Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

Book:  Jesus Land 

Author:  Julia Scheeres 

Grade:  B-

Recommended To:  The Religious Right (not!) 

Jesus Land is the memoir story of a girl and her adopted black brother and their story of survival throughout their  teenage years.  Julia and David have a terrible home life, get into trouble (which mostly sounds like normal teenage behavior), and then are shipped off to reform school in the Dominican Republic. 

Some of the stories in this book are very difficult to read.  There is a lot of child and sexual abuse in this book.  Although I don't think these children were necessarily abused because of their religious upbringing; perhaps their parents' very strict view of the Bible accounted for some of the harsh punishments the kids received.

The story begins when the family moves to Lafayette, Indiana and there aren't any other black kids at school in 1974.   This leads to tension for the kids at school and between the kids because as a white student, Julia ultimately has an easier time assimilating.   This part of the story is interesting enough, but the real juicy bits happen when both kids are shipped off to a reform school in the Dominican Republic.  There, they are systematically beaten down, physically and psychologically, and have witness punishments that are severe.

This book was an enthralling story, but sometimes I am doubtful of memoirs.  I don't think Julia is making it up, but everyone remembers things in a different way.  I would have loved to know about her current relationship with her wretched parents who sent her to the reform school, about how she has gotten past all of this abuse and what her life is like today.  Those details were not included in the book.  I would also have liked to read about the reform school's response to her book - because it is clearly an expose. 

Overall this book is an 80% or B-.  If you like this type of shocking memoir, then you should read it.  I got it on PBS without an issue and I'll probably stick my copy back up.

Happy Reading!!

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