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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 26 January, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: My childhood growing up in a cult

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Shutterstock/DTFM

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. My childhood in a cult 

Guinevere Turner was brought up in an isolated commune in Boston, among people who believed the world was set to end soon. She was homeschooled and never saw a doctor. Here, she writes about this life and the impact it had on her.

(New Yorker, approx 22 mins reading time)

I was also raised to believe that we were eventually going to live on Venus. In my early twenties, years after I left the Family, I was describing my childhood to someone and she said, “That doesn’t sound like a commune—it sounds like a cult.” I still balk at this word and all the preconceived notions that come with it. What’s the difference between a commune and a cult? Here’s one: a cult never calls itself a cult. 

2. The stolen kids

This longread is about what happened when a man named Larry Ray moved onto the Sarah Lawrence campus in New York ini 2010, to stay with his daughter and her friends.

(The Cut, approx 50 mins reading time)

Within days of his release, Larry Ray moved onto Sarah Lawrence’s campus. He planted himself in the common area, cooking steak dinners and ordering expensive delivery for Talia and her seven housemates. While they ate, he told them stories in a nasal Brooklyn accent about his long and decorated history as a government agent, his former work as an international CIA operative, how he recovered Stinger missiles off the black market and engineered a cease-fire in Kosovo.

3. The girls of Bessborough

The BBC journeys to Cork to look at the mother and baby home Bessborough,  where unmarried mothers were sent to have babies in 1960s Ireland.

(BBC, approx 26 mins reading time)

Once through the door, her clothes, her savings book, her small stud earrings and her bracelet were taken from her. She was given a uniform – clogs and a starched denim dress. Bridget – like the other arrivals – was told not to speak about her life outside. All of them were given a different name. Hers was Alma – but she couldn’t get used to it.

4. The word ‘fat’ should be reclaimed

Comedian and podcast host Sofie Hagen talks about the word fat, and why she wants it to be reclaimed.

(The Guardian, approx 10 mins reading time)

For several years, the 30-year-old comic has been vocal about what she describes as society’s “deeply ingrained” anti-fat bias and the way it marginalises people, particularly women. On social media, she has highlighted fat phobia in advertising campaigns, inevitably attracting the attention of trolls whose personal abuse can “last for days”.

5. The kids of the global climate strike 

From Uganda to Tokyo, here are the kids of the global climate strike movement.

(Vice, approx 34 mins reading time)

Why has the youth strike movement made such an impact? It has emphasised how many youth actually care so deeply about their lives in relation to this crisis. There is something powerful about a generation fighting back, especially a generation that will be first affected by climate change but is also the last generation to do something about it.

6. The power of a name

How important is a fada, or any other character on a name? Very important, writes Rebecca Tamás.

(Granta, approx 11 mins reading time)

When I started correcting people in earnest I was transitioning from being a student and an ‘emerging writer’, to becoming someone with a ‘career’ in academia, someone who published books. My name appeared more often, and as it did, I couldn’t help but notice the accent was forgotten perhaps two out of every three times. Initially it didn’t seem like a ‘big deal’. And indeed, perhaps it is not one. But how to describe the sense of deflation when someone you respect tweets an incorrect version of your name? When everywhere you go, this slightly wrong version of yourself limps after.


 Most of Stephen King’s family are writers. Here’s how they make it work.

(New York Times, approx 32 mins reading time)

If reading was a common escape in the King household, it was nonetheless deeply social. They read on tape, but they also took turns reading aloud after dinner, passing around “The Hobbit” or the Narnia chronicles. It followed that writing came to feel like something they all could share as well. Stephen and Tabitha did not take themselves off to quiet sheds or off-site offices to write; they wrote in their own home, upstairs, as their kids, below, wondered what words were being put on the page and played elaborate role-playing games of their own.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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