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Michelle Dowd with Nicole Riel- Forager
March 16 @ 7:30 pm
Thursday, March 16, 2023 – 7:30pm PDT
Warwick’s will host Michelle Dowd as she discusses and signs her new book, Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult: A Memoir, with Nicole Riel, Director of Development & Public Programs at the California Institute for Human Science. Michelle Dowd is a professor of journalism and contributor to the New York Times, Alpinist, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Catapult, OnlySky, and other national publications. She founded The Chaffey Review, an award-winning literary journal, advises student media, teaches poetry and critical thinking in the California State prisons and has been recognized as a Longreads Top 5 for The Thing with Feathers, on the relationship between environmentalism and hope. She guides yoga and meditation workshops throughout southern California, where she hikes the peaks with her four dogs.
In the tradition of Educated and The Glass Castle, this shattering and poetic memoir from a brave new voice tells the story of the author’s experience in an apocalyptic cult, and how understanding the natural world was her key to escape – and survival.
As a child, Michelle Dowd grew up on a mountain in the Angeles National Forest. She was born into an ultra-religious cult – or the Field as they called it – started in the 1930s by her grandfather, a mercurial, domineering, and charismatic man who convinced generations of young male followers that he would live 500 years and ascend to the heavens when doomsday came. Comfort and care are sins, Michelle is told . As a result, she was forced to learn the skills necessary to battle hunger, thirst, and cold; she learned to trust animals more than humans; and most importantly, she learned how to survive in the natural world.
At the Field, a young Michelle lives a life of abuse, poverty, and isolation, as she obeys her family’s rigorous religious and patriarchal rules – which are so extreme that Michelle is convinced her mother would sacrifice her, like Abraham and Isaac, if instructed by God. She often wears the same clothes for months at a time; she is often ill and always hungry for both love and food. She is taught not to trust Outsiders, and especially not Quitters, nor her own body and its warnings.
But as Michelle gets older, she realizes she has the strength to break free. Focus on what will sustain, not satiate you, she tells herself. Use everything. Waste nothing. Get to know the intricacies of the land, like the intricacies of your body. And so she does.
Using stories of individual edible plants and their uses to anchor each chapter, Forager is both a searing coming-of-age story and a meditation on the ways in which understanding nature can lead to freedom, even joy.