ARC AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Uncultured by Daniella Mestyanek Young

Publication Date: September 20, 2022
Format: Audio
Genre:  Memoir
Narrators: Daniella Mestyanek Young

Publisher: Macmillan Audio 
13 hours 49 min
Buy: Kindle | Audio


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. Her great-grandmother donated land for one of The Family’s first communes in Texas. Her mother, at thirteen, was forced to marry the leader and served as his secretary for many years. Beholden to The Family’s strict rules, Daniella suffers physical, emotional, and sexual abusemasked as godly discipline and divine loveand is 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 escapes to Texas. There, she bravely enrolls herself in high school and excels, later graduating as valedictorian of her college class, then electing to join the military to begin a career as an intelligence officer, where she believes she will finally belong. 

But she soon learns that her new world
surrounded by men on the sands of Afghanistanlooks 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.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through I am leaving this review voluntarily. 

Wow this book is tough.  Born into one of the most famous cults, Daniella grew up in the Children of God missionary.  She lived in several countries, Brazil, Mexico and the United States but never really fit in anywhere.  Children of God was a sex cult where sex was an act of worship, children were beaten often and sex with children wasn't expressly forbidden until they were questioned by authorities as to why a 13 year old was pregnant. 

Daniella's parents and her 14 siblings eventually left the children of God but Daniella left first at the age of 16. She made her way through high school with little to no prior education and went on to college.  She never felt that she quite fit anywhere, eventually joining the military.  Here she felt more at home since it is run similar to the way she was raised.  Don't question, don't make waves or else you get punished. Its a group think. 

Just like the Children of God the Military proved to Daniella another place where she had to conform to standards set by men and navigate around them. Women in the Cult were always considered less than and it was the same within the military. Even as she made her way through the ranks as an officer and served in Afghanistan she found that women and men had different standards and codes of conduct.  Women were often told to be careful of being raped but the men weren't told not to rape women. This double standard that stems from these patriarchal systems is difficult to navigate and ultimately systems will suffer for it. 

I really liked this book and Daniella tells this story in a compassionate and strong voice.  She doesn't hide the ugliness of the way she was raised, and she doesn't hide the faults in our military. What does come across loud and clear is how strong and inspirational Daniella is. 

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