cover image The Community: A Memoir

The Community: A Memoir

N. Jamiyla Chisholm. Little A, $24.95 (194p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3739-6

Journalist Chisholm debuts with a transfixing look at the secretive Muslim commune her family joined in 1978 and the “gravitational pull that would continue to tsunami through our lives for years.” Proselytizing messages of Black self-empowerment, the Brooklyn-based Ansaaru Allah Community was a cultlike “society” led by Dwight York, a con man who was eventually arrested on multiple counts of child molestation. By 2002, it had been over two decades since Chisholm, a freelance journalist, last saw York, but when she was assigned to report on the case, memories that her “brain hid... out of self-protection” came flooding back. Vividly evoking the bleakness of the “strict rules and bare-bones living policy” her family was subjected to when she was a toddler, Chisholm recalls how her father relished his newfound status “as a person with a purpose.” Despite her mother’s fear of leaving—even as rumors of child abuse circulated—Chisholm’s father’s infidelity a few years later forced her and Chisholm to build a new life in the secular world. As Chisholm untangles their complicated past and the trauma her mother refused to acknowledge, what emerges is a compassionate interrogation of the “universal emotion of desperately wanting to belong” that her family fell victim to. In its striking search for redemption, this uncovers a uniquely human tale. (June)