Twelve Tribes, another was Children of God, which was fascinating and horrible. A lot of the stuff I was finding was horrific—which is traditionally our view of cults, just exclusively bad, which of course traditionally they are—but it’s just not a nuanced view.
So I talked to a lot of people who grew up in communes, not cults, and I was able to interview a lot of people who grew up in intentional communities. Like Black Bear Mountain was one… and what I was finding was that a lot of these people said they were a little problematic but mainly really good experiences. So it was important to me to bring together the positive and the negative to give a more nuanced view.