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Greetings from Utopia Park : surviving a transcendent childhood
2016
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
Coming of age
Religion
Topics
Journalists
Childhood memories
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalists
Meditation
Utopias
Community life
Adolescence
Skepticism
Juvenile delinquency
Spirituality
Belief and doubt
1980s culture
Setting
Iowa - Midwest (U.S.)
California - West (U.S.)
Time Period
1980s-2000s -- 20th-21st century
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  Library Journal Review

With unflinching candidness, journalist Hoffman provides an examination of growing up within the transcendental meditation movement of the 1980s and 1990s. After being abandoned by her alcoholic husband, Hoffman's mother desperately decided to raise her small children away from the stress of urban life. Familiar with transcendental meditation, she relocated from New York to the group's self-proclaimed compound of "Heaven on Earth" in Fairfield, IA. Initially, the housing, schools, and seemingly boundless opportunities for growth through contemplation felt welcoming. However, promises of enlightenment and material comfort always seemed just out of reach to young Hoffman and her brother. As they matured into adolescence, these siblings were drawn to life outside the compound and forbidden temptations such as drugs and alcohol. The author recounts the break she made from Iowa as a teenager and her eventual life in California. Many recent memoirs, including Joshua Safran's Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid, have provided insight into unconventional childhoods. VERDICT With honesty and sincerity, this account of coming of age within the ostensible confines of an alternative lifestyle delivers valuable knowledge of another phenomenon of cultural divergence.-Mary Jennings, Camano Island Lib., WA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
<p>In this engrossing, provocative, and intimate memoir, a young journalist reflects on her childhood in the heartland, growing up in an increasingly isolated meditation community in the 1980s and '90s--a fascinating, disturbing look at a fringe culture and its true believers.</p> <p>When Claire Hoffman's alcoholic father abandons his family, his desperate wife, Liz, tells five-year-old Claire and her seven-year-old brother, Stacey, that they are going to heaven--Iowa--to live in Maharishi's national headquarters for Heaven on Earth. For Claire's mother, Transcendental Meditation--the Maharishi's method of meditation and his approach to living the fullest possible life--was a salvo that promised world peace and enlightenment just as their family fell apart.</p> <p>At first this secluded utopia offers warmth and support, and makes these outsiders feel calm, secure, and connected to the world. At the Maharishi School, Claire learns Maharishi's philosophy for living and meditates with her class. With the promise of peace and enlightenment constantly on the horizon, every day is infused with magic and meaning. But as Claire and Stacey mature, their adolescent skepticism kicks in, drawing them away from the community and into delinquency and drugs. To save herself, Claire moves to California with her father and breaks from Maharishi completely. After a decade of working in journalism and academia, the challenges of adulthood propel her back to Iowa, where she reexamines her spiritual upbringing and tries to reconnect with the magic of her childhood.</p> <p>Greetings from Utopia Park takes us deep into this complex, unusual world, illuminating its joys and comforts, and its disturbing problems. While there is no utopia on earth, Hoffman reveals, there are noble goals worth striving for: believing in belief, inner peace, and a firm understanding that there is a larger fabric of the universe to which we all belong.</p>
Table of Contents
Prefacep. xi
Part 1Believing
Chapter 1Initiationp. 3
Chapter 2The Hoffman Cursep. 21
Chapter 3Stranger in a Strange Landp. 37
Chapter 4Levitationp. 49
Chapter 5Taste of Utopiap. 59
Chapter 6Fortunate Are We!p. 73
Chapter 7Utopia Parkp. 89
Chapter 8On the Programp. 99
Chapter 9200 Percent of Lifep. 119
Part 2Doubting
Chapter 10Dad Comes Homep. 135
Chapter 11Your Meditation Brought Down the Great Wallp. 151
Chapter 12The Costs of Karmap. 165
Chapter 13Ojasp. 179
Chapter 14Towniep. 187
Chapter 15Meth Heads and Meditatorsp. 205
Part 3Searching
Chapter 16Adulthoodp. 223
Chapter 17A New Utopiap. 239
Chapter 18The Flying Coursep. 247
Epiloguep. 259
Acknowledgmentsp. 263
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