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Jesus Land: A Memoir

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For Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother David, "Jesus Land" stretched from their parents' fundamentalist home, past the hostilities of high school, and deep into a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. For these two teenagers - brother and sister, black and white - the 1980s were a trial by fire. In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest, a For Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother David, "Jesus Land" stretched from their parents' fundamentalist home, past the hostilities of high school, and deep into a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. For these two teenagers - brother and sister, black and white - the 1980s were a trial by fire. In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest, a land of cottonwood trees and trailer parks, to a place beyond her imagining. At home, the Scheeres kids must endure the usual trials of adolescence - high-school hormones, incessant bullying, and the deep-seated restlessness of social misfits everywhere - under the shadow of virulent racism neither knows how to contend with. When they start to crack (or fight back), they are packed off to Escuela Caribe. This brutal, prison-like "Christian boot camp" demands that its inhabitants repent for their sins - sins that few of them are aware of having committed. Julia and David's determination to make it though with heart and soul intact is told here with immediacy, candor, sparkling humor, and not an ounce of malice. Jesus Land is, on every page, a keenly moving ode to the sustaining power of love, and rebellion, and the dream of a perfect family.


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For Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother David, "Jesus Land" stretched from their parents' fundamentalist home, past the hostilities of high school, and deep into a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. For these two teenagers - brother and sister, black and white - the 1980s were a trial by fire. In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest, a For Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother David, "Jesus Land" stretched from their parents' fundamentalist home, past the hostilities of high school, and deep into a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. For these two teenagers - brother and sister, black and white - the 1980s were a trial by fire. In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest, a land of cottonwood trees and trailer parks, to a place beyond her imagining. At home, the Scheeres kids must endure the usual trials of adolescence - high-school hormones, incessant bullying, and the deep-seated restlessness of social misfits everywhere - under the shadow of virulent racism neither knows how to contend with. When they start to crack (or fight back), they are packed off to Escuela Caribe. This brutal, prison-like "Christian boot camp" demands that its inhabitants repent for their sins - sins that few of them are aware of having committed. Julia and David's determination to make it though with heart and soul intact is told here with immediacy, candor, sparkling humor, and not an ounce of malice. Jesus Land is, on every page, a keenly moving ode to the sustaining power of love, and rebellion, and the dream of a perfect family.

30 review for Jesus Land: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Many people on this forum say it was hard or impossible to believe that all of these things could have happened to one person. But I have no trouble believing these things could have happened - in my job I hear these kind of stories every day. One person said that the author should have kept these stories to herself or only shared with her mental health counselor. But if she chose to break the silence of her ordeal I see nothing wrong with that. And I liked the fact that her relationship with Da Many people on this forum say it was hard or impossible to believe that all of these things could have happened to one person. But I have no trouble believing these things could have happened - in my job I hear these kind of stories every day. One person said that the author should have kept these stories to herself or only shared with her mental health counselor. But if she chose to break the silence of her ordeal I see nothing wrong with that. And I liked the fact that her relationship with David was so very complex - I found that very realistic. I think it's amazing that the author survived and reached out to others who suffered. The book was heartbreaking but it contained as much redemption as one could hope for. Of course I have no idea how accurate the book really is. But frankly I think that anyone who doesn't believe these awful things could have happened has probably lead a very sheltered life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    MistyAnne

    Julia Scheeres's memoir is perhaps one of the most haunting, powerful memoirs I've read. She details the heart-wrenching abuse she endured at the hands of her Christian family and the abusive reform school she attended with her adopted African American brother in the Dominican Republic. Her tale of severe sexual, emotional, physical, and religious abuse highlights issues of power and domination that are sometimes present in the American church. However, even as I wept for her and her brother whi Julia Scheeres's memoir is perhaps one of the most haunting, powerful memoirs I've read. She details the heart-wrenching abuse she endured at the hands of her Christian family and the abusive reform school she attended with her adopted African American brother in the Dominican Republic. Her tale of severe sexual, emotional, physical, and religious abuse highlights issues of power and domination that are sometimes present in the American church. However, even as I wept for her and her brother while reading her story, I was drawn to hope, not to hatred. Scheeres states that she is not a Christian--and after reading her story, I certainly empathise with that decision--and yet I myself was drawn more to God as I ached for her and for the abuse she endured. I've not left a painful book more broken for the author, and yet I've not left a book more filled with a sense of God's own weeping on our behalf--both Julia's and mine.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I cried when I read the last line of Julia Scheeres tragic and touching memoir. Scheeres sucked me into her life and I couldn't put the book down for a second. My blood boiled at several points through out the book. Is it truly possible that people can be so heartless and cruel? Is it truly possible that while I was living a carefree childhood, Scheeres (who is only two years older than me) was living in a private hell? Jesus Land reads like a well paced, well written novel but I had to keep rem I cried when I read the last line of Julia Scheeres tragic and touching memoir. Scheeres sucked me into her life and I couldn't put the book down for a second. My blood boiled at several points through out the book. Is it truly possible that people can be so heartless and cruel? Is it truly possible that while I was living a carefree childhood, Scheeres (who is only two years older than me) was living in a private hell? Jesus Land reads like a well paced, well written novel but I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't fiction - this really happened. Jesus Land touches on many different universal themes of Scheeres life from religious zealousness to blatant racism to misogyny and sexual abuse. It's also a testament to the human spirit and the power of forged relationships. The ties of family not necessarily has to be linked by blood. Anyone, whether you're black or white, male or female, young or old, gay or straight can glean something from this touching, heartfelt and honest memoir. Coming from a fairly religious family myself, I can truly relate with the damage that can be done to individuals and families all in the name of Jesus.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I think I’m well-positioned to review this book, because I grew up with Julia and David Scheeres. More precisely, we all went to Lafayette Christian School through eighth grade. Both Julia and David were in my brother’s elementary school class, one year ahead of me. Jerome, her older adopted brother, was in the class two years ahead of me. Lafayette Christian figures heavily in the story, although the story itself takes place starting two years after graduation from that school. I can’t decide qu I think I’m well-positioned to review this book, because I grew up with Julia and David Scheeres. More precisely, we all went to Lafayette Christian School through eighth grade. Both Julia and David were in my brother’s elementary school class, one year ahead of me. Jerome, her older adopted brother, was in the class two years ahead of me. Lafayette Christian figures heavily in the story, although the story itself takes place starting two years after graduation from that school. I can’t decide quite what to make of “Jesus Land.” It is a compelling memoir of sufferings undergone. I can confirm certain gruesome external details about Julia’s upbringing, so the criticisms comparing it to “A Million Little Pieces” and similar fabulist works are unfair, and I expect that her Escuela Caribe experience was pretty much just as she described it. I knew David Scheeres, and he was an excellent kid with a great heart, just as he is described (unlike his adoptive brother Jerome, whom I also knew, and who was a very bad actor even as a child). Without going into unnecessary detail, for example, I can confirm personally seeing either welts or scars (at this remove, I cannot say which) all across David’s and Jerome’s backs from whippings with some instrument. This was not regarded as normal, but as Scheeres said, back then nobody would do anything about such things. So while I never knew her parents personally, it seems to me entirely possible they were just as bad as she portrays. (Her father is apparently dead, though she does not mention it. She does not mention what happened to Jerome, but a simple Google search suggests that at least in 2011 he was still living in the same geographic area, because he was arrested for marijuana possession.) But “Jesus Land” is undermined and worsened by numerous small factual inaccuracies, and frankly, fictions. One could say that these are poetic license. But they are not poetic. Nor are they accidental. Rather, they are all in the service of what is the book’s prime vice, which is that it is written for, and only for, a specific audience and target market. That market is leftist agnostics and atheists who have contempt not only for Christianity but for every person who lives in flyover country. You see this in that Scheeres repeatedly notes she lives in Berkeley, in order to signal to the reader she is Not That Kind Of Person. Only the Right Kind Of Person, of course, is invited onto NPR and other media outlets; hence the continual dripping contempt for anyone not fitting the author’s mold of A Desirable Person (which apparently zero people in Indiana do). One possible response is “So”? Leftist atheists need love, and books directed at them, too. But the problem with small inaccuracies, or falsehoods, is that they undermine confidence in the rest of the narrative. What also undermines and coarsens the book is the cardboard nature of everyone portrayed. They all are grossly deficient in every way, and characterized as such with contemptuous adjectives. Bus drivers are “fat.” French teachers teach “in a constipated voice.” The barrage of contempt is never-ending and highly distracting. (It only lets up when the author talks about what is apparently the real “Jesus Land,” namely Berkeley.) Anyway, on the inaccuracies. None are huge; it’s their cumulative effect and direction which undermine the narrative. Most would not be visible to more than a few people alive today. In particular, a very substantial percentage of the specific statements about Lafayette Christian are false. Lafayette Christian was (and is) a Reformed, or Calvinist, school, as Scheeres notes. What she does not note is that Reformed students were a minority; the school had many different types of Christians welcomed and accepted as students, including Catholics (such as me). So here’s a not-exclusive list of further incorrect statements in the book: 1) “Until [1981], we attended a Dutch Calvinist school as well, where all the kids were blonde and lanky like me.” I have in my hand a picture of the graduating class of David and Julia Scheeres and another of my class. In the pictures, only four children have blonde hair. Blonde hair was simply not the norm. This would not matter, except it is an attempt to hide the actual diversity of the school (and probably to vaguely imply Nazi-type leanings). 2) As to Jews, Scheeres says “Jesus-killers, we called them at Lafayette Christian.” This is frankly ludicrous. I suppose it’s possible that the “we” meant some children in private conversations. But the phrasing is clearly meant to imply that’s what the school authorities said and therefore endorsed. Which is, as I say, ludicrous. 3) “At Lafayette Christian, there was no sex ed class.” This is false (it is said in support of “Everything I know about being female I learned from a Kotex box.”) Sex ed was taught every two years to both boys and girls, separately. It was taught to the 5th/6th graders and separately to the 7th/8th graders (the advanced class!) My classes were exactly coterminous with Scheeres’s, so I know they were offered. Again, this is an attempt to paint the school as blinkered and dangerously parochial, which it most assuredly was not. 4) On the first day of school, a high school math teachers’ responds to a girl identifying herself as “Goldstein” with “Jew name, isn’t it?” That is very, very unlikely. Similarly unlikely is that a gravestone from the 19th Century spelled “died” as “dyed.” Again—these are simply fictions designed to make Indiana seem like a horrible place to be. In fact, Scheeres specifically says “My parents’ own state, Indiana, had once been a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan, and was still a haven for backwater bigots.” (She does not seem to know that the Indiana Klan was much more opposed to Catholics than black people, though.) 5) Scheeres bizarrely claims her mother, a surgeon’s wife, initially feared if she touched her own black adopted baby, “the black would rub off on her hands.” 6) Scheeres says that as a teenager, having just moved to the country (actually, to a rural area only a few miles from my house on the edge of West Lafayette, a fairly cosmopolitan college town), she saw a series of plywood signs “bear[ing] a hand-scrawled message.” This consists of four signs, among them “Rightchuss go to: HEAVEN” and “The end is neer: REPENT.” Maybe. But I lived on the edge of that same countryside at the exact same time, and not only did I never see any billboards advising people to repent (which do crop up sometimes in Indiana), but I never saw any type of hand-made sign. And, what shows this to be false most of all, is the mis-spelling. People in Indiana can spell just fine. But that would not advance the author’s narrative. Much of the flavor of the book paints Indiana as a hybrid of a KKK rally and a liberal’s Facebook feed about WalMart, crudely designed to play to the prejudices of Scheeres’ Berkeley/NPR crowd. 7) I think it highly unlikely that racism was ubiquitous as portrayed in the environments in which David Scheeres was raised. For example, much is made of supposed racism of children in the Kingston pool (which was in West Lafayette, not the country). I spent much of several summers there, and I remember David playing there frequently as well (they lived close to the pool at that time). I don’t remember any racist comments. And Lafayette Christian did not tolerate racism (they were, in fact, appalled at the Dutch Afrikaans behavior in South Africa, because they felt they were tarred with that brush as Dutch co-religionists). There was one family at the school with two boys, one in my class, which was openly racist, but the children had to tell their racist jokes in hushed tones, like dirty jokes, because they knew they would be severely punished if the teachers found out. Finally, the book takes lots of actual poetic license, too, which leads to anachronisms. Jolt Cola was first marketed in 1985, but she refers to it as existing in 1983/1984. A scene where racist kids at the Kingston pool only leave David alone when a minivan arrives must take place prior to 1981, but the first minivan was sold in 1984. And so on. Again, not a huge deal, but when it undermines confidence in the book for readers—even though, as I say, I think all the key elements of author’s personal story in the book are almost certainly accurate. Every author has to choose an audience. The tragedy is that by her secondary choices, Scheeres targeted this book to people who already thought Christians were stupid, evil, bigots or all three, and doubtless succeeded in reinforcing those views. (Scheeres also appears to have been instrumental in the closure of Escuela Caribe, though, so the book does appear to have had some other beneficial impact.) A better choice would have been to write a less vitriolic book, targeted to a broader, more open-minded audience than Berkeley drones, that could have been read by average, normal people all over the country (even in barbaric Indiana!) as a guide to what not to do.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Yeah, it was entertaining, the way a Lifetime movie is entertaining. I read it in about three hours, and I'm a slow reader. Scheeres's writing is catchy, if a bit high falutin' in parts. I had to occasionally put this book down, roll my eyes, and laugh. Such dysfunction! Every childhood abuse you can imagine is superficially touched upon here. Scheeres was molested by her bad adopted black brother (whereabouts unknown), Scheeres's dead, good, adopted black brother was beaten like a slave by her e Yeah, it was entertaining, the way a Lifetime movie is entertaining. I read it in about three hours, and I'm a slow reader. Scheeres's writing is catchy, if a bit high falutin' in parts. I had to occasionally put this book down, roll my eyes, and laugh. Such dysfunction! Every childhood abuse you can imagine is superficially touched upon here. Scheeres was molested by her bad adopted black brother (whereabouts unknown), Scheeres's dead, good, adopted black brother was beaten like a slave by her evil, abusive father (a two dimensional character if ever there was one) and tried to commit suicide, and her mother was mean (and barely mentioned except that she gave money to missionaries, and once screenplay-ly rapped upon a window when Scheeres and her brother were having picturesque fun spraying each other with a hose in their garden). All of this dysfunction made Scheeres become a teen alcoholic, a dependency she mentioned casually when it served to further her plot, but which wasn't mentioned once she went to Jesus camp. The town in which she lives is so xenophobic the prescence of two black boys is cause for bad bullies (including authority figures like teachers) to frequently abuse her and her good black brother (but not the bad black brother, he was removed from the abuse because he was so abusive himself), yet Scheeres presented a veritable Rainbow Coalition of ethnic and religious minorities who attended her school, with which she of course befriended and even loved, because she's an underdog, too, and oh, so much more enlightened than anyone else who lived in her town. Scheeres volunteered to go to some religious camp to which her evil parents sent her good, adopted black brother because her parents were evil like that, and she did a passable job describing it, but only because she has read many military and possibly Holocaust memoirs. It is impossible to verify any of the shit that Scheeres said happened in this concentration camp of a religious retreat, nor to verify any of the myriad of abuses she says happened to her before she went to the Jesus concentration camp. It is impossible to verify any of the shit she said happened to her, ever. I can believe she had a black brother who died in a car accident. I can believe she went to some Jesus camp. That's all I can believe. This isn't as made up a "memoir" as "A Million Little Pieces", but it's at least as false as "Running With Scissors".

  6. 5 out of 5

    LARRY

    As posted in [http://www.amazon.com]: Oh. My. Goodness! Julia writes this honest memoir of her Christian childhood. However, the Christian family is nothing but a facade to impress the members of the local Calvinist church. Julia's mom is obsessed with missionaries and constantly plays Christian music. Her eyes is like those of a hawk, always watching the kids...and spying with the intercom as well. Julia's surgeon father is worse. He's the one that beats Julia's adopted Black father with 2x4's u As posted in [http://www.amazon.com]: Oh. My. Goodness! Julia writes this honest memoir of her Christian childhood. However, the Christian family is nothing but a facade to impress the members of the local Calvinist church. Julia's mom is obsessed with missionaries and constantly plays Christian music. Her eyes is like those of a hawk, always watching the kids...and spying with the intercom as well. Julia's surgeon father is worse. He's the one that beats Julia's adopted Black father with 2x4's until they're covered with welts or get broken bones. Julia feels guilty but cannot do anything. So, instead, she turns to alcohol and sex. While I've never suffered physical abuse, I was familiar with many aspects of Christian living. Such are constant Christian music playing, Christian adages, Scripture throwing and memorizing, letter writing to missionaries, church attendance and many more. However, Julia didn't write the memoir about her perfect Christian childhood. She wrote about the dark horrors she and her brothers suffered through...in the name of Christianity. And if that wasn't bad, things become worse when David and Julia are sent to the Dominican Republic to a Christian reform school. In an eerie way, it reminded me of a Bible college I once attended for a semester. Gut-wrenching. Appalling. Unbelieveable. Despite the horrors of Christianity's dark secrets and hypocrisy, Julia's memoirs was an interesting read. At the end is an interview with Julia.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    ***NO SPOILERS*** Heartbreaking, shocking, touching, angering. This book is these things and more. Like The Glass Castle: A Memoir, Jesus Land is a memoir of an imperfect--to put it mildly--childhood. This riveting account opens with Julia Scheeres as a desperate sixteen-year-old. She recounts incidents from her younger years in plentiful flashbacks replete with vivid and heart-rending detail. The memoir's strength lies in Scheeres's ability to make her young self and her "twin" adopted brother, ***NO SPOILERS*** Heartbreaking, shocking, touching, angering. This book is these things and more. Like The Glass Castle: A Memoir, Jesus Land is a memoir of an imperfect--to put it mildly--childhood. This riveting account opens with Julia Scheeres as a desperate sixteen-year-old. She recounts incidents from her younger years in plentiful flashbacks replete with vivid and heart-rending detail. The memoir's strength lies in Scheeres's ability to make her young self and her "twin" adopted brother, David, come to life. Quite impressively, this is told in Scheeres's voice, but David's personality seems just as complete and three-dimensional as Scheeres's. She and her brother suffer in unspeakable ways, and readers feel each devastation and each injustice acutely. She couldn't have accomplished this with a cardboard rendering of this twin she loves to her very core. Their bond is truly remarkable and heart-warming and almost hard to believe. To be touched by the connection these two share is to feel better about humanity as a whole. On the general technical level, Scheeres's memoir needed some tweaking. A noticeable tone-change slices the story into a distinct first and second half. Throughout this first half, Scheeres recounted occurrences with a certain emotional detachment while still stirring up plenty of emotion. What Scheeres presented is deeply unsettling and sad, but readers are allowed to feel those things on their own. During the second half, though, Scheeres's bitterness sneaked in. Her hatred for her reform school is palpable. Certainly, this is understandable; however, in the interest of consistency, the tone should have maintained its neutrality. In some ways an aloof recounting is more powerful; it lends the writing a certain sophistication. The first half is stronger than the second for this reason. The best memoirs are true tell-alls, and Scheeres spared no details; nevertheless, she did run into some problems making judgment calls as to what was appropriate and inappropriate to include. Although her intimate writing style is one of her memoir's strengths, she veered toward the gratuitous at least one time. These instances stand out starkly and detract from an otherwise mature recounting. Admittedly, memoir-writing can be tricky, as the author has to decide what makes sense to expose to the world in the name of authenticity. A twist in the memoir's final pages upends the story and confirms the adage that in many ways “truth is stranger than fiction.” Truth also can be worlds more devastating. Final verdict: Four stars and an enthusiastic recommendation to fans of The Glass Castle.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    I was told not to focus on the cover, that this book was not about religion. The person who told me so, was correct. The book was about what people do in the name of religion. It was also about bigotry and racism. This book is a Memior, written by a woman who's strictly devout Midwestern Calvinist white parents adopted two young black boys to raise with their 4 children. The woman of the story is three years old at the time, the same age as the youngest black boy. The story is told in the voice I was told not to focus on the cover, that this book was not about religion. The person who told me so, was correct. The book was about what people do in the name of religion. It was also about bigotry and racism. This book is a Memior, written by a woman who's strictly devout Midwestern Calvinist white parents adopted two young black boys to raise with their 4 children. The woman of the story is three years old at the time, the same age as the youngest black boy. The story is told in the voice of the young girl from the age of 16 and 17, with flash backs to times during the years they were growing up. This book is a tradgity, in every sense of the word. The parents are extreme, the physical punishments by the father are extreme, and then, if that is not enough, the boy and girl are both sent to a Religious reform school in the Dominican Republic. Everything is extreme there! There is no happy ending, except that the story is told. The author took half of her life time to tell it, in memory of her brother.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Antoinette

    The events in this memoir are incredibly tragic, as is the approach to explaining them. Overall, a compelling childhood presented in a childish way. The relationship between David and Julia is heartbreaking. A black adopted brother, the privileged white biological daughter that loves him. It took me a long time to finish this book. It was interesting enough, and well written, but there was something terribly offensive about it. The author tried very hard to be casual about things that were obvio The events in this memoir are incredibly tragic, as is the approach to explaining them. Overall, a compelling childhood presented in a childish way. The relationship between David and Julia is heartbreaking. A black adopted brother, the privileged white biological daughter that loves him. It took me a long time to finish this book. It was interesting enough, and well written, but there was something terribly offensive about it. The author tried very hard to be casual about things that were obviously painful, which is something I tend to dislike in authors. It was one of those "I was down, fighting off a hangover and wondering if I was pregnant" type reads. I wish I could write a better review, but it just left me feeling incomplete.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    What is a Christian? Really. I was reading an article on CNN about Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and about half-way through the article there’s a girl CNN was asking about Bell. From the article: “...Today she attends a non-denominational church and self-identifies as a “Christ follower” but bristles at being called a Christian.” But what does that even mean? Doesn’t Christian literally mean, “Christ-Follower?” Christianity is What is a Christian? Really. I was reading an article on CNN about Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and about half-way through the article there’s a girl CNN was asking about Bell. From the article: “...Today she attends a non-denominational church and self-identifies as a “Christ follower” but bristles at being called a Christian.” But what does that even mean? Doesn’t Christian literally mean, “Christ-Follower?” Christianity is such a vast VAST umbrella. We have all these different groups of Christians, each one working so diligently to distinguish themselves semantically from all the false/heretical Christians. It’s crazy, and mind-numbing. So, I’ll repeat my question, what is a Christian? If a Christian is a “Christ follower,” then what did Christ teach? What are we to follow? Myself? I’ve concluded Christians find themselves in a Catch-22 of who they should be. “The World” (or Shakespeare at least) tells us, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” I think there’s the desire in every human being to follow that mantra. But how does a Christian do that? If people are fallen, depraved, and innately bad, being true to yourself means to be true to evil. Yet, if one says, “Christians should be true to God, Christianity, or it’s ideals,” they’d be giving Christians an impossible task, setting them up for failure and hypocrisy. There’s the rub, if you’re a Christian. If you claim sin is wrong, yet commit sin – which you will - you are labeled a hypocrite. If you are true to yourself, you sin... unless you’re a naturally sinless person. (I would be hesitant to make that claim.) Again, you’re a hypocrite. I’m worried that this is going to digress into a harangue on hamartiology rather than a review of a moving and troubling memoir. I’m a sucker for a good memoir, especially one I can relate to. I can relate to this one. It revolves around Julia and her adopted African-American brother, David. I have an adopted Haitian-American brother as well. (Technically, it’s more complicated than “adopted,” but we’ll save that for another book review.) She spent half the book (6 months) in the Dominican Republic. I spent roughly 2 years in Haiti. Julia had to deal with feelings of abandoning her brother based on situations she could and could not control. I have dealt with this as well. It’s easy to believe we live in a post-race world. We have a black president. Nobody bats an eye at inter-racial couples. Too many links came up when I googled “White Minority America” in order to pick one for my next sentence. Go ahead and google it yourself. “Maybe you’re right,” you say, “but there’s still racism.” That’s my point. But I believe it’s an understated point. In the midst of the race card being played every 3.5 seconds, I believe it’s an understated point. (You can get that statistic HERE.) Sometimes life seems so certain and peaceful on top that you don’t realize there’s a harsh under-tow waiting to carry you out to sea. Julia and I both had to confront racism that lurked just out of view. From the kids and teachers using phrases like, “acting white” or “acting black,” to ******** never mind. I’m editing this part out. (When you don’t post anonymously online you live in constant fear of telling the truth.) What is a racist? During the discussion in book club, a fellow member asked the question: “Two bars right next to each other, one’s full of white people, one’s full of black people, which one do you go in?” He gave the pause to think, “Me? I’m going in the one with the white people.” Another pause. “Does that make me a racist?” I may have become hyper-sensitive to racism, or at least to certain aspects of racism. This is one of my problems with the book. I believe Julia is hyper-sensitive to it as well. Any time someone has a problem with her brother David, she blames it on race. Can you point out someone’s racial differences, or is that racist? ...Is pointing them out the same thing as acknowledging them? There’s a part in the book where David makes fun of himself, accentuating his African features. He’s laughing, the other kids in the class are laughing. Julia is ticked. She makes the laudable observation that, “David had not yet learned that there’s a difference between having an audience and having friends.” But was that a black/white thing? David was low on the social totem pole, yes. But I have a very diverse crowd of low totem pole kids that use self-deprecating humor to climb higher. And it certainly makes them more agreeable than the sulkers who are bitter about not being on the top. Is David’s internalized racism truly racism? Are the kids that laughed at him racist? While Scheers writes of cases of clear, cut and dried racism – such as the farmer boys in the pickup truck, and the instances at the swimming pool – she also writes of other instances that make me question the veracity (?) necessity (?) of her playing the race card. The two key conflicts in this book: 1.) determining racism/ fighting against it 2.) true Christianity vs. religiosity vs. pure hypocrisy (especially with parents) I’m a sucker for a good memoir, but I’m also very skeptical of them. There’s a certain power that comes with writing history – especially when the other side’s story won’t come out. Scheers comes from an apparently loveless Christian home. A question I had throughout the book is, was she writing from the perspective of her young self, or was she writing it from an adult perspective? It was rather ambiguous. She casts her parents in a very negative light, shedding the light on their hypocrisy. And, while I don’t want to act like I agree with their style of parenting or condone it, I wonder what gives her the right to cast the first stone? By her own admission she was not blameless. And we don’t get to hear her parent’s version of the events. I can’t imagine they knew what her brother Jerome was doing to her. Did they know she was getting drunk before school and sneaking a boy up to see her at night? If so, what is the correct response? Reform school doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. So what gives her the right to cast the stone without them being able to defend themselves? Is it because she’s no longer a Christian that she herself is allowed to sin, yet condemn others for it? Is that what gives all non-Christians the right? As long as you don’t claim absolutes you can do what you want without fear of messing up, yet attack those who do mess up because they claim absolutes, yet can’t live by them. Maybe Scheer’s parents were bad Christians. Maybe that’s an understatement, I don’t know them. But to blanket all Christianity under the umbrella of gross hypocrisy is disingenuous and dishonest. I grew up in Pennsylvania looking down my nose at the Mid-West. I was a scant few hours away from NYC, Philadelphia, D.C. What does the Mid-West have? Corn, hicks, tornados, and land-lock syndrome. And my wife. Yes, we do have corn and hicks. Yes, a tornado jumped over my house last summer. But we’ve got the Windy City, Motown, and the 2007 Super Bowl winning Colts... (yikes, I’m still a Steelers fan...) The beaches at Lake Michigan are legit. I didn’t believe it either until I went there. The people out here are friendly and laid back. Scheers playing to the stereotypes of the Midwest got on my nerves. (My wife – a staunch defender of our section of the United States – has been banned from reading this book for that very reason. She would be beyond unhappy with Scheers portrayal of her homeland.) I realize that was her experience growing up here, and I respect that. I just felt like the depiction was a little self-serving and inaccurate. So, if I had so many problems with the book, why did I give it 4 stars? Answer: *ding ding ding* I loved it. I loved it. It made me ponder my own faith, and whether I was speaking out enough. It seemed heartfelt, and tragic, and warm, and a bunch of other clichés that make you think of heartfelt, and tragic and warm. It made me wonder how Christians (and my interesting breed of Christianity in particular) are viewed by others – Christians and non-Christians alike. Christians are often told not to offend, but if people find offense, let them take it with the Gospel. While I agree in part, I wonder if that’s a cop-out. Like the cop-out of faith, or the cop-out of never saved. (Not to be confused with true faith, or the true Gospel, etc...) There are a lot of things wrong with my faith. (Individual) The problem is figuring out where they lie, and how to sort them out. I know there’s Truth, and I know there’s interpretation. I know there’s only Truth, but there’s also only interpretation. The book helped me realize there comes a time to stand up and ask the questions people are afraid to ask. I love hanging with other Christians, but hate feeling insecure about asking them questions or calling them out on issues that would make me seem unchristian. This book solidified in my mind that if we’re really interested in seeking truth, we won’t shy away from what’s bothering us. Besides, like I’ve always said: if I go to heaven, God gets the glory. If I go to hell, God gets the glory. It was an interesting book club book too. We’re lucky enough to have 4 very diverse Christians in our group along with an agnostic leaning toward atheist. The whole time I was reading, I was wondering what presuppositions and thoughts and theology the others were bringing into the book. Or what I was bringing to it... I wonder why I don’t do that with all books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    misha

    Such a tragic, heart breaking story that once again, just makes me want to go find some kid and just hug them. The amount of abuse that these kids went through made for a tough read. It's interesting to read this after The Glass Castle and Running with Scissors, other stories about equally difficult childhoods, but each author had different ways to protect themselves. Running with Scissors was about using humor in the face of pure shit. Glass Castle had indeed, a wall around how awful a childhoo Such a tragic, heart breaking story that once again, just makes me want to go find some kid and just hug them. The amount of abuse that these kids went through made for a tough read. It's interesting to read this after The Glass Castle and Running with Scissors, other stories about equally difficult childhoods, but each author had different ways to protect themselves. Running with Scissors was about using humor in the face of pure shit. Glass Castle had indeed, a wall around how awful a childhood could be. Julia's story was about staying alive by staying together... and losing that too. I'll remember this story for a very long time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elyse

    This is an oldie! I read this long before I was writing reviews --- I was looking through my Friday reviews this morning by many of you charming people --when I came across this book again. This book is another reminder of how religion can go wrong-wrong-wrong! **NOTE: Its kinda-creepy-weird reading...(hard to pull yourself away)....but not pleasant!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Consuelo Mendoza

    Julia Scheeres' Jesus Land tells the story of Julia and her brother David, both sixteen-year-olds of different races who are insulted and humiliated due to their love for each other as brother and sister. This book is set up on the rural part of Indiana during the 1980's, when racism was still in abundance within our society. Searching for freedom from their violent father and their mother, who cares more about the church than she cares about her own children, Julia and David fight through vario Julia Scheeres' Jesus Land tells the story of Julia and her brother David, both sixteen-year-olds of different races who are insulted and humiliated due to their love for each other as brother and sister. This book is set up on the rural part of Indiana during the 1980's, when racism was still in abundance within our society. Searching for freedom from their violent father and their mother, who cares more about the church than she cares about her own children, Julia and David fight through various obstacles to reach their life-long dream, Florida. Julia and David try their hardest to make it through their hardships, obstacles that include racism, delinquency, physical abuse, mental abuse, and the persistence of others to separate them. The book highlights how far racism could drive someone in the 1980's, which can make this memoir seem as if it were fiction. A memorable event would be the time when Julia, now affected by the humiliation coming from her classmates, denies being David's real sister, not knowing that David was standing right behind her. Her close friend, Elaine, criticized David on a daily basis and Julia saw this as an opportunity to fit in with her classmate. David, ashamed of being African-American, starts cutting his hair in a way that makes him look "whiter" and he starts to wear blue contacts, so he can look more like Julia. Julia, ashamed of her actions, apologizes and suggests him to return to his normal self. Ultimately, the story of Julia and David Scheeres is the story of two teenagers adapting to a surprisingly cruel society, loving each other without regarding their different race and finding their way to a world with no judgement or rules, a world they call "Florida". It all adds up to a tale of ignorance and cruelty, two concepts that contribute to the non-vanishing racism around the world. Jesus Land, tells that story very well, revealing that sometimes we have to learn and play society's game to reach the place we have always dreamed of. After finishing Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres, I would recommend it to those who are interested in knowing how life really was in the 1980's, especially when it comes to racism. At some point, the reader has to be mature about many concepts, since a few of the events can be uncomfortable to read. However, David Scheeres, who became my favorite person throughout the story, can warm your heart as he protects his sister Julia, or, as he calls her, "Ju-la-la", from all sorts of danger and as he tries to fit in with a racist society, who does nothing but use God as their excuse to exclude African-Americans. Julia Scheeres teaches a lesson for those who struggle on a daily basis; as David represents hope, she represents audacity. Overall, their story is worth reading about. Various life lessons can come from Jesus Land, but I think the most important life lesson is learning how to play society's game to get to where you want to be. When Julia and David tried to confront their parents and disagree with "God's beliefs", all they got in return was physical abuse and a bad reputation. Because they were still young, all they were expected to do was behave and be good religious children. Eventually, they realized, once they got to Escuela Caribe, that fighting against adults did no good, suggesting that, if they did as they were told for enough time, the wait for their eighteenth birthday would be less painful. Reading about Julia and David Scheeres' brother and sister relationship, and being an older sister myself, allowed me to feel Julia's sadness when her brother was hurt, as well as her happiness when they spent time together after a difficult situation. It made me feel thankful for the family I have, realizing that other people today might have a father just as abusive or a mother just as careless as theirs. Their story also made me feel that everything happens for a reason and that, with the right determination, one can surpass many obstacles.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Mcnulty

    I really had to think how I was going to talk about this book. As I read about Julia’s life there were many times I wanted to quit. Not because of her writing style but because the story was so hard to digest. I come from a hard childhood myself and this memoir dredged up some difficult memories for me. I have read many books about people coming from rough back rounds and leaving the faith of their childhood, but none as heart wrenching as this. It always surprises me the things people as willin I really had to think how I was going to talk about this book. As I read about Julia’s life there were many times I wanted to quit. Not because of her writing style but because the story was so hard to digest. I come from a hard childhood myself and this memoir dredged up some difficult memories for me. I have read many books about people coming from rough back rounds and leaving the faith of their childhood, but none as heart wrenching as this. It always surprises me the things people as willing to do in the name of god. This is a memoir about a great many things. Religion washes over all of the themes. Racism, inter-family relationships, adoption, adolescence/coming of age, sexual, physical, emotional and mental abuse, and finally hope. She describes the people in her childhood in vivid terms and I could really visualize them and hear their voices in my head. I loved reading about David, Julia’s brother. I found myself rooting for him the whole book. To me, the most important theme that stood out in the book was religion vs. love, compassion and civility. Over and over the adults in the lives of Julia and David chose religion over love and the others. It amazed me that David and Julia could love each other so steadfastly as siblings. It seemed they had no real examples of love in their lives or even civility for that matter. In the end what kept me engaged in this book were two things. First, I almost never quit reading a book. I have to know how it ends. Secondly, I had hope. Hope that someone would rescue these kids from their awful lives. Hope that in the end they would find comfort and happiness on the warm beaches of Florida. I found the ending to be bittersweet at best, as life often is. Realizing that as in my own childhood, the rescuers never came, in the end you have to rescue yourself. I would recommend this book. I will warn readers that it is not an easy read. There is much sadness and trauma within the pages. If you have PTSD around religion or abuse as I do beware. It tripped many of my triggers. If you read or have read the book I would love to hear your impressions.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jae Ran

    I thought this was a thoughtful and harrowing memoir. As a transracial adoptee who was adopted into a fundamental Christian home and who also had siblings "homegrown" to my a-parents, I found this memoir quite interesting - especially the first half dealing with their teen years in a small farming community in Indiana. I would have liked to have read more about Julia's other older siblings and I thought the second half (about Julia and her brother's experiences at a reform school in the Dominica I thought this was a thoughtful and harrowing memoir. As a transracial adoptee who was adopted into a fundamental Christian home and who also had siblings "homegrown" to my a-parents, I found this memoir quite interesting - especially the first half dealing with their teen years in a small farming community in Indiana. I would have liked to have read more about Julia's other older siblings and I thought the second half (about Julia and her brother's experiences at a reform school in the Dominican Republic) was not as compelling. It was those small details of her childhood and how she interpreted/processed the racism within the family and community her transracially adopted brothers had to deal with, that was more compelling to me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Only read this book if you want to become depressed. It is very well written and the characters are so memorable but the story is just too hard to take at times. One of the people in my book club expained it best by stating that sometimes you had to walk away from it to be able to finish it. If you ever thought that your life growing up was hard, read this in comparison becuase it will make you thank your parents (thanks Mom!) for giving you a great childhood.

  17. 4 out of 5

    K

    Julia Scheeres's train wreck of a memoir is divided into two parts. The first focuses on her upbringing in a strict, abusive Calvinist family. In an apparently self-deluded display of Christian charity her parents have adopted two black boys, whom they not only abuse but fail to protect from the inevitable racism of 1980s middle America. The older boy, Jerome, rebels; the younger boy, David, whom Julia is memorializing in this book, dreams of a happy, functional family but only Julia is receptiv Julia Scheeres's train wreck of a memoir is divided into two parts. The first focuses on her upbringing in a strict, abusive Calvinist family. In an apparently self-deluded display of Christian charity her parents have adopted two black boys, whom they not only abuse but fail to protect from the inevitable racism of 1980s middle America. The older boy, Jerome, rebels; the younger boy, David, whom Julia is memorializing in this book, dreams of a happy, functional family but only Julia is receptive to returning his affection. As David and Julia's unhappiness grows, they each act out and become self-destructive in their own ways. David grows increasingly depressed and withdrawn and begins to engage in self-harm, while Julia drinks on the quiet and gets into a dead-end sexual relationship with a boy at school who is clearly using her. Eventually David gets sent to a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic, followed by Julia a bit later. The second half of the memoir describes their experience in the reform school, which is its own abusive environment. My recurring thought as I read this was that I never want to read another dysfunctional-family-and-abuse memoir. The first part of this book was worse than The Glass Castle A Memoir, with its neverending game of "Top this:" The mother is distant and seems to views her kids as an unwelcome irritation, feeding them "garbage soup" made of random, often spoiled leftovers ("Waste not, want not!"). But wait -- the father is physically abusive and breaks David's arm. But wait -- Jerome molests Julia repeatedly. But wait -- Jerome sets Julia up to be gang-raped. But wait -- one of the would-be gang rapists ends up using Julia for sex nightly, accepting the title and privileges of "boyfriend" but none of the responsibility, and Julia, starved for affection and for any means of fleeting escape from her brutal situation, accepts this. I mean, how much of this can you read already? I understand why many goodreaders were skeptical about the events, and noted the one-dimensional portrayal of the book's many villains. This is an age of wildly sensationalist and dubious tell-all memoirs, and while I don't claim to know whether "Jesus Land" belongs in that category, it certainly felt over the top at times. And if in fact all this really did happen to Julia, well, it was just too painful for words. "Top this" continues as David and Julia are relocated to the reform school. David and Julia's parents are paying mega-bucks for their children to sleep on thin foam pads and be minimally fed. But wait -- some of the staff are abusive, certainly verbally and sometimes physically. But wait -- the first preacher gets one of the teens pregnant. But wait -- the replacement preacher then threatens Julia in a highly graphic and sado-sexual way. But wait -- letters home from the kids which fail to offer sugarcoated descriptions of life at the reform school are censored, and students who write these letters are punished severely. I should really start a shelf for "car accident books" -- books that describe horrifying events that turn your stomach but are somehow impossible to look away from. But I won't start that shelf, because I hope I never have to read another book like this. I could really use some fluffy chick lit about now.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    Schadenfruede or just curiosity? I do seem to have a fascination for reading about those who've had unpleasant childhoods - "The Glass Castle," "Running with Scissors" and now "Jesus Land." What a sad, sad memoir, yet the author tells her tale matter-of-factly - no self-pity here. Scheeres spends her teenage years in rural Indiana with a violent father, an unbalanced mother and her two adopted African American brothers. Her close, almost twin-like relationship with her brother David is the heart Schadenfruede or just curiosity? I do seem to have a fascination for reading about those who've had unpleasant childhoods - "The Glass Castle," "Running with Scissors" and now "Jesus Land." What a sad, sad memoir, yet the author tells her tale matter-of-factly - no self-pity here. Scheeres spends her teenage years in rural Indiana with a violent father, an unbalanced mother and her two adopted African American brothers. Her close, almost twin-like relationship with her brother David is the heart of the book. Trapped in their nightmare of a family, David desperately yearns for the happiness depicted on "The Brady Bunch," while Julia plots her perfect future from the pages of the Sears catalogue. The second half of the book deals with the siblings' "adventures" at a Christian "boot camp" ("concentration camp" the author intones) in the Dominican Republic. A far cry from the Bible camp I was forced to attend, where we sat around telling dirty jokes when the counselors weren't around, the "inmates" of Escuela Caribe perform an endless list of menial tasks and are judged on how they fold their underwear - hoping to rise through the ranks to earn the coveted "Level Five" and their only chance at freedom. Snitching on peers is encouraged by the management, and they soon learn to trust no one. A hard lesson to learn when they both long wholeheartedly for friendship and social acceptance.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Fascinating & shocking look at life in a conservative Christian family in the bible belt. I was horrified by the racism, emotional abuse and physical abuse that these kids suffered at the hands of their parents and the Christian reform school they were sent to. I really didn't know that schools like these existed, I guess I'm naive. I always appreciative my own normal upbringing when I read a book like this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I've finished the this book and still can't believe it happened. I kept having to remind myself that it was nonfiction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Canice

    As a reader, I seem to specialize in literary nonfiction and memoir that can include the word "harrowing" in any review. I greatly appreciated Scheeres' "A Thousand Lives" (about the Peoples Temple/Jonestown) some years ago, and finally picked up Jesus Land when I stumbled upon it in a used book shop a few weeks ago. This is not the book I expected. Sure, I knew it would be rough -- sent off, along with her African American brother, to a fundamentalist Christian reform school in the Dominican Re As a reader, I seem to specialize in literary nonfiction and memoir that can include the word "harrowing" in any review. I greatly appreciated Scheeres' "A Thousand Lives" (about the Peoples Temple/Jonestown) some years ago, and finally picked up Jesus Land when I stumbled upon it in a used book shop a few weeks ago. This is not the book I expected. Sure, I knew it would be rough -- sent off, along with her African American brother, to a fundamentalist Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic doesn't sound like a beach read, however beautiful the surrounding beaches. However, I was totally unprepared for the, well, harrowing story of her home life in rural Indiana prior to her being shipped off to the Caribbean. Ultimately, though, the book is not about her or her personal troubles -- it's about intense sibling love under a series of miserable circumstances, and the determination to protect and love one another. Tommy Bogue, one of the central figures in "A Thousand Lives" initially declined to cooperate with Scheeres for that book, but when she sent him a copy of "Jesus Land" he saw that she could relate to his experience on some level, and treat it with respect and dignity. I was aware of that before, but I can see now the overlap between these two vastly different stories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Casey

    Having been raised by reactionary fundamentalist Christians in the rural upper Midwest, I found Scheeres prose unsettling in its utter accuracy. Both brutal and banal, she writes of casual as well as overt racism, sexual abuse that's all too common, and the aggressively ignorant beliefs of evangelical Christians who care more about power over people than any kind of goodness. This memoir made me shudder and reminded me of all the shame, rage, fear, and confusion I experienced growing up just a d Having been raised by reactionary fundamentalist Christians in the rural upper Midwest, I found Scheeres prose unsettling in its utter accuracy. Both brutal and banal, she writes of casual as well as overt racism, sexual abuse that's all too common, and the aggressively ignorant beliefs of evangelical Christians who care more about power over people than any kind of goodness. This memoir made me shudder and reminded me of all the shame, rage, fear, and confusion I experienced growing up just a decade off from her and couple states north.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    4.5 stars Once I got into this book, I couldn’t put it down, letting my other books sit so I could finish it. I’ve had it on my shelf for a long time and finally decided to pick it up and so glad that I did. An amazing, sorrowful memoir that I recommend to everyone.

  24. 4 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    "Just as Jesus requires blind faith from his believers, we require blind faith from our students." Julia's narrative flows like a well-written novel which I appreciate because it broaches some tremendously tough subjects: racism, religion, mental, physical, and sexual abuse. The school in the DR is only part of the story. Home life was a mess. It's a tough read, but worth it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    If you read one memoir this year it needs to be this one. Written by Julia Scheeres from the LA Times, it is an incredibly powerful story of growing up in an incredibly horrible yet somehow religious family with 2 adopted black brothers. She tells the story of sexual abuse from one of her adopted brothers, her immense love for the other, her parents who practiced corporal punishment in its worst forms, and her time at Escuela Caribe, the now famous Christian reform boot camp in the Dominican Rep If you read one memoir this year it needs to be this one. Written by Julia Scheeres from the LA Times, it is an incredibly powerful story of growing up in an incredibly horrible yet somehow religious family with 2 adopted black brothers. She tells the story of sexual abuse from one of her adopted brothers, her immense love for the other, her parents who practiced corporal punishment in its worst forms, and her time at Escuela Caribe, the now famous Christian reform boot camp in the Dominican Republic. Some have accused Scheeres of being a member of the James Frey Club. That is to say they imply while her story contains some truth it is mostly fabricated and fiction. Having read a few of Frey's books, I completely disagree. It is obvious his books are "inspired by real life," and this book is most definitely her real life. The pain is palpable as she tries to understand how her parents can claim to be Christians all the while beating her brothers and eventually her. Her parents are Christians in the same way that Michael and Debi Pearl are Christians. They are very much "spare the rod, spoil the child" types who firmly believe that something beyond tough love is necessary to raise good Christians. The Pearls openly discuss using PIPE to beat children and introducing switches for punishment at age 6 months. Not that unlike the parents in this book. What goes on at Escuela Caribe is sick and sad. Scheeres goes into depth about her mistreatment there in the name of Christianity. She is no longer a Christian, but she has a strong relationship with her sister who has since converted to Catholicism. The book is eye opening. As a Catholic, I was appalled at what was being done in the name of religion. Aside from limited knowledge of the Pearls, I am not well educated in this sort of "Christian parenting" as my unbringing was completely different. It moved me to see what I could do to contribute to the closing from Escuela Caribe and other schools like it. This is a painful book, but it is engrossing and quick. I couldn't put it down. I even woke up at 4:00 AM on a Saturday so I could get a good chunk read before my kids woke up. It is a great book that is sure to both break your heart and restore your belief that redemption is real.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    A gift from my dear sister to give me insight into my new home -- Indiana. I haven't met any folk that resemble those depicted in this book yet, but I wonder if I'd recognize them if I did - they seem somewhat caricatured in the book. This is a memoir of a woman whose family adopted two black children, grudgingly, and proceeded to treat them badly and tolerate their poor treatment by everyone around them in rural Indiana, including the author herself. The author loves her adoptive brother, but i A gift from my dear sister to give me insight into my new home -- Indiana. I haven't met any folk that resemble those depicted in this book yet, but I wonder if I'd recognize them if I did - they seem somewhat caricatured in the book. This is a memoir of a woman whose family adopted two black children, grudgingly, and proceeded to treat them badly and tolerate their poor treatment by everyone around them in rural Indiana, including the author herself. The author loves her adoptive brother, but is also embarassed by and ashamed of his blackness, and by the time they get to high school refuses to be seen with him. This makes her less sympathetic to begin with, even though she experiences much that should make you want to sympathize with her. The two are reunited in a camp in the Dominican Republic, where their parents have sent them to suffer for their sins, in hopes of making good Christians out of them (or at least of getting them out of their hair until their old enough to be kicked out of the house). The author's depiction of the growing bond between her and her brother is rendered somewhat incredible by her earlier admission of how she treated him at the high school -- I found myself wondering if she was remembering their relationship the way she wished it had been rather than the way it actually was. By the time I finished the book, I no longer either liked her or believed her version of her life events much. I wonder how the people she describes -- particularly her brother -- would tell their side of the story of growing up with her?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    My 7-year-old son saw me reading this book. Son: Why are you reading a book called Jesus Land? Me: It's a true story, about this girl... Oh, here, read the back. Son (after reading the back of the book): Why are you reading about a girl with a messed up life? Me: I don't know. I have seen this book around, but wasn't sure about committing, and then I saw it at the Friends of the Library book sale -- the one where you can fill a grocery bag with books for $1. My standards get lower when faced with tab My 7-year-old son saw me reading this book. Son: Why are you reading a book called Jesus Land? Me: It's a true story, about this girl... Oh, here, read the back. Son (after reading the back of the book): Why are you reading about a girl with a messed up life? Me: I don't know. I have seen this book around, but wasn't sure about committing, and then I saw it at the Friends of the Library book sale -- the one where you can fill a grocery bag with books for $1. My standards get lower when faced with tables of super cheap books. Jesus Land is a train wreck from which I could not look away. Like The Glass Castle and Running with Scissors, it made me appreciate my so-much-less-dysfunctional childhood. Seriously, Julia Scheeres adolescence was messed up. I don't want to ruin anymore than the back synopsis already does, but her story will punch you in the gut over and over. She admits to some literary creativity to protect identities & make the timeline tighter, but there's support for the validity of her story, regarding both her neglectful/abusive family and the church reform school to which she and her brother were sent. If you need to indulge your voyaristic tendencies, read away.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Good book, although disturbing. After reading Jesus Land, it's hard to believe that folks still insist on taking the Bible as a literal, concrete set of instructions... I mean, in Proverbs alone there are highly offensive passages such as the one often quoted by the 'missionaries' in this book, 'spare the rod, spoil the child' stuff. When will people grasp the Bible as an entire story, a part of God's masterpiece, of which God's amazing Love and His wish for us to love one another as He loves us Good book, although disturbing. After reading Jesus Land, it's hard to believe that folks still insist on taking the Bible as a literal, concrete set of instructions... I mean, in Proverbs alone there are highly offensive passages such as the one often quoted by the 'missionaries' in this book, 'spare the rod, spoil the child' stuff. When will people grasp the Bible as an entire story, a part of God's masterpiece, of which God's amazing Love and His wish for us to love one another as He loves us... is the core. (the Bible should be read as a full piece, not as bits and pieces that we pick out, and certainly the historical context should be considered! I mean we don't follow the instructions about stoning one another for various transgressions any more!) God's kind of Love does not include hatred and cruelty, yet the Bible is used so often to justify people's actions of hatred and cruelty. I loved how Julia and her brother's love for one another was the bond, the strength that got them through their toughest trials. For that Love is what God intended for them to understand and know... that was God's work. (The other 'Christian' stuff in this book... not of God at all). I hope Julia may experience more actual love in her life as she continues to make a difference in the world.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Darnell

    This memoir points out a lot of the problems I have with certain religious types. The author's parents adopt two black children in the name of charity but then proceed to neglect all of their children, trying to substitute their own lack of ability to love with God's love. Things get to a point where the author passively experiences racism, rape and complete subjugation of her free will in a very matter-of-fact and observational way. She's numb to what's happening even as she tells it in her own This memoir points out a lot of the problems I have with certain religious types. The author's parents adopt two black children in the name of charity but then proceed to neglect all of their children, trying to substitute their own lack of ability to love with God's love. Things get to a point where the author passively experiences racism, rape and complete subjugation of her free will in a very matter-of-fact and observational way. She's numb to what's happening even as she tells it in her own memoir. As the story moves from racist Indiana to the Dominican Republic it shows a world where youth ministries are just outlets for the sadistic. In the end, was it Julia's fault? Or David's? Or their parents? Or Jesus? Those kids would've had a better life raised in a secular house. My biggest complaint of the book was the author's detachment from her own events and her inability to act. I found that frustrating. But the incredible epilogue in a way completely washes those complaints away.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Pickering

    Holy cow, I'm really having a problem rating and reviewing this book. I would have to compare it to a car wreck---something horrible and tragic but often we feel compelled to watch. I took this book on a plane with me wanting a simple, easy read. It wasn't difficult in the ability sense but horribly draining in the emotional sense, I still felt a need to finish it. So many horrible things happen to the two main children in this book, (David's story especially broke my heart)***spoiler alert**: e Holy cow, I'm really having a problem rating and reviewing this book. I would have to compare it to a car wreck---something horrible and tragic but often we feel compelled to watch. I took this book on a plane with me wanting a simple, easy read. It wasn't difficult in the ability sense but horribly draining in the emotional sense, I still felt a need to finish it. So many horrible things happen to the two main children in this book, (David's story especially broke my heart)***spoiler alert**: emotional/physical child abuse, incest, cultlike brainwashing, racisim, sexual harrassment, etc. It was so excessive that it almost makes you wonder, did all this really happen? Still, it is possible they did happen thus making this one of the saddest books I've read. The book had a author interview at the end and I was hoping to have read her parents' reaction to the book. I don't know if I could recommend this book to anyone, I would really have to know the reader and currently I don't think any of my friends would like it.

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