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Stories from Jonestown Hardcover – February 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Leigh Fondakowski was the head writer of The Laramie Project and has been a member of the Tectonic Theatre Project since 1995. She is an Emmy-nominated coscreenwriter for the adaptation of The Laramie Project for HBO, and a cowriter of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Her play, The People’s Temple, created from the survivors’ interviews, has been performed under her direction at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Theatre Company, and the Guthrie Theatre.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (February 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816678081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816678082
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #551,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a Jonestown survivor. I met Leigh, Gregg, and Margo in 2002 when they visited me at my home in San Diego. My interview was wonderful. I felt free to discuss my deepest pain and my own truth. A few years later, I was able to see how Leigh had pulled together all the survivors' stories, and put them in her play "THE PEOPLES TEMPLE." She was very exacting and astute in picking up the message I wanted to share. Other survivors felt the same way. Her play was shown in Berkeley, and several other venues.

Last year, I heard that she had revisited our initial interviews and that she was creating a book. I was excited because I had already been impressed with her depth of understanding. I pre-ordered the book and received it this week. I have not been able to put the book down. I am so grateful that she created her book, mostly with exact quotes from the survivors. There is no better way to understand Peoples Temple - or our tangled feelings about Jonestown - than by reading her book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read every available published book on Jonestown, the Peoples Temple, and Rev. Jim Jones. I found Leigh's book to be refreshing for a change. She had started basically from scratch to understand Jonestown and what really happened. She had put a human face on the people who comprised the Peoples Temple. She had sought to understand what motivated many of them. I admire and respect the author's ability to understand what really happened in November 1978.

On November 18, 1978, I was a five year old in New Jersey. On that day, 918 lives were lost in Jonestown, Guyana. The media had created a myth about Rev. Jim Jones and his people. Of course, it was a massacre and it wasn't suicide. People didn't willingly die but were pressured and forced to drink the cyanide. Everybody in the top hierarchy of Jim Jones had a careful plan to execute the unthinkable of murder-suicide.

Leigh and her team planned to develop a creative play in displaying the Peoples Temple to the public. Leigh would meet, interview, study, and examine the world of the Peoples Temple. She had survivors like Stephan Jones, Jim and Marceline's only natural son and Tim Carter. In reading their accounts, I began to understand why they are resistant to writing their own stories about Jonestown and the Peoples Temple. Stephan and Tim have a lot of guilt on their shoulders about what happened like a life sentence since 1978.

If you want to know about Jonestown, this book adds a level of humanity, compassion, and understanding to those who died and those who lived and remember a time and place long ago. The Peoples Temple provided more than just religious services. If you were poor, homeless, unemployed, hungry, and thirsty, you were fed, given a job, fed, and cared for.
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Format: Hardcover
If, like me, you grew up in the 70s - or have ever used the term 'drank the Kool-Aid' - you are aware of what happened at Jonestown in Guyana on November 17-18, 1978.

Congressman Leo J. Ryan (D-CA) was on a fact-finding tour, investigating claims that Peoples Temple members were being held against their will. When, on the 17th, several people asked him to help them escape, orders were given to stop the exodus.

On the afternoon of the 18th, as the congressman, his entourage, and several Peoples Temple members were boarding two planes, gunfire erupted at the airstrip. Ryan, three newsmen, and a defector were killed; several more were wounded, some severely.

By the end of the day, 914 people of all races, creeds, and ages lay dead. Some died voluntarily, by their own hand; some with a little ... assistance. And it wasn't only poison that took many of those lives.

But, that is not all there is to know.

More than a thousand people belonged to the Peoples Temple. On the day of the murder/suicide, some were in Georgetown on Temple business. Some had never left California. They are all survivors.

These are their stories.


The book starts with a brief history of Jonestown and of this project. It explains what is known of the time, of the origins of the Peoples Temple, and how Leigh Fondakowski came to be involved in 3-1/2 years of interviewing survivors.

A brief caveat: I received an uncorrected ebook for review. It is, therefore, entirely possible that the final, published product may vary from this version. With that said, this is an incredible book.

As I mentioned, I grew up around this story. I remember the news reports of the shooting at the airstrip.
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Format: Hardcover
With the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" part of our lexicon it behooves us to go back and look at where that phrase originated. In Stories from Jonestown by Leigh Fondakowski we learn that it wasn't Kool-Aid, but was, in fact, poisoned Flavor-Aid that was used in the mass suicide/murder of over 900 followers of Jim Jones People's Temple agricultural project in Guyana on November 18, 1978. About half of those who died were children. Included in the 918 people who died were U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and three journalists who were accompanying Ryan on a fact-finding mission to Guyana.

Jim Jones group began as a Christian church in Indiana. He moved to San Francisco in the 1960s. While the group began as a integrated group who wanted to help the community, it soon changed into a much less altruistic socialist experiment. But this book is not about Jim Jones. It is about the survivors. Some of them still think the Peoples Temple was wonderful, others wonder at their blindness to the warning signs that there were problems and Jones was no longer the man or leader they thought they were following.

There are already numerous accounts written about Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple murder/suicide. In Stories from Jonestown, author Fondakowski focus is on interviewing the survivors. She points out that only they "can truly know what it means to survive a tragedy of this magnitude. These are the stories of the survivors. It is a privilege to tell them." Fondakowski, a playwright, spent over three years interviewing survivors, reviewing documents, and collecting letters trying to compose a complete picture of what happened while gathering material in order to write a play about their experiences. The book is a compilation of the many interviews and stories she collected.
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