Jesus Land: A Memoir

( 60 )

Overview


Julia and her adopted brother, David, are sixteen-years-old. Julia is white. David is black. It is the mid-1980s and their family has just moved to rural Indiana, a landscape of cottonwood trees, trailer parks, and an all-encompassing racism. At home are a distant mother—more involved with her church’s missionaries than her own children—and a violent father. In this riveting and heartrending memoir Julia Scheeres takes us from the Midwest to a place beyond imagining: surrounded by natural beauty, the Escuela ...
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Overview


Julia and her adopted brother, David, are sixteen-years-old. Julia is white. David is black. It is the mid-1980s and their family has just moved to rural Indiana, a landscape of cottonwood trees, trailer parks, and an all-encompassing racism. At home are a distant mother—more involved with her church’s missionaries than her own children—and a violent father. In this riveting and heartrending memoir Julia Scheeres takes us from the Midwest to a place beyond imagining: surrounded by natural beauty, the Escuela Caribe—a religious reform school in the Dominican Republic—is characterized by a disciplinary regime that extracts repentance from its students by any means necessary. Julia and David strive to make it through these ordeals and their tale is relayed here with startling immediacy, extreme candor, and wry humor.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"Sinners go to: HELL. Rightchuss go to: HEAVEN. The end is neer: REPENT. This here is: JESUS LAND." As a teenager, Julia Scheeres resided in a region of stark polarities. With her adopted black brothers, David and Jerome, she tried to survive in a rural Indiana community where messages of salvation and racism seemed to carry equal weight. When the misfit children seem to have lost the beat of heaven's drum, two of them were dispatched to Escuela Caribe, an unforgiving Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. Julia Scheeres' memoir of her childhood belongs on your shelves with the works of Mary Karr, Augusten Burroughs, and Dave Eggers.
Alison Smith
As the story gains momentum, it becomes clear that Scheeres is driven by two things: the fierce love she feels for her brother and the rising anger she experiences as she witnesses the injustices he endures. There is much praise, these days, for the detached, quietly elegant narrative. But there is little mention of the power a well-tended rage can bring to a good story. It is Scheeres's high emotion and her tight control of her narrative within that emotion that is most striking. Her anger serves her well: it is focused, justified and without a trace of self-pity.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
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. Agent, Sam Stoloff. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Nola Theiss
This memoir of a sister and brother's close relationship growing up in a Calvinist family in rural Indiana in the mid ‘80s is not for the faint of heart. Julia is white and David is one of her two adopted black brothers. When the book begins, she and David were both 16; they were inseparable since they were three. Her parents were viewed as religious and kind when they adopted two unwanted children in addition to raising their own four children. In reality, their doctor father was distant and cold and enjoyed beating his black sons. Their mother showed none of her children affection and was miserable except when she was at church. Their older adopted brother molested Julia from the time she was very young. Eventually Julia sought out alcohol and promiscuity as an escape, while David kept believing that his family and everything else would turn out all right. After their father broke David's arm while punishing him, they decided to send him to Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic, and Julia soon followed. The trials they faced at the reform school were harrowing. The one constant in this story is the true bond David and Julia shared throughout. There are many graphic scenes of promiscuous teenage sex and other acts of rebellion as well as cruelty by the parents and "counselors" at the reform school, but the story is told with such honesty that it is a compelling read.
Library Journal
In her first book, journalist Scheeres tells what it was like growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family in rural Indiana with two adopted African American brothers. She deftly exposes the disparity between her parents' religious beliefs and their actions, showing that her cold, distant, and temperamental mother invested more interest and emotion in missionaries than in her children and that her father meted out severe punishments for the boys while only lightly punishing his daughter. Scheeres suffered estrangement and teasing by classmates for being the sister of the only two African American boys in the school and confesses with honesty and emotion her guilt and shame at abandoning her little brother in her search for acceptance. Despite the many trying situations in which she found herself, including being imprisoned on a Caribbean island at a fundamentalist Christian reform school, Scheeres's constant love for her younger brother and their childhood dream of moving to Florida pulled her through. This work will force readers to relive the angst of being a teenager at a new school and desperately trying to fit in. Highly recommended.-Mark Alan Williams, Library of Congress Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The road out of an intolerant small town leads straight to a faith-based reform school in journalist Scheeres's scarifying memoir. When she was 16, her fundamentalist Christian parents moved the author and her two adopted, African-American brothers to a Midwest farming community that they immediately discovered was a little patch of racist attitudes. Seventeen-year-old Jerome stole the family car and made his escape, but not for long. After his return, he repeatedly raped Scheeres, noting that he wasn't really her brother. Jerome was himself abused by their parents: Mother had enthusiasm only for God's works, not for children; Dad was a sadist who once broke the arm of son David with a two-by-four. When David tried to commit suicide, Mother's response was, "Why can't I just have one day of peace?" Pretty soon Scheeres was finding that a splash of Southern Comfort in the morning went a long way toward making bearable a day that began with the house-wide intercom system blaring Christian radio and typically ended with some motherly snideness (on a good day) or a fatherly beating (on a bad day). The only bright spot was the affection between the author and David, her best friend and angel. It helped the two endure after they were shipped off to reform school in the Dominican Republic. Run by members of their parents' faith, Escuela Caribe was a place of petty cruelty, but at least the tribulations of being a new kid in a close-knit school was better than the torments of life at home. Forget redemption: Think survival, and marvel at how Scheeres kept sadness and fear at bay while battling hormones and small-mindedness so small it's hard for the reader to detect anything in her mother orfather that might be considered a mind at all. A bristly summoning of unpretty events, conveyed with remarkable placidity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781619020658
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 406,976
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


JULIA SCHEERES has a B.A. in Spanish and an M.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times and Wired, and has twice been a finalist for journalism awards presented by the USC Annenberg School for Communication. She is also the author of A Thousand Lives. Scheeres lives in San Francisco, California.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Part 1 In God We Trust

1 The Heartland 3

2 Friends & Neighbors 21

3 Education 41

4 Home 61

5 Body Parts 89

6 Virginity 115

7 Sharp Objects 139

8 Freedom 157

Part 2 Trust No One

9 The Island 169

10 The Program 193

11 Dead Babies 211

12 New Girl 233

13 Pro-Gress 255

14 Rapture 267

15 Agua De Coco 285

16 The Pastor 313

17 Turkey 327

18 Florida 339

Epilogue 349

Afterword 357

Acknowledgments 363

An Interview Julia Scheeres 365

Reading Guide 371

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 60 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(40)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful Read - Perfect for Book Clubs

    Jesusland was an extremely engrossing read from start to finish. The story was told with effortless thought and detail and put me through the gamut of emotions.

    We read this for our book club of 6 women and they ALL loved it. So far the best book we've read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2006

    How would Jesus feel about Jesus Land?

    An absorbing personal story, however, I think the reader would be likely to walk away with a bad feeling toward Christianity. The author's parents were hypocrites of the worst kind, it hurt me to read about them. As a Christian, I could not help but think of how Jesus would have responded to her situation. Jesus stopped the religious leaders of his day from throwing stones at a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), while Julia feared her father's abuse once he found she was having sex with her boyfriend. Although I go to church, I do not believe in religion as her parents did, I believe in God, and I believe he is a God full of compassion and mercy. Being a Christian is having a relationship with Christ and trying to be like him. Being religious is doing 'good things' to get to heaven. The camp that she went to was also horrible and abusive. On Julia Scheers' website, I found the testimonies of other teens who went to the Escuela Caribe, and I agreed with one girl who called the program a cult. 'It would be considered a cult by both secular and Christian means. It distorts the Bible greatly, and uses mind control and deception to form its own society. They manipulate the parents and they manipulate the minds and hearts of their students. `The program ¿ did not help me one bit. GOD helped me in spite of what the program did to me. I feel, looking back, I can see the face of God in those magnificent Dominican Sunsets and think `God is NOT who these people say he is, God is who He says he is¿'

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    Agree with everyone else...

    I read this book years ago and I've never been able to forget it. I couldn't put it down either and remember just being so angry at...humanity! I have recommended it to friends and will continue to do so.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2012

    Mindblowing

    This was the first book in a LONG time I couldn't stop reading. The author did a great job at putting me in the story. I'm still thinking about it now.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    Very good book! I would recommend it to my friends.

    Very good book! I would recommend it to my friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2011

    Great!

    I really liked this book. It was very realistic and well written!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2009

    Jesus Land, Devil Domain

    Brutally, shockingly, depressingly, spellbindingly, frank. Definitely a can't-put-down-till-you're-done tale. Do not read if you can't bear to come face-to-face with your own prejudices, or if you think religion is the righteous path to enlightenment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2009

    one of my very favorite books

    this is such a touching story. it is one of those books that stay with you forever.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    WOW

    I don't have much else to say except wow. I read this book in one day on the beach in Hawaii during my family vacation. I was so obsessed with it I couldnt set it down for more than five minutes at a time. MUST READ!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Loved it

    I read it in a day. It is one book you can't put down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 21, 2009

    kudos

    it is adequatly written! this book is a great tribute the book's brother(though not her real one by birth but definitely by heart)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2009

    Jesus Land

    Jesus land is a book you can't put down once you start reading it. The book tells how much tension can go upon a family for doing a good deed and how much rejection they receive for it. If you like non fiction books of someones life time you would really like this one. You will be shocked at what their family goes through!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2008

    A Favorite

    My Favorite book of all time! Julia Scheeres almost made me cry. While reading the story it was like, 'why would somebody sexually abuse a little girl like that? Not just her, but also the adopted brothers. It was wrong for the parents to severely punish the two black brothers, and not pertain to any harm with their biological white daughter. It was also sad that David and his brother were the the only black people in town, and had to deal with the racial ambiguities around them. It's very warmhearted though, when Julia loved David despite his color and/or race. She is physically and mentally closer to David than everyone else, and vice versa for David. The book cover is really cute for the paperback and the hardcover.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    This is a book that is hard to put down even when your eyelids are shutting on their own from sleepiness. I find it amazing what the author and her brother go througha and I find it even more amazing that they were subjected to all of the abuse in the name of religion. Buy this book and lend it out to everyone!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2008

    Very, Very, Good.......

    This was truly hard to put down. Excellent book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    Excellent!

    I love Great books 'not just good books' and this is really a great book! I read it in 2 days!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book was amazing. I too finished it in a couple days. I felt a multitude of emotions seething through me as Julia told her and her brothers story. Hatered, despair, humility, etc. Many times I wanted to throw the book across the room because I was so frustrated and upset. I definitely cried at the end. They were both such strong individuals. It is hard to believe that that type of racism was still at large even in the 80s. I wasnt born until later on in the 80s so I didnt know. 'I am aware that it also exists in some areas today,but I dont believe it is as prevalent as in previous decades.' Both of them were wise beyond their years. I am horrified to learn that a place such as Escuela Caribe still exists and that parents still send their kids there. That school did so much more harm than good. Make a point to visit Julia's website and the Escuela Caribe Alumni Website.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2007

    Excellent Read!

    I couldn't put this book down! This book is definitley a page turner! And i tend to be a rather hard critic, but this book earned five stars. The author did a fabulous job of bringing the reader into her world and David's world and unmasking the abuse they both suffered. I highly recommend!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is amazing. I went to the same high school as Scheeres and the reality of this memoir is grippingly true and painful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2007

    A reviewer

    I can't believe that a mother could treat her own children like they don't even exist! They should have just donated money to the orphanages instead of mentally and physically abusing the 2 boys! This book really got my heart pumping! I don't know who I felt more sorry for, Julia or David. The reform school they went to is a joke. I can't believe parents would send their children to a place like that. I learned a lot from this book and I highly recommend it!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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