top of page
  • Writer's pictureNovel Nest

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Childhood in an alternate world

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Cults fascinate me.

As a self-proclaimed cult researcher, I have spent countless hours reading up on cults like Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown, FLDS, etc. I have also researched mind control, hypnotism, and other techniques that cults are said to use.

One thing I have realized is that anyone can fall victim to cults. No matter how learned you are.

But there is a set of people that has no say in their participation in cults. Children.

When born to parents inside cults, children have no choice but to do what their parents are doing. When they are able to escape, the journey to freedom is confusing and long.

The following books are by people whose childhood was taken away by cults.

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

She escaped child marriage and the FLDS cult.

What were you doing when you were 14 years old?

I am sure your answer would revolve around studying, playing, and perhaps getting into trouble at school.

At 14, the author of this book was in a forced marriage where she was traumatized and raped.

“I had been in the FLDS Church from the moment I was born. It was all I knew and the only way I could imagine living.”

Elissa Wall grew up in the FLDS* community. Warren Jeff was the self-proclaimed Prophet who led the group. He had around 70 wives.

In this book, Elissa shares her story.

“It should have dawned on me that many aspects of the religion were based on revoking the rights of women.”

When Elissa was 13, her mother was reassigned to marry another man. When she turned 14, Warren Jeff arranged Elissa’s marriage to her 19-year-old cousin Allen Steed.

What followed was a nightmare.

“We were told to “keep sweet,” an admonition to be compliant and pleasant no matter the circumstance.”

With the help of Lamont Barlow, whom she had a romantic relationship with, Elissa escaped. In 2006, she pressed charges against Warren Jeff, who was arrested and convicted.

The author also appears in the Netflix docuseries, ‘Keep Sweet, Pray, and Obey’ which is about FLDS.

This book will break your heart but shows you the strength of young people who escape years of brainwashing and abuse.

FLDS stands for Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

The arduous journey of a girl from isolation to freedom.

Growing up, the only thing my mother asked of me was to study hard and not fight with my siblings.

Westover parents, however, kept her as far as possible from school. She shared this and more in her memoir.

Her father was a religious fanatic with extremist Mormon views. He was against the government, doctors, and schools.

“Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.”

He also believed that the end of times was coming and they had to prepare for it. So the family stockpiled food.

Tara’s brother, Tyler showed her the way when he decided to get a formal education.

Despite that being difficult for Tara, she followed suit by teaching herself Grammar and Math.

She went on to win scholarships for higher education. Her father however said that Tara was under Satan’s influence.

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind.”

Tara tells us about the breakdown of her relationship with her family. When she confronted them about the physical abuse she endured at the hands of her brother Shawn, the family refused to believe her.

Ultimately, Tara cut off contact with them (except Tyler) and went on to build a life for herself.

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

When abuse is packaged as love.

Celeste, Juliana, and Kristina were born to parents who were part of the ‘Children of God’ cult.

This cult was led by David Berg who had deranged sexual fantasies. As part of the cult, the adults were allowed to sexually abuse children.

David Berg, referred to as Mo, sent detailed instructions to his followers.

“God was love, and love equalled sex.”

In this book, the three sisters share their perspectives on life inside the cult and their ultimate escape.

The members were made to earn for furthering ‘God’s message’. Parents were sent on missions, spending a lot of time away from their children.

“Everything was always about yieldedness and submission, but I was beginning to wonder if it really was God we are submitting to, or the whims of our leaders.”

The mother of the sisters also decided to leave after she read the book by Mo’s eldest daughter, Deborah Davis which exposed him.

Because the book is written from 3 perspectives, some readers find it repetitive.

Personally, I liked it because I could see the same events in different ways.

This book is graphic in terms of child sexual abuse but it goes to show how logical faculties of people don’t work when they are in a cult.

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Spiritual enlightenment or familial abandonment.

Tim was 6 years old when his mother decided to follow the controversial leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho.

She took Tim along as she followed the group to various communes. They had to wear orange clothes and were given Sanskrit names.

This book tells Tim’s story from his perspective when he was a child.

Tim’s mother gave her all to Osho’s movement. Meanwhile, Tim, who was renamed Yogesh, was ignored and forgotten.

“That was our parents’ game; it was too hard for children.”

Some of the moments in the book are enjoyable. For example: Tim playing with kids with whom he lives in a communal house called Medina.

Other moments will make your heart drop to your stomach. For example, kissing between parents and children was banned at one point.

I mean, WHAT?

That’s the thing about cults. They ask followers to do stuff that goes totally against common sense. But people are so brainwashed that they do it anyway.

Ultimately, Tim went to live with his father. The author shares his struggle of overcoming the abandonment that he faced as a kid.

The author goes on to rebuild his relationship with his mother.

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

An insider scoop on the Church of Scientology.

Jenna Hill is the niece of the current leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige. She was raised in the Scientology cult but ultimately left.

Being so close to the top brass of the movement, she gives us a first-hand account of Scientology practices.

“Scientology always has been a game of power and control.”

Hill was separated from her parents at 2 years old. Her parents served at Sea Org which was a group of Scientology members who pledged allegiance for a billion years.

The children were brainwashed with things like the Thetan theory. It states that we are all descendants of ancient aliens.

Kids lived on a ranch where they had to do manual labor and write their transgressions to be forgiven.

“The loud tone was exactly what she was supposed to do and how every Scientology session commenced.”

The people outside of the community were labeled ‘Wogs’. They didn’t understand the Scientology way of life so members were encouraged to use simpler language when talking to them.

Hill got married to a fellow Scientology member. When they were exposed to TV and the internet, they realized that they had been fooled.

This memoir provides another look at how cults can brainwash people into abandoning their own children.

These Memoirs of Children Who Grew Up In Cults Made Me Uncomfortable (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

From one cult to another, a fascinating journey


Daniella Mestyanek Young grew up inside the cult called ‘The Family’ or ‘Children of God’. At the behest of the community’s leader, children were physically, emotionally, and sexually abused.

When the author was 15, she escaped. After her escape, she had a rather startling realization.

“After fifteen years of being forced to worship a Prophet I never believed in, sacrifice for a God I didn’t love…I was drowning.”

Young joined the military and she found the training to be oddly reminiscent of her upbringing in ‘The Family.’ The army training gave her nightmares and flashbacks.

This book shows how Young drew parallels between her cult life and the outside life.

She even wonders what the difference between ‘cult’ and ‘culture’ is.

“Where does a cult end and a culture begin?”

Young talks about how Americans are programmed to believe that America is the greatest country.

The author touches on the dangers of group thinking and how women have to bear the brunt in most circumstances.

“The programming begins at birth: America is the greatest country on earth. We are the best, down with all the rest, and if we have to torture a thousand innocent people to prove it, so be it.”

This book written by a cult survivor will make you reflect on the shackles that you wear every day.


If you found this article useful and want to support NovelNest, join my email list below to get notified whenever I publish something new.

If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.


bottom of page