20. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Melody H, NonFiction

Stories from Jonestown by Leigh Fondakowski, 350 pages, read by Melody, on 02/19/2013

Nine hundred and nineteen members of the People’s Temple died on November 18, 1978 in Jonestown. Guyana.  Hundreds of members survived.  Some people were still in California waiting to come to Jonestown, some were running the offices in the port city of Kaituma receiving supplies and new arrivals, some escaped through the jungle, and one elderly woman slept as the murder squad passed over her, thinking she was already dead.   Thousands of more people lost their children, parents, sisters, brothers, and spouses to Jonestown.  Stories from Jonestown is about the survivors.  Leigh Fondakowski, who wrote the critically acclaimed play and movie The Laramie Project about the murder of Matt Shepard, conducted three years of interviews preparing for a play about Jonestown.  The experiences that she and her collaborators collected from people are recounted in their own words and voices.  This book is not National Enquirer sensationalism of Jim Jones with his orgies and drug use, of dead bodies littering the jungle, of poisoned kool-aid, and brainwashed cultism.  Stories from Jonestown is about well intentioned people reeling from the Vietnam war, the assignations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, and the seeming breakdown of American justice and ideals. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple promised racial and social equality, a new society where black and white, wealthy and poor, old and young would care for each another and worship, eat, and live together as one.  These are the stories of parents watching the footage on the television and praying their child was not there, of members who know that had they been there, they too would have obeyed the order to drink, a man who left his child behind as he escaped.  These are stories of regret and anguish, of accountability and shame, of people who remember Jim Jones as a monster, or a fallen saint, or their father.  These are stories of how Jonestown has never left them, in dreams and griefs and night horrors.  This is the story of how a promised social utopia spiraled into torture, paranoia, suicide, and murder.  These are stories that must be heard.

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