During a weekend visit to her uncle’s home in Riverside Valley, California, Celena Wittman was taken by two radicalized women, one of whom, she would learn, was her mother. In February 1977, Celena boarded a bus, leaving Los Angeles to enter a strange and private world where childhood was an experiment and no relationship was sacred. Immersed in the peculiar and violent society of the Synanon cult, Celena would spend the next five years subject to the unpredictable whims of Charles Dederich, the cult's shadowy leader.
SYNANON KID is the story of one girl’s search for identity and belonging throughout a childhood of physical, familial and racial displacement. From the African American communities of South Central, Los Angeles to the racially integrated, yet isolated world of Synanon, Celena struggles to navigate the dichotomy of the mainstream blue-collar life into which she was born and the counter-cultural lifestyle she inherited. Upon leaving the cult she is faced with further challenges of re-integrating into the mainstream nuclear-family lifestyle, and her new role of "being black" in a country where skin color matters.
At once humorous and disturbing, SYNANON KID is a coming-of-age story about hope, survival, and determination. It is the story of the unconditional love between a girl and her parents, and how that love helped her to grow and flourish despite the struggles presented by her estranged youth.