To the Moon and Back: A Child­hood Under the Influence

January 1, 2013

The best seats Lisa Kohn ever had at Madi­son Square Gar­den were at her mother’s wed­ding and the best cocaine she ever had was from her father’s friend, the judge. Lisa’s ear­ly years in 1970s New York City were a mix­ture of encounter groups, mac­ro­bi­ot­ic diets, com­munes, Indi­an ashrams and watch­ing naked actors on off-Broad­way stages dur­ing the musi­cal HAIR. By the time her old­er broth­er was ten, Lisa’s father had him smok­ing pot. By the time Lisa was ten, Lisa’s moth­er had them pledg­ing their lives to the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church (the Moonies”). As a child, Lisa knew the ecsta­t­ic com­fort of inclu­sion in a cult and as a teenag­er the tor­ment of rebelling against it. As an adult, Lisa strug­gled to break free from the scars in her heart, mind, and psy­che — bat­tling her own addic­tions and inner demons and search­ing for a sense of self-worth. 

Told in spir­it­ed can­dor, To the Moon and Back reveals how one can leave behind absur­di­ty and hor­ror and cre­ate a life of inten­tion and joy.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Lisa Kohn

  1. Lisa writes of being torn between two equal­ly chaot­ic but opposed worlds as a child. How does this sit­u­a­tion shape her psy­che as she grows?

  2. Why do you think Lisa focus­es so much on the phys­i­cal details of her sur­round­ings in this memoir?

  3. Lisa’s mom leaves her chil­dren to care for oth­er people’s chil­dren, many of whom were infants. What pur­pose do you think was served by sep­a­rat­ing par­ents from their infants? What did the Church hope to accom­plish with this plan?

  4. Lisa says her best seat ever at Madi­son Square Gar­den was to wit­ness her mother’s wed­ding to a hus­band cho­sen by the Church. How do you think it would help or harm a mar­riage to be spir­i­tu­al­ly matched?”

  5. Cul­tur­al cri­tiques about The Moonies abound. But Lisa’s dad Dan­ny nev­er said any­thing against the Church. Why do you think he kept his feel­ings about the Church qui­et? How could this be clas­si­fied as a gift to Lisa and her brother?

  6. If you could hear this same sto­ry from anoth­er person’s point of view, whom would you choose?

  7. Oth­er­ness and judg­ment play a large role in con­vert­ing and keep­ing peo­ple in cults. What hap­pened when Lisa start­ed to ques­tion the valid­i­ty of the lines drawn by the Church?

  8. After begin­ning to ques­tion her beliefs, Lisa says My con­vic­tion felt shaki­er than it had ever been, and I want­ed to find the way back to absolute cer­tain­ty, safe­ty, and ded­i­ca­tion.” What is the val­ue to her (or to you)in absolute certainty?

  9. Lisa wears a crack­er jack box string as a sym­bol of her vir­gin­i­ty. What oth­er sym­bols did you notice appear­ing in her nar­ra­tive? What sym­bols do you wear on a dai­ly basis?

  10. For most of her life, Lisa was not secure in the love of Dan­ny, her father. What was the sig­nif­i­cance of Lisa ask­ing Dan­ny to stop, and Dan­ny in turn stop­ping, the use of the word slut? How did you feel when you read this? How about when Dan­ny offered to sell Lisa?

  11. What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s con­tents? What oth­er title might you suggest?

  12. One rea­son Lisa wrote this book was to bring a sense of hope to oth­er tox­ic child­hood sur­vivors. Did you feel the spir­it of hope through­out the book? Why or why not?