Amanda Montell & Zakiya Dalila Harris
Baltimore journalist, author, and word scholar Amanda Montell got people to really look at language with her 2019 book, Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language. She is here virtually tonight with Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism (HarperWave), a book that feels eerily prescient in the timing of its publication.
“Journalist Montell argues in this vivid study that ‘language is the key means by which all degrees of cultlike influence occur’…Montell surveys the indoctrination techniques and conformism of cults such as Heaven’s Gate and the Peoples Temple, as well as ‘woo-woo wellness influencers,’ QAnon, and fitness groups such as Peloton and CrossFit. Combining personal anecdotes (her father was partially raised in Synanon, a San Francisco drug rehab center turned church), interviews with former cult members, and anthropological analysis, Montell documents how cult leaders…employ ‘thought-terminating clichés, intended to gaslight followers into mistrusting science, as well as their own thoughts and emotions,’ and argues that understanding the rhetoric of cults can help to distinguish between benign and dangerous communities, and reduce the stigma that can further entrap people in cults ... Montell is an engaging and well-informed ... This intriguing account is worth a look.” - Publishers Weekly.
“Whip-smart, engaging, and utterly intriguing. Cultish is a witty and thorough examination of power, community, words, and the junctures between them.” — Alexis Henderson.
Zakiya Dalila Harris spent nearly three years in editorial at Knopf/Doubleday before leaving to write The Other Black Girl, which came out earlier this month from Atria. “Set in ‘OMG’, as the kids say. This is the funniest, wildest, deepest, most thought-provoking ride of a book. I have been Nella. Every black woman has been Nella. Zakiya Dalila Harris has pulled back the curtain on the publishing industry, but in doing so, she has also perfectly captured a social dynamic that exists in job cultures as varied as tech, finance, academia, even retail and fast food. Oh, beware of the 'OBGs'—Other Black Girls—y’all. As we should all be aware of the psychic cost to black women of making ourselves palatable to institutions that use our cultural cache for their own ends while disregarding any part of our hearts and minds that they either can’t or won’t understand."
—Attica Lock, New York Times bestselling author of Heaven, My Hom.