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A Memoir

Daniella Mestyanek Young

St. Martin's Griffin

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opens in a new window Uncultured Download image

ISBN10: 125083547X
ISBN13: 9781250835475

Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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Behind the tall, foreboding gates of a commune in Brazil, Daniella Mestyanek Young was raised in the religious cult the Children of God, also known as The Family, as the daughter of high-ranking members. Beholden to The Family’s strict rules, Daniella suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse—masked as godly discipline and divine love—and was forbidden from getting a traditional education.

At fifteen years old, fed up with The Family and determined to build a better and freer life for herself, Daniella escaped to Texas, bravely enrolled herself in high school, and excelled. She later elected to join the military, where she believed she would finally belong. But she soon learned that her new world—surrounded by men on the sands of Afghanistan—was remarkably similar to the one she desperately tried to leave behind.

Told in a beautiful, propulsive voice and with clear-eyed honesty, Uncultured explores the dangers unleashed when harmful group mentality goes unrecognized, and is emblematic of the many ways women have to contort themselves to survive.


Praise for Uncultured

"A painful and propulsive memoir delivered in the honest tones of a woman who didn’t always think she’d live to tell her story."—The New York Times

"A tremendous story of grit and determination."—Julia Scheeres, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Land

"Mestyanek Young searingly captures the fear and intensity that were her constant companions in the Children of God, and she draws smart parallels between the dogmatic 'indoctrination' she encountered in both the cult and the Army . . . Readers won’t be able to put down this harrowing and enthralling memoir." —Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Affecting . . . and a deft portrait of the dangers of blindly following leaders of whatever stripe.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Unflinching and powerful . . . a story of resilience and survival that will stay with you long after you finish." —Buzzfeed

Uncultured vividly cautions readers to choose a group in which you can be yourself—and be free.”—Bookpage (starred)

"A riveting and heroic memoir that not only brings the reader into unchartered, horrific territories but also draws important correlations between two (seemingly different) worlds. Daniella’s harrowing journey is a gift to us all as we observe the parallels and, in the process, have a deeper understanding of how abuses of power can operate and toxically spiral in any group. A must read!"—Sarah Edmondson, author of Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life

Reviews from Goodreads


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Petropolis, Brazil, 1993

From the end of the spanking line, I could see the paddle in Uncle Zephaniah’s hand. The oldest kids, the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, stood at the front. At five,...

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About the author

Daniella Mestyanek Young

DANIELLA MESTYANEK YOUNG is an American author and speaker who was raised in the religious cult, Children of God. She later served as an intelligence officer for the US Army for over six years, making the rank of Captain, and became one of the first women in US Army history to conduct deliberate ground combat operations when she volunteered to serve on a Female Engagement Team. Daniella is also the recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Medal. Daniella lives with her husband and daughter in Maryland, and is a candidate for a Master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the Harvard Extension School.