As author Lisa Kohn’s debut solo book, “TO THE MOON AND BACK: A CHILDHOOD UNDER THE INFLUENCE” is an autobiography about growing up in the East Village of New York as a member of the Unification Church, or the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. As Kohn put it, they were “the cult of all cults in the American age of cults.”
Growing up in New York in the 70s, Lisa Kohn and brother Robbie were flung into a life of close affiliation to the self-proclaimed messiah, Sun Myung Moon. And I mean a close affiliation; so close that they were friends with the children of the Unification Church’s leader. Kohn’s family became part of his growing group of followers known as “moonies”, coined by the American media in 1974.
Although bringing children into a group that is often referred to as a cult almost seems like abuse in itself, Lisa and Robbie went through tons of other versions of abuse. From their dad giving Robbie weed before he even became a teenager, to Lisa dealing with sexual remarks from their dad’s friends before she hit puberty. This all came after their mother decided to leave the picture and let her husband “care” for the kids so she could go off and devote everything to the Unification Church.
As Kohn grew up, she faced many more problems that the church that she was tossed into. She “suffered from an eating disorder and a mild cocaine addiction, jumped from dysfunctional relationship to dysfunctional relationship, and was the victim of abuse from both my parents”. Kohn refers to her parents as Mimi and Danny throughout the book:
“We never called them Mommy and Daddy. “I’m not a label,” Danny would say when I was old enough to question. “If you call me Father, I’ll call you Daughter. If you call me Daddy, I’ll call you Daudy. I am a person. Call me by my name.” I would talk about my parents, Mimi and Danny, and people would pause. “You said Mommy and Daddy, right?” they’d ask. “No,” I’d reply, avoiding their eyes. “Mimi and Danny.””
Eventually “Mimi” left the church, but not after causing irreplaceable damage between her and her children. She grew up with a decent life and had no harmful experiences as a child that would cause her to mirror those actions as an adult. Kohn never understood how her mother could walk out on her without a reason. She did end up somewhat forgiving her father since he did have a troubling childhood, surrounded by “uninvolved, addicted, unhappy parents” that had an influence over his future. As Kohn said, “He may have been caustic, undemonstrative, and full of rage, but he took us in.”
This book is especially powerful because it’s not just a lecture about what the Unification Church is or how it affected Kohn, but rather a real-life journey of escape. Kohn proves that a disturbed childhood can be overcome with effort and persistence. Her trials are depicted through sheer honestly and obvious pain at times. This is a book that you need to set aside an afternoon for because you won’t want to walk away from it until you have finished.
I definitely suggest looking into Kohn’s blog. You can learn more about her book and order a signed copy from this site, but there’s such interesting and though-provoking content displayed.
Locally, a copy of this book can be found at Penn Book Center.
Published by Smith Publicity, Inc.
Released September 18th, 2018.