The Jonestown Settlement: Background information when reading New People

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

New People

by Danzy Senna

New People by Danzy Senna X
New People by Danzy Senna
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 240 pages

    Jul 2018, 256 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

The Jonestown Settlement

This article relates to New People

Print Review

In New People, Maria's dissertation focuses on the Jonestown settlement in Guyana and on the massacre that resulted in the death of some 900 men, women, and children from poisoning on November 18, 1975. Jonestown was developed, and sold to believers, as a sort of utopian community led by Jim Jones, who founded the People's Temple in Indianapolis in the 1950s. This Christian sect preached a message of inclusion, equality, and anti-racism, and consequently attracted many African Americans — though Jones himself was white. The settlement's formal name was The People's Temple Agricultural Project.

Jim Jones Eventually, former People's Temple members and the families of current ones began to alert authorities that the group was exhibiting cult-like tendencies, limiting people's freedoms, in particular the freedom to leave the group (which was denied to almost everyone), as well as the choice of romantic partners. People who didn't follow the rules were intimidated or beaten.

In particular, the group drew the attention of California congressman Leo Ryan, who had become known (or infamous) for his fact-finding missions investigating sensational situations. Ryan received permission to go to Jonestown to investigate why so many Americans had relocated there. While Ryan was there, Jim Jones and his supporters put on a show to convince the congressman that all was well; but outside the public eye, numerous Jonestown residents approached Ryan and his delegation to ask for help.

Even as the 900 Jonestown residents were persuaded to "drink the Kool-Aid," the next day, Ryan and a group of Jonestown defectors were poised to leave the area. One of them, who was posing as a defector, pulled out a gun and killed Ryan, as well as another defector and three journalists. As for Jones, the charismatic, controlling cult leader was found dead as well, from what is assumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Jonestown massacre left many idealists reeling after this utopian experiment went so horrifically awry.

Picture of Jim Jones by Nancy Wong

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Norah Piehl

This article relates to New People. It first ran in the August 2, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...
  • Book Jacket: Foster
    by Claire Keegan
    Irish author Claire Keegan is experiencing a surge in popularity, thanks to the selection of her ...
  • Book Jacket
    Dr. No
    by Percival Everett
    Percival Everett's novel Dr. No follows Wala Kitu, a professor of mathematics at Brown University ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    by Lydia Millet

    "Tender but never sentimental, wearing its intelligence in a low-slung style, Dinosaurs is a garden of earthly delights."—Vogue


Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.