Award-winning journalist Robert Rient chronicles his childhood inside Poland's hermetic Jehovah’s Witness community and describes how he eventually comes to terms with his life and identity after leaving his religion.
WITNESS bears witness to a double isolation: first, the boy with a “feline faith” is ostracized by his peers in staunchly Catholic Poland in the 1990s, and second, after he decides to leave the faith, he is rejected by friends and family who remain in the religion. Through his writings, friendships, and training in psychology, Rient manages to survive, but only after completely shedding his former name and identity. Rient’s book is more than just a memoir; it is an important exposé of the psychological abuses suffered in the name of religion.
– Mariusz Szczygieł, the author of the award-winning Gottland
"The story of life among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which in Poland is regarded as a dubious sect, combined with the author’s problems relating to his sexual orientation makes for a strong mixture. One might even suspect the author of cheap sensation – but this is not that sort of book. Robert Rient succeeds in preserving sincerity and authenticity, and the most admirable element of all is his courage."
– Patrycja Pustkowiak, Poland Book Institute
". . .There are elements of this book that evoke Gombrowicz’s Diary. The comparison is imperfect, of course, but it bears making. “I ought to treat this diary as an instrument of my becoming before you. . . . I would like people to see in me that which I suggest to them,” Gombrowicz writes. This, of course, is the function of every memoir: obliging the reader to see the subject/object of the memoir in the way she or he wishes to be seen. . ." - George Henson at World Literature Today
". . .at once an original and engaging chronicle about growing up gay, and a disturbing look deep into the manipulative and damaging environment of a religious organization that shares many similarities with other fundamentalist Christian churches, and yet is its own strange entity. However, this is not a case study or a psychological essay. It is, rather, an autobiography in three voices. . ." - Joseph Schreiber at Minor Literature
"He made the decision on the way to school to cut off his penis. Immediately after prayers. The night before, God saw him masturbate. Any enjoyment was quickly snatched away by a sense of guilt that lasted until he begged forgiveness. . ." - an excerpt at 3AM Magazine
Frank Garrett holds a PhD in philosophy and literary theory. He trained as a translator at the Center for Translation Studies (University of Texas at Dallas) and at Philipps-Universität Marburg after earning advanced certification in Polish philology at the Catholic University of Lublin. In 2001 he was a Fulbright scholar in Warsaw. As an independent philosopher and translator, Dr. Garrett’s work has been published most recently by Black Sun Lit, Duquesne UP, Spurl Editions, and Zeta Books, while his critical reportage has appeared in 3:AM Magazine and Transitions Online. He lives in Dallas with his husband.
My first memory is a fire that went up in a flash. It's a frightening memory, and the fear will return later. And my mom, who didn't know about the fire yet, went out in front of the house, glad that at the neighbors' it's also dark. . .