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Jesus Land: A Memoir Paperback – October 30, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Revised Edition edition (October 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619020653
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619020658
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Journalist Scheeres offers a frank and compelling portrait of growing up as a white girl with two adopted black brothers in 1970s rural Indiana, and of her later stay with one of them at a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. The book takes its title from a homemade sign that Scheeres and the brother closest to her in age and temperament, David, spot one day on a road in the Hoosier countryside, proclaiming, "This here is: JESUS LAND." And while religion is omnipresent both at their school and in the home of their devout parents, the two rarely find themselves the beneficiaries of anything resembling Christian love. One of the elements that make Scheeres's book so successful is her distanced, uncritical tone in relaying deeply personal and clearly painful events from her life. She powerfully renders episodes like her attempted rape at the hands of three boys, the harsh beatings administered to David by her father and the ceaseless racial taunting by schoolmates; her lack of perceivable malice or vindictiveness prevents readers from feeling coerced into sympathy. The same can be said for Scheeres's description of their Dominican school, where humiliation and physical punishment are meant to redeem the allegedly misguided pupils. Tinged with sadness yet pervaded by a sense of triumph, Scheeres's book is a crisply written and earnest examination of the meaning of family and Christian values, and announces the author as a writer to watch.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In the name of religion, Scheeres and her adopted black brother, David, suffer cruel abuse, first in their Calvinist home in Indiana in the 1970s and then when their surgeon father and missionary-minded mother send the teens to a fundamentalist Dominican Republic reform school that is run like boot camp. The self-righteous sermonizing would be hilarious if it were not the justification for vicious punishment. The racism is open, from the other kids and from authority. Scheeres tries to find comfort in drink and in sex with a classmate ("His heat and his desire they comfort me. I shall not want"). What is unforgettable is the tenderness between sister and brother, as uplifting as any sermon. Their relationship is never sentimentalized: She is ashamed of the times she turns her back on him, tired of being called "nigger-lover . . . the black boy's sister," but they help each other through the worst with horseplay, humor, and courage. The writing is Dickensian in its blend of the tender, the brutal, and the absurd. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

I began reading the book the next day and finished the book that same night.
Gary L. Widerburg
Julia Scheeres shows in this amazing story how her parents chose their beliefs in Jesus Christ over her well being.
Julia Scheeres is a prolific journalist, and her writing experience serves her memoir extremely well.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 142 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Writing in the present tense, Julia Scheeres writes about her ordeal with two abusive parents who hide their virulent hostility behind an obsession with biblical platitudes. They move their three children Julia and her two adopted brothers, both African American, David and Jerome, to a farm house in Indiana where they encounter cruelty and racism at school and just about anywhere out of their home and receive more cruelty--in the name of the biblicial injunction "to not spare the rod"--inside their home as well. But Julia is spared and she feels guilty for being untouched while her black brothers are whipped and beaten. The abuse is also psychological: Christian radio is blurted into their rooms at six in the morning, spy speakers are on 24 hours a day so all conversations can be heard by the mother from any place in the house, they are force-fed with bible verses, they are subjected to tedious farm labor in the hot humid sun. When her two adopted brothers misbehave, which is often, they are beaten and whipped in the basement with belts, two by fours, and other weapons. Their bare backs have welts and scars. Julia tries to defend her brothers but cannot. She takes to drinking as solace from her sadistic parents. Things get worse when her older brother sexually abuses her. Eventually, she and her younger brother David, who are very close and who are at the center of this book, are sent to a Christian boot camp in Latin America, which is so over-the-top cruel and controlling it could be taken from the pages of Kafka's In the Penal Colony. Not only is Scheeres' book a true account; it's a recent one. I would have thought this kind of abuse and mind-control died over a hundred years ago. I guess I was wrong.

Scheeres' prose is lucid, clear, never full of self-pity.
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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When this title showed up in catalogs and library lists, I was drawn to it in the same way a kid keeps picking at a scab. I grew up in a Christian home in the eighties, and I too saw things wholly incongruous with the gospel the Bible teaches. I too have pictures of me and my sister standing next to a trailer, nearly identical to this book's cover--except that I'm blindingly white.

Julia Scheeres writes with chest-torn-open honesty. The book starts with the faintly disturbing strains of religion gone bad and builds to moments that feel entirely Jim Jones-ish. The real power of this lies in her sympathetic telling of family life, particularly the relationship between her and her adopted black brothers. She never candy-coats the racial issues. She tells it the way it is. And, by the end, she creates an ode to the love and bond that can exist despite evil on every side.

In "Jesus Land," the worst crimes of all are done in the name of religion. This is a crime repeated over and over through the ages, but here it's given a personal feel. The very gospel that Julia's and David's parents and teachers tried to force down their throats is a gospel that speaks against hate and lies and hypocrisy. If Jesus were to walk the grounds of Escuela Caribe, you can imagine him kicking over tables and throwing out the moneychangers.

This book will raise the hackles of those still locked in religious la-la-land, but it should be read by all as a bracing reminder of all that is good and all that is not behind the closed doors of American homes and churches. If Jesus were present in these situations, I think he would be heart-broken and ashamed. Unfortunately, I don't think he is present in most of the activities that bear his name. And without Julia's sort of honesty, we will only continue to perpetuate the worst crimes of all.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By ubermensch on May 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jesus Land is a very powerful and very personal story. No matter what your upbringing was like or how prominent organized religion has been in your life, there is a lot to absorb from this memoir. The issues raised in this book should be familiar to everyone (e.g. a dysfunctional family that seems to have it all, the tyranny of conformity, mistaking individualism for disobedience, unqualified authority figures who rule through fear and violence, misplaced ideals that lead to the suffering of others), but, fewer people have had to live with so many of them in such a short span of time.

As I was reading Jesus Land, I couldn't help thinking that this book ought to be part of a high school or college curriculum. It isn't often that you find such concise writing and vivid descriptions in a first-person account of life surrounded by racism, fanaticism, and injustice in the name of God. In addition, the present tense is used throughout the book to relate the events as they occur to a young girl during her teenage years and includes enough teenager-appropriate dialogue and asides to make you think that Julia either has an incredibly detailed diary or a razor-sharp memory. The narrative's effect is entirely transporting and allows you to understand what life was like in a God-fearing, rural Indiana home and in a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.

Julia Scheeres is a prolific journalist, and her writing experience serves her memoir extremely well. This book is dedicated to her brother, David, but for the rest of us, it is a mesmerizing tale of how religion can move some people to act in ways that degrade and dehumanize the lives of others.
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