Helen Zuman is a tree-hugging dirt worshipper devoted to turning waste into food and the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant prose; she is also the author of Mating in Captivity (She Writes Press 2018), a memoir of her five years, post-Harvard, in a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Mating in Captivity won the Communal Studies Association’s 2020 Timothy Miller Outstanding Book Award, received a starred review from Kirkus, was named a Kirkus Best Indie Memoir of 2018, was a finalist in Creative Nonfiction for the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses’ 2019 Firecracker Award, and was both first runner-up in memoir and a finalist for First Horizon and Grand Prize honors in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Awards. Other work has appeared in The New Farmers Almanac, in Communities and Livelihood magazines, and on the Foundation for Intentional Community’s website (ic.org). Born in London and raised in Brooklyn, she currently homesteads with her husband in Beacon, New York.
Mating in Captivity: A Memoir
When recent Harvard grad Helen Zuman moved to Zendik Farm in 1999, she was thrilled to discover that the Zendiks used go-betweens to arrange sexual assignations, or “dates,” in cozy shacks just big enough for a double bed and a nightstand. Here, it seemed, she could learn an honest version of the mating dance – and form a union free of “Deathculture” lies. No one spoke the truth: Arol, the Farm’s matriarch, crushed any love that threatened her hold on her followers’ hearts. An intimate look at a transformative cult journey, Mating in Captivity shows how stories can trap us and free us, how miracles rise out of crisis, how coercion feeds on forsaken self-trust.