Also by Rebecca on HA: “I Was Beaten, But That’s Not My Primary Issue With Homeschooling.”
Possibly over half a million American women obediently serve their parents’ households, locked in a perpetual childhood, with no means of escape.
Call it the Quiverfull Movement, Christian Patriarchy, the Stay at Home Daughter Movement, or Reconstructionism — that’s as close as you’ll get to giving it a name. Adherents simply call it ‘obeying God’ or, even, ‘loving God’. What it is at essence is the modern American denial of women’s humanity, the entire deprivation of her rights, the erasure of her personality. And it’s vividly portrayed Charlie Newton’s recent non-fictional, anonymized short novel, ‘Fake Someone Happy’.
The story is about a young English musician who accidentally becomes entangled in the American Patriarchy movement. What begins as a joyful immersion into a community of loving, picture-perfect families devolves into an horrific submersion into a world of exploitation, coercion, and betrayal which challenges the heroine’s understanding of friendship, the world, and herself.
I highly recommend this book as a window into the world of American Christian Patriarchy.
As a survivor of this subculture, I can vouch for the accuracy of the depiction. In fact, this world and the plight of its survivors is rarely depicted in such vivid detail. Some might nit-pick at the fact that the writing does not constitute a literary masterpiece; however, the author has achieved the significant triumph of transporting her readers to this vast, hidden, and rarely-depicted dark world.
I do have some reservations about the book’s depiction of a survivor after her escape. The heroine’s unfamiliarity with the psychology of second-generation cult members and American Christian cultural norms manifests in understandable frustration which, however, the author fails to resolve. My suggestion to readers is to read this book in combination with others that delve deeper into the psychology of survivors of Christian Patriarchy and their journey of recovery, healing and growth.
To that end, I recommend the following books:
Quivering Daughters, by Hillary McFarland — The story of the exploitation of a daughter of Christian Patriarchy and her theological journey to empowerment and freedom.
Pilgrim’s Wilderness, by Tom Kizzia — A journalist’s masterfully written and insightful account of a Patriarchal family with subjugated adult children which moves to the Alaskan wilderness, with an excellent treatment of the psychology of captivity and escape.
Quiverfull, by Katherine Joyce — A rigorous investigation of the modern Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement.
I tried to read this book and ended up deleting it from my kindle about halfway through, largely because of the issue you describe as follows: “The heroine’s unfamiliarity with the psychology of second-generation cult members and American Christian cultural norms manifests in understandable frustration which, however, the author fails to resolve.”
As someone who at one time manifested many of the characteristics that the author describes with such frustration, it was painful for me to read this book. I cringed through as much as I could, but honestly it felt a little shaming for me. I totally understand that is MY issue, because the observations were often spot-on, but for other survivors who read this, it’s good to be fore-warned that the book may be a little triggery.
I quite liked this book, but agree that I sometimes felt horrified/ashamed at reading descriptions of harmful dynamics that I have only been able to even name in the last year or two. It is always upsetting to be reminded of just how much I was messed up by my upbringing. On the other hand, the outside-in view can be very, very helpful to those of us trying to learn about normal life and what was and was not OK about our family’s culture.