Synanon Kid Books One & Two
“I told you mothers do not matter here. We are all your mothers. Isn’t that better than just having one?”
An ordinary weekend turns surreal when Celena’s mother, whom she has not seen for years, returns to claim her. Told that she is going to visit a place called Synanon, six-year-old Celena leaves her native Los Angeles on a bus for a secluded ranch setting in Northern California where the residents are strangely bald and dressed uniformly in overalls.
Coming to realize this eerie institution is to be her new home, Celena is ultimately forced to develop a new strength of being to protect herself against the abusive school demonstrators, the troubled children, and the chilling thought that she and her mother might never leave.
C.A. Wittman’s daring memoir is a coming-of-age story about growing up in a cult, the unconditional love between a mother and daughter, and how that love helped a young girl to grow and flourish against the odds of her distorted childhood.
After spending almost five years of her childhood in the Synanon cult, Celena's longtime wish to leave the commune is finally realized.
Yet, Ideals of how and where to live clash within her small family. While Celena has developed a deep longing and desire for normalcy, to attend public school, and meld into the plainness of mainstream American life, her parents are on the hunt for the next utopia.
Money is tight and tempers are hot as she and her family try to navigate the challenge of surviving on their own. For the first time, Celena is made aware of what it means to be black in a white world, sometimes struggling with a level of invisibility that she was not prepared for. Longing to belong somewhere, she develops the fierce desire to return to Los Angeles and the African American community she came from.
As Celena grows into a young woman, her existential angst has her questioning God’s existence and taking a hard look at materialism and the values of the American mainstream culture that she once idealized. Over time, she learns to embrace the counterculture lifestyle of the Santa Cruz community that she and her family have settled in. Through her stepfather’s role as a drug counselor at the Sunflower House rehab, she comes to have a deeper understanding of what the Synanon cult was all about and why people initially became attracted to the commune.
This is the story of a young woman’s search for identity while coming to terms with her past as a Synanon kid.