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They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. The more secretive those connections are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult.
Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labor. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a cult run by Keith Raniere and many enablers. Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman uncovers how dozens of women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities instead were blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. Don't Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM's rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world.
About the Author
Sarah Berman is an investigative journalist based in Vancouver covering crime, drugs, cults, politics, and culture. She is a former senior editor at VICE and past contributor to Adbusters, Maclean's, The Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun and other publications.
*SHORTLISTED for the 2022 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize*
*FINALIST for 2022 Crime Writers of Canada Brass Knuckles Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book*
*One of Oxygen.com's best crime books of 2021.*
"...Sarah Berman’s Don’t Call It a Cult is a thoroughly reported work that details a staggering amount of relevant information the TV series left out."
"...investigative journalist Berman front-loads her startling, comprehensive exposé on the NXIVM group with key information on how the association became popular yet remained elusive to law enforcement...the author’s engrossing reportage meticulously reveals the tumultuous rise and fall of NXIVM after numerous criminal indictments and prosecutions...File this alongside Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear and Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown...An incendiary, serpentine report on criminal manipulation of staggering proportions."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Investigative journalist Berman debuts with the definitive look at the NXIVM cult, which victimized dozens of women for more than a decade ... This deep dive behind the headlines isn’t to be missed."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Berman demonstrates the tactics cults use to manipulate and control without casting judgment or blame on the victims. Truly gripping, this is the definitive book on NXIVM."
"Journalist Sarah Berman brings her signature gimlet eye and impeccable reporting to the story of the NXIVM women in Don’t Call It a Cult, a chilling true crime account...Don’t Call It a Cult is the nightmarish, unflinching true story of the women who survived NXIVM—and the women who didn’t."
--Foreword Reviews (starred review)
"This is a very thought provoking book about a subject that many may have glanced at the headlines and not known much about. From empowerment to manipulation, it should serve as a warning to be careful about how you trust and with how much."
--The Parkersburg News & Sentinel
"A new book reveals the shocking ways that "self-help guru" Keith Raniere trapped women into his sick scheme."
--Eric Spitznagel, The New York Post
"An absolute work of art"
--Vancouver is Awesome
"This true crime is for readers of stories about cults and anyone looking for a deep dive into the recent news stories regarding NXIVM"
"Both captivating and frightening, Don’t Call it a Cult will astonish most readers."
--New York Journal of Books
"Vancouver investigative reporter Sarah Berman's nonfiction account, "Don't Call it a Cult," goes deep into the organization, meticulously tracing how it began and how it grew."
--Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Don’t Call It A Cult is the most detailed, well-reported, and nuanced look at NXIVM’s history, its supporters, and those left destroyed in its wake. If you want to understand NXIVM—and other groups like it—reading Sarah Berman’s account is essential.”
--Scaachi Koul, bestselling author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
“Sarah Berman is absolutely fearless in Don’t Call It a Cult. Her determination to not only tell the difficult, often disturbing story of NXIVM, but tell it right, shines through in every aspect of this gripping book. I simply could not put it down.”
--Alicia Elliott, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
“Berman has crafted a tour-de-force and powerful homage to first-person reportage. A riveting page-turner, Don’t Call It a Cult is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated by the long term effects of cult culture, abuse, and pseudoscience.”
--Lindsay Wong, author of The Woo-Woo
“Sarah Berman’s reporting on the inner workings of NXIVM and its secret, coercive ‘women’s group’ fully elucidates how scores of incredibly talented, smart young women fell under the spell of a mousy, volleyball-playing con man. Don’t Call It a Cult is an incisive, empathetic page-turner.”
--andrea bennett, author of Like a Boy But Not a Boy
“Don’t Call It A Cult is a thorough and compelling examination of a terrifying organization. Berman understands and brilliantly conveys the complexity of abuse, assault, and the lasting effects of each, and delivers a book that says as much about human nature as it does about NXIVM. Required reading!”
--Anne T. Donahue, author of Nobody Cares
“Don’t Call It a Cult explains Raniere’s dark charisma and why so many people were attracted to NXIVM and stayed on, even as the manipulation, exploitation, and abuse got extreme. A thoughtful, deeply reported take on a sensational story, one that I won’t soon forget.”
--Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites
“Berman lays bare this longest of cons: lost souls and ambitious young people drawn into NXIVM’s vortex of sexual assault, child exploitation, fraud, manipulation, and blackmail. This too-crazy-for-fiction tale is expertly spooled out with journalistic precision and a screenwriter’s sense of scene and story. I couldn’t put it down.”
--Lorimer Shenher, author of That Lonely Section of Hell and This One Looks Like a Boy