Member of the Family

Member of the Family

My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties

Book - 2017
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At age 14, I became one of Charles Manson's Girls. At 17 I helped put him in prison. This is my story.

At fourteen Dianne Lake--with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them--became one of "Charlie's girls," a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. In this poignant and disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century's most notorious criminals and life as one of his "girls."

Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson's true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles' White Album and Manson's dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group's descent into madness as she lived it.

Though she never participated in any of the group's gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution's case against them. With the help of good Samaritans, including the cop who first arrested her and later took her into his home, the courageous young woman eventually found redemption and grew up to lead an ordinary life.

While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Family member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.

Member of the Family includes 16 pages of photographs.

Publisher: New York, NY :, William Morrow,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780062695574
Branch Call Number: 209.092 Lake
Characteristics: viii, 384 pages : illustrations (chiefly colour)
Additional Contributors: Herman, Deborah 1958-


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Mar 26, 2018

A great deal has been written about Charlie Manson and his murderous, mostly female, cult. However, this is the first book I've read that provides a detailed account of how Manson chose and manipulated his followers. Dianne Lake, the author, was a child member of "The Family" from the ages of 14 to 16. (As the singer, Gale Garnett said, most of us [teenage hippies of the 60's] weren't runaways, we were walk-aways -- no one was looking for us.) Manson, Lake tells us, was a failed pimp, who "studied' pimping and controlling women while in prison, but was released into San Francisco during the sexual revolution. He had to change his plans, but still applied his lessons.

Lake focuses on life inside the cult, telling of both its appeal and horror. She was not present at the killings, and does not dwell on or exploit that violence. Still, her testimony ensured the conviction of one of the murderers. Member of The Family is a good book, despite glaring grammatical and other errors (it seems that a significant number of publishers no longer use competent proofreaders), not only for those curious about Manson and his followers, but for people interested either in mind-control cults generally or in why women stay with abusive men. Despite the grim topic, it is a story of redemption and hope.

Feb 20, 2018

A frank, intimate portrait of one young woman's journey from suburbia to subculture, inadvertently ending up as a member of one of America's most notorious cults. Bored with the 9 to 5 world, Dianne's artist father craved the bohemian life he was reading about in exciting new works like those by Kerouac. One day her parents traded their house for a battered trailer, and eventually Dianne's family found their way to the burgeoning counterculture of 1960s Los Angeles. As her parents enthusiastically embraced communal living, psychedelic drugs, and alternative philosophies, lonely Dianne found herself increasingly becoming an afterthought, with her parents finally granting her emancipation at age 14. Hungry for love, eager to feel like she belonged, Dianne was overjoyed when she met the charismatic Charlie and his friendly, welcoming girls. Her narrative takes us deep into what life was like with the Manson Family: a world of peace and music, casual sex and drugs, and Charlie's philosophy preaching love. But underneath it all flowed an undercurrent of anger and control, where Charlie did not hesitate to abuse and humiliate those he felt were disobeying his wishes, using his loyal followers as pawns in his games for gain. All too soon peace gave way to paranoia, eventually leading to murder: the same friendly girls who welcomed her committing the gruesome murders that would shock the world. Dianne's firsthand account is superbly filled with detail and emotion that puts you right in the heart of her intense, emotional journey, sharing stories never told before in the extensive canon of Manson material.

Jan 23, 2018

I read Helter Skelter and one other book about Charles Manson, but this book by far is the best book to explain and help the reader understand the life of "the family", how hippies live, and how brain washed they all were.
Dianne did a fantastic job writing this book. I didn't get much done this week, as I just wanted to read, best book I've read in a long time.
I did see Dr Phil interview her on a show about 8 months ago, she waited to write her book until her kids were older, as up to than they didn't know anything about her life with Charles Manson.
A must read.

Dec 22, 2017

An interesting study of the development of the personality of someone who joins a cult. The neglect and abuse suffered by Dianne Lake by her parents made her vulnerable to a messianic leader, con man and pimp like Manson. Interesting that like other former members of the Family, including Tex Watson and Susan Atkins, Lake has become a born-again Christian. They've exchanged one cult for another.

Dec 11, 2017

I found this to be a very well written book. Very detailed in what had transpired in her life after her parents abandoned her after introducing her to drugs. Some of it was very shocking but when you consider the madman that was brainwashing them, not so. The only disappointment for me was that they rushed the ending. Not much was mentioned about the murders and the trial. It seems as if they rushed to finish the book - there could have been so much more to tie up the story. Glad to see that Dianne went on to have a normal and productive life.

ArapahoeKati Nov 27, 2017

A tough read, emotionally draining, but utterly absorbing. A must-read if you are interested in the Manson Family, especially if you'd like to read about it from someone in the inner circle.

Nov 27, 2017

An interesting read. This book was written by one of the Manson Family members that wasn't involved in the murders. I did find the most shocking part of some of her stories about the "activities" she was doing was the fact she was 14 when she did them. I guess it's not a total surprise she ended up with Manson considering it was her own parents that introduced her to weed and acid.

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Jan 23, 2018

runningbeat thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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