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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE TRUTH
I can say with complete and total honesty that it must have taken Julia tremendous amount of courage to write this book. How can I say that? I was also in the school in the Dominican Republic. The horrors, the abuse. It's real. Though I do not know her personally, I know her story from the school all too well. I'm proud that she has taken a stand and shed light on this...
Published on October 25, 2007 by L. Hammersley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Parts
Parts of this book are really good and parts just fall short. The end is too quick and too 'wrapped up'. You cannot create such evil parents, get shipped off to 'school', and then end up living with those parents without some kind of explanation. Scheeres gives none. It changes how you perceive her and the whole book.
Published 19 months ago by Shannon Kelleher


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE TRUTH, October 25, 2007
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
I can say with complete and total honesty that it must have taken Julia tremendous amount of courage to write this book. How can I say that? I was also in the school in the Dominican Republic. The horrors, the abuse. It's real. Though I do not know her personally, I know her story from the school all too well. I'm proud that she has taken a stand and shed light on this horrible place.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutally honest and truly moving, March 25, 2007
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
This is a page-turning memoir that will stay with you long after the last words of the last pages are read. The author writes of her tragic childhood with unbelievably honest prose, resulting in a powerful memoir that leaves the reader speechless. This is a must-read story of family, race, religion, and the bonds of love that hold us all together.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated, December 7, 2008
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
Julia Scheeres' memoir has easily become one of my absolute favorites. The reader should be warned: this book is incredibly painful to read and will leave the reader feeling rancorous for the entire Midwest, every religious fanatic and, inevitably, Julia Scheeres. However, above all else, this is a beautifully chronicled story of the unbreakable bond between her and David-- her brother and best friend-- that ends up being a truly rewarding and life-affirming experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and Deeply Troubling, April 16, 2008
By 
Jay Young (Austin, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
"Jesus Land" by Julia Scheeres is one of those rare books that one can read in a day, given enough free time. It is lucidly written, engaging, and very troubling. Fans of memoirs/biographies will likely enjoy "Jesus Land," though it reads like a novel, so fiction lovers will enjoy it as well.

"Jesus Land" is about Julia growing up in her Christian fundamentalist household in Indiana in the 70s and 80s, and particularly about the relationship she had with her adopted African-American brother, David. The first part of the book focuses on Julia's experiences at home, and the second part on her harrowing stay at Escuela Caribe, a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.

David & Julia are the same age, and so begin high school together. Unfortunately, David is the subject of ceaseless racial taunting, and Julia must keep to herself during the school day to avoid being seen as "the black kid's sister." Yet still, she is seen as an outsider. At home, things are no better. The Scheeres adopted another African-American, Jerome, since they thought that David "would want to play with someone of his own color." Unfortunately, Jerome is highly aggressive, and gets into trouble frequently. The father of the family is abusive, and frequently beats David and Jerome, while Julia is simply scolded. This sets the 2 boys against the white sister. Jerome then begins sexually abusing Julia, perhaps as a way of getting back at the father. The mother is emotionally distant (if not hostile), and resents it whenever the children ask her for something beyond the minimum food, water, shelter, and church that she provides. At their hard-line Calvinist church, Lafayette Christian, they are told lots about sin and repentance, but very little about how to deal with the problems around them. So Julia deals with them in her own way- she siphons liquor and has sex with her new boyfriend, Scott. Eventually, she is caught and sent to Escuela Caribe.

Escuela Caribe is one of the worst places a parent could send a teenager. Everyone there is ranked, from 0 to 5, and must rank up points in categories such as Being Truthful, Being a Helpful and Positive Influence, Respectful to Authority, etc., to move up on the rankings. Only when one reaches level 5 is it possible to go home. The "program" rewards tattling on other people. For example, if a student catches another student cussing, then informs the teachers, then the informing student will get points in the "Being a Helpful and Positive Influence" category, whereas the offending student will be docked in points. Students at the school experience all manner of abuse, and Julia is constantly woken in her sleep to the shrieks of girls with nightmares. Throughout all of this, her one constant is the relationship she has with her brother David. In one particularly touching passage, after David finally learns about Julia's abuse at the hands of Jerome, he slips her a note saying "I know what happened to you is not your fault." In the end, despite all the hardships, Julia and David know that they have formed a bond that could not be broken.

"Jesus Land" is fascinating in so many ways. It is fascinating in its exploration of racism and fundamentalism in the American heartland, the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, and how people can form bonds to overcome bigotry and dogmatism. David, who died in a car crash when he was only 20, was the inspiration for this memoir, and it shows. At the end of every chapter, in italics, there is a tale about David from childhood, giving the reader insight into the character. Despite the grim subject matter, this is not a bombastic, self-pitying memoir (like Jodee Blanco's "Please Stop Laughing At Me"). Scheeres never goads the reader into anger, sadness, or joy, but simply tells the story. And that's what makes it so powerful. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. (See my comment for some links)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Good, So sad...could not put it down., September 7, 2007
By 
K. Jhung (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
I just finished Jesus Land. It is going to take some time for me to recover from this powerful book.
Julia's views of racism, hypocrisy, control, and child abuse are both poignant and disturbing. It was enraging and difficult to read about how her so-called Jesus-loving parents beat both her black brothers in the garage, sparing her until much later.
Her relationship with her adopted brother David is beautiful. It renews my faith in the power of human connection, blood-related or not.
I finished this book in a couple of days. I left it at my doctor's office today, and had to drive to the bookstore to finish the last 2 chapters, because I was dying to know the outcome.
I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reporting Live From Inside Jesus Land, October 14, 2008
By 
Annie (Detroit, Michigan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
This book reduced me to tears at several points, probably because of my several shared experiences with the author. Jesus Land is the well written story of growing up under an oppressive, twisted, and abusive form of religion in America's Heartland. It's the story about how religion can bring out the best and the worst in people -- although mostly the latter is drawn out of the characters in this book.

Scheeres story takes her from the Hoosier State to the Dominican Republic with only one constant in her life: her beloved brother, David, her adopted black brother. Not only is this memoir about the effect abusive religion can have on a young psyche, it's about the bond that develops between two people who go through that experience together.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot to think about, September 19, 2007
By 
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
I spent much more time reflecting on this book than it took to read it.

First, it made mad. Really mad. I wanted to call the White House, the State Department, the Dominican Embassy, the governor of Indiana. I contemplated the 101st Airborne's helicopters flying in low over the hill and liberating the camp by force.

After a while it occurred to me that Scheeres' experience was certainly one of many. How many other children are being abused? How many have been killed in these camps? Is this really different from Chinese or Soviet re-education camps? Does anyone listen to Jesus' words when they read them in the Bible?

In the end, easy to miss that among all the hate, this is a story of the love between a girl and her brother. I rejoice that she escaped to California, got married, and had a baby! I don't think Julia Scheeres and her story will ever leave me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's Not Much Joy in Jesus Land!, December 23, 2009
By 
Giordano Bruno (Here, There, and Everywhere) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
The book "Jesus Land", I mean. I've seldom read a less joyous book. The only real joy to be found in these memoirs of an abysmal childhood is the moment of release, and that comes very near the end of the book. This is a story of physical and emotional abuse, inflicted upon the girl Julia by her own parents and upon the boy David, her 'colored' brother-by adoption. It's not quite a story of survival; obviously Julia will be 'in recovery' all her life and David's recovery is to be cut short at age twenty by a car accident. In fact, the only trace of human value in this story is the abiding loyalty and love between the two victims, Julia and David. And it's sad to think that the people who should read this memoir - not for enjoyment but for epiphany - will almost certainly avoid it at all cost; it ought to be read and discussed by every public school PTA and every adult bible study group in America. Whether the tale is entirely factual, or embellished for literary purposes, or utterly fabricated, I can testify, based on my own adolescence as a 'trailer-trash kid' in rural America, that it's within plausibility. I don't want to endorse it any further. You, dear reader, are wise enough to read reviews so I presume you are smart enough to draw your own conclusions.

Julia's Mother, as portrayed, loves her Saviour far more than she loves any of her three natural children or her two adopted African-American sons. That is, of course, a choice sanctioned by her Dutch calvinist theology, demanded of her by Jesus's own injunctions in the Bible. She also loves her dog more than her daughter, as she screams hysterically when the dog is run over; that choice is not Biblically sanctioned. It would be better if Mother were simply a hypocrite, but she isn't; she's an obdurate believer, and her religion is the core of her life and the governor of her behavior. Unfortunately, she's a loveless, smug, rigid, cruel monstrosity, so hateful that if there were any possibility of such a person being among the Elect, the whole idea of Heaven would be discredited.

Julia's Father may well be a hypocrite, but his state of denial would be far too potent to let him know so. He's a successful man, a well-off surgeon, a workaholic, a man with huge 'anger-management' problems. His self-righteousness is unbounded. He takes some relief from his own sour depression by whipping his two adopted sons with his belt. Once he manages to break one of the boy's arm. When the colored boys are out of reach, his violence tilts toward Julia.

But the worst of Julia's childhood isn't her parents' religious extremism but rather the incessant racism that she confronts along with David. The racist harassment and violence the two kids encounter in their small-town Indiana community is truly heart-breaking. Julia has another grief as well; she's a girl, she's "abused, confused, misused", even by one of her adoptive brothers, and she responds in self-destructive ways.

At age sixteen, David is jettisoned by his pious parents into a Christian-operated reform school, Escuela Caribe. His God-loving Mother scrubs his room with bleach and declares that David is no longer part of the family, though the good Doctor continues to pay for his incarceration. Neither parent so much as tells David that he will never be welcomed back. Julia, however, has resources of rebelliousness; she manages to get sent to the same expensive Christian reformatory, where every detail of the program is excruciating and sadistic. If you've read or seen "Holes", you'll have an idea of Escuela Caribe. Otherwise, think Guantanamo with 'Salvation Radio' on the PA system 24/7. Disgusting as the treatment is, which Julia and David receive from the sincere Christian staff at Escuela Caribe, in a way it's less traumatic than what they'd already undergone in their home and home community.

To me, it seems irrelevant to ask whether this book is well written. It's not an entertainment. It's an accusation, an exposé, and a plea for help. If Julia Scheeres's accusations are just, then a broad swath of self-satisfied Middle American culture is dysfunctional beyond redemption. Or should I capitalize?... beyond Redemption.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars humdinger, this one, October 10, 2009
By 
Caraculiambro (La Mancha and environs) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
I've had some pretty good luck with books lately. I love reading (it's pretty much the only hobby I have these days), but I have to admit: I really really like only about 1 out of every five books I finish. Luckily, this summer I had a great run -- only one dud (Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America): the others were all humdingers.

And this was one of them.

The thing is, I wasn't expecting it to be so good. At least no relatively. It came immediately on the heels of Jeanette Walls' masterful The Glass Castle: A Memoir, after which I pronounced that it was going to be a long, long time before I came across such a shattering memoir. Well, turns out "Jesus Land" is nearly as good.

It's actually two books. The first covers what it was like for the author to grow up in the Midwest with an adopted black brother. The second part covers the time when her morbidly religious parents sent her to a kind of Christian boot camp in the Dominican Republic, the Escuela Caribe. As Sheeres has elsewhere described it, "a dumping ground for rich evangelicals to send their problem kids and be rid of them."

The book had kind of an odd effect on me: I kept wishing my parents had been sinister enough to send me down to the Escuela Caribe, as you got the feeling Julia Scheeres came away with a lot of strength, clarity, and humanity as a result of the experience. I'm almost jealous!

There's something that troubled me about the book, though. As I wrote in an email to the author:

"But perhaps the publication of "Jesus Land" and the concomitant exposure of the EC as a hell-hole has made it easier for them to be evil down there? What I mean is that some parents might not just want their kids to be "improved," but simply hate their kids, want them to suffer, or want to get "revenge" on their kids for whatever reason. Knowing that their children will assuredly suffer down there might actually be a selling point for some parents, swelling the applications and even allowing the EC to increase tuition! By this reasoning, your efforts may actually be helping evil parents to vicariously abuse their children in a more satisfying way.

"The reason I started musing on this was that during your book you talked invariably about how the parents didn't know where they were sending their kids and that they should have done research, that the kids were prevented from writing about what the place was like, etc. But now that the truth is "out there," perhaps it's merely changed the clientele: the only difference now is that most of the parents sending their kids down there are ones who are knowingly, malevolently looking for a hell-hole. By this reasoning, EC would have no problem with your "exposure," since it does nothing to hurt their business and even helps to cement it in a way.

"After all, it's over 4 years since the publication of "Jesus Land," and that place is still going strong. What are your thoughts on this line of reasoning? Do you know of any hardships you have caused the school as a result of your book?"

Alas! Never got an answer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That's life., November 18, 2008
By 
Jazzie (California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus Land: A Memoir (Paperback)
You will not be disappointed with this book; I was glued to it all weekend. I really admire Julia for her honesty and her courage to let the reader into her life. I can't begin to imagine how hard it was to write this memoir.
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Jesus Land: A Memoir
Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres (Paperback - November 1, 2006)
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