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The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah's Witnesses Hardcover – September 7, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Jehovah's Witnesses have something they call "the truth book," Castro says, which lays the groundwork proving theirs is the one, true religion. As a precocious preteen, and though wholly indoctrinated by her fundamentalist family, Castro began asking simple questions regarding the book's claims. Her mother's response, her father's ambivalence, the unapproachable church elders, and ultimately her stepfather's vicious enforcement of the book's truth constitute the framework for her startling memoir of not just an abhorrently dysfunctional family but also a misfiring religious organization. Castro portrays Jehovah's Witnesses as a religion that recognizes all people as equals yet disenfranchises a member for smoking, and as a passionately proselytizing organization that can turn a blind eye to grossly abusive parenting. Her story is, more than merely engaging, downright embracing. The unfolding fates of Castro and her brother as they endure abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care, even though we know they emerged whole and sane, prove utterly gripping. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; First Edition edition (September 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559707879
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559707879
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Lee Amidon Jr. on August 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I thought I knew Joy Castro pretty well. We've worked together for seven or eight years; I've read her frequent submissions to Wabash Magazine, online journals, magazines and newspapers; and I've even sat in on her classes a few times. She is meticulously polite, soft-spoken, and always eager to collaborate on a range of projects to improve education and provide access to it.

I thought I knew her pretty well. Then I read The Truth Book.

Subtitled "Escaping a childhood of abuse among Jehovah's Witnesses," Joy's memoir tells the story of a brutal stepfather who routinely beat her and her brother, Tony. They were denied television, books, and given only tiny portions of food to eat. They were told how to walk, talk, and behave. They wore only second and third-hand clothes. All in the name of Jehovah.

After reading an advance copy of the book, I kept asking myself, "Why isn't she angry? Why didn't she end up on the streets? How could she be such a caring, loving mother to her son when she was denied such basic instincts from her own mother? Why doesn't she show the scars of her abuse?"

But the book isn't just about the abuse Joy and her brother suffered. In many ways, it's a book about hope and will and sacrifice. It's the true story of a young woman with an imagination off the charts, whose love of books and the written word propelled her to a graduate degree in English and a tenured position in the English department at Wabash College; whose unfailing love of her son has no boundaries.

Joy was denied even a scrap of respect as a child. Today she is respectful of others, and quintessentially respected by her colleagues, students, and anyone who has read her work.
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I grew up as a JW as did Ms. Castro, and I happen to share her first name, as my mother thought it a good idea to name me after "one of the fruitages of the spirit" mentioned in the bible. I read Ms. Castro's book in three days, which is unheard of for me. Her writing is very real, giving life and dimension to the all-too-truthful events and people she describes. I was surprised that I did not cry while reading her story, as she does not write in a manner asking for sympathy or pity - she is merely relating events as they occurred in a very eloquent and readable fashion. I grew to like Joy and to view her as a friend, as even though we have never met, we have shared many experiences. I physically cringed at the all-too-familiar tales of beatings at the kingdom hall for the sin of fidgeting in your chair at ages where children should not be expected to sit for more than five minutes at a time. My stomach grew tight at the memory of being forced to sit outside in the hall at school during holiday or birthday celebrations, wishing fervently I could join in and then feeling guilty for my "bad heart condition". The horror described in this book is very real in the lives of countless JW children and wives. If they are not beaten physically, their spirits are still beaten down so that they will never question what they are told to do. I highly applaud Ms. Castro's masterpiece and highly recommend that anyone, former JW or not, enlighten themselves with this very touching account of a very serious subject.
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I'm also a former JW and also stayed up into the wee hours on several nights to ingest, experience and process the complex issues this book brings to the surface for any former JW. It's like a fine Cabernet-let it breathe and swish it around before you internalize.

There is plenty of anti-Witness ammo here if you're looking for it, but I don't believe it belongs on the same playing field with many of the Witness "tell-alls" that are more about the author's anger and revenge. Ms. Castro is simply telling a riveting, compelling story that is deeply credible.

The outrage is palatable. I found my fists were clenched when reading about her stepfather. I don't know if it was her intent or not, but Ms. Castro tied the bullying and abuse and ridiculous habits her stepfather required, to the restrictive, confining--and yes--abusive lifestyle required of the devout JW. Take away the belt and the principles are uncomfortably similar.

She shows tremendous skill in telling the story of why the abused sometimes obey the abuser; defying them will lead to more physical and emotional pain, there will be no support on the "outside," or perhaps they mistakenly believe the abuser is correct when they say they deserve to be mistreated.

On another level, it's an indicment of the Watchtower organization that again shows that in many ways it has become the religion it has criticized in other faiths for so long; leaders more concerned about numbers, statistics, pride and dogma than in helping the weak and helpless in their flock, just like Ms. Castro's stepfather was more concerned about his holy image as a Bethelite until his world crashed around him.
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