Fathers and Sons




McDaniel, Erin M

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This historical novella tells the coming-of-age story of a group of teenage members of Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ. The novella, set in Jonestown, Guyana in the months prior to the Peoples Temple members’ mass suicide in November 1978, follows five boys as they grapple with the knowledge that one of them has impregnated a young female Temple member. In addition to struggling with a mounting dissatisfaction with the organization, the boys must attempt to hide the girl’s pregnancy from the rest of the Peoples Temple, whose fickle, confused, and oft-changing attitudes toward sexuality typically stay consistent at least in their condemnation of pregnancy. This novella is an examination of the complexity of familial bonds, particularly those links that connect a father to his son. The novella tracks the development of these adolescent boys as they first struggle with the decision to accept the responsibility of fatherhood, and then, upon accepting it, how they manage their lives to comply with those responsibilities within a largely unforgiving society. Not only are the boys trying to negotiate the physical and emotional newness of maturity, but they are also trying to do so within a society that has highly dictated sets of rules that control its inhabitants’ behavior. They must also come to terms with that maturity after understanding that the man they have accepted as their father when joining the Peoples Temple is not the kind of father they want to emulate. Ultimately, this novel explores themes and answers questions not only about Jonestown but also about youth, about the transition into adulthood, about families, about friends, about men and women, about community and the individual, and about utopias (or, perhaps, dystopias).



Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones, Mass suicide, Pregnancy, Social influence