JONESTOWN SURVIVOR – A new book

I’LL BE WRITING ANOTHER BOOK

For the past few years, since I “retired” from a career teaching middle school in California, I have thought about writing a second book. I do a lot of writing now. I create six or seven articles for the annual Jonestown Report, several monthly blogs on my website, www. Jonestownsurvivor.com, a monthly article in my local progressive bilingual newspaper Alianza North County, and, papers for conference/university presentations. Those writing pieces cover a wide range of topics, and they are fun and current. I see myself continuing those. But, there is still some “unfinished business” for me.

I decided to write this second book over the past few months. I think it will be called something like “Jonestown Survivor After Survival.” One of the topics I want to write about is insights I have had about Peoples Temple, and about the other survivors since my first book was written and published in 2010. I also want to reflect and write about survival after great trauma. I want to write about “owning” the past and still moving forward. I want to share some of the upcoming events involving Peoples Temple survivors and friends. I also want to share some of the things I have learned about myself over these past nearly thirty-eight years since the deaths in Jonestown in November 18, 1978. And finally, I want to address how you can survivor the deepest tragedies.

My book will include some of the articles I have already published, as well as transcribed interviews I have participated in. It will discuss a more in-depth study of Synanon, a residential drug treatment facility, where I lived for a decade after returning from Jonestown. I met and married my husband there in 1982, and my son was born in 1989, just as Synanon was closing down. Some of my choices right after surviving Jonestown made my life better, and some decisions were lousy and made my life worse. I want to think through those decisions. As usual, I primarily operated off of my own gut, searching for what I thought I needed. Sound advice was wasted on me. I did not seek out advice, nor did I let it sway me if people insisted on sharing it with me.

In 1994, before I was ready to reconnect with the other survivors, I did become a Quaker. It was a somewhat ironic journey, since I have long been an atheist. Quakers (Society of Friends) are an inclusive and wonderful part of my life. They enrich my life and I feel embraced by their integrity and wisdom. I also became a bilingual teacher at about that same time.

When I eventually reconnected with the other survivors and family members at the 20th anniversary, I was ready. I needed it to move on with my life. I knew that before I ever got back with them – my original and much-loved family – I had to build my foundation. I was married, had a wonderful son, was teaching bilingual classes, had a Quaker family, and it was time for me to face all my worst fears and figure things out. That is ongoing, and will be a big part of my book.

My experiences in Peoples Temple and with survival have changed me a lot. At my core, I am very different than the somewhat frivolous and confused twenty-two year old young person, who walked through the front door of Peoples Temple in Redwood Valley in March 1970. I am stronger and wiser, but also damaged. I am not cynical exactly, but I am not naïve. I make trusted friends easily and keep them for years, but I am careful. I don’t let many into that inner part of me. My friends can count on me. I expect that from my friends as well – even though it is hard for me to ask for help.

Today, some thirty-eight years after Jonestown, I still get weekly requests for interviews from researchers and the media. I still have students ask to interview me as a “primary source” for history papers and championships. I also get invited to do television shows and university presentations. This year, I was even added to Wikipedia. I would never have imagined that. I have a lot of thoughts and responses to those requests. And, there continues to be a lot happening with other Peoples Temple survivors. Later this year, about 15 of us will return to Jonestown with a documentary crew – our final farewell possibly. My friends are coming out with books that they have deliberated over all these years. Jonestown is not to be forgotten. This is the soul of the book I intend to write.

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