MiMi knows she is meant for something greater. She has a God-given mission. This belief, together with tragedy, moves her from the mixed-religion home of her early childhood to Orthodox Judaism in her teens, to the establishment and development of her cult in the Israeli desert. MiMi draws from the women in her life, in the Bible, and in other ancient texts, weaving modern and biblical dilemmas, as she shapes a truly unique place for her followers and herself. Although surrounded by adoring followers, she is also resented and hated. When her life and utopian community grow more turbulent and even violent, she questions her mission. Deeply affecting, Memoirs of a False Messiah is the richly told story of one woman’s struggle to find her place in a world reluctant to accept her.
Targeted Age Group:: Teens, young adult and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wrote the first draft of Memoirs of a False Messiah when I moved to a small desert town in Israel years ago to participate in a writer in residence program. Israel is home to many of the world’s religions. I was inspired by the range and depth of belief of the people I met around me of all faiths – including those considered cults or cultish – and the steps they took to express their beliefs.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
When developing characters I imagine the people I know best put into extreme and extraordinary situations, and imagine how that would impact them. It's not by accident that the main character is named MiMi. She shares a lot of the alienation I felt but takes actions that I would never have dared to take.
Chapter One: 2001
Shelley shaves my head again. She propped me up with pillows, so I am sitting upright. With my eyes closed, I feel the buzzer vibrate on a path across my scalp and listen to its hum as I try to empty my mind in meditation. But today, perhaps because of all my medication, meditation seems impossible, and my mind wishes to stay active, busy with memories that could possibly explain why I am sitting in this hospital bed, surrounded by my beautiful followers, as my life seeps out of me faster than the IV can replace it.
Of course, the simple answer is no mystery. I’m dying, and therefore I’m in a hospital where doctors, who know of only the practical world, try earnestly to save me. But I know that it’s not surgery or medication that I need, but forgiveness for whatever sin I committed against God who wants to take me from the earth before my work is fully realized. After all, it’s God’s work that I've been laboring.
Perhaps I'm not a messiah. The messages I received from God were not really sent. Since coming to the hospital, I've had no visions of the future, only of the past. Maybe my time as the messenger of God, if that is what I was, has ended.
But I always knew, when no one else did, that I was chosen for a special task. I grew up practically unnoticed by my peers. I had few friends. In the mythologies my followers have created, my mother died at my birth. The electricity went out in the hospital while the doctors stood trapped in an elevator. The hand of God delivered me and then touched my mother’s eyelids closed for the last time. Of course, that didn’t happen. My mother died later, and my birth was unmagical, unspecial. If anything, I was on the periphery of the tragedies in my home. An only child, I was more an appendage of my parents’ troublesome life together than anything else.
I look around my hospital room and see these women with their bald heads and flesh-colored body stockings, and I understand that they look this way for me. To be closer to me. To be like me. Who asked them to? What have I said or done to make these women so loyal? Have I done as instructed by God? Or have I failed and this is my punishment. I grow confused as the medication draws its power and I drift back towards the restless sleep that I know will be full of disturbing images of the tragedies in my past. My parents and grandparents come to me in these dreams, critical and unsmiling. So many judgments.
Tonight a new moon will rise, and in celebration, my followers will wear their white robes and meditate and pray and hope that the power of the moon will keep me from dying. But I know the moon’s power is not that strong, even if I were worthy of a miracle. I know the moon, in its great whiteness, is as useless as the white round pills the nurses give me. But my followers prepare, shaving my head and their own. Back at the Community, they’re cooking a delicious banquet that will be available to anyone who would like to eat, and they will celebrate my new coming health. I look at them with considerable effort because now, even lifting my eyes is a strain, and I ask myself, What have I done?
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