Jesus Land: A Memoir

Jesus Land: A Memoir

by Julia Scheeres

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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.

Product Details

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

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

THE HEARTLAND

It's just after three o'clock when we hit County Road 50. The temperature has swelled past ninety and the sun scorches our backs as we swerve our bikes around pools of bubbling tar.

A quarter of a mile downwind from Hanke's Dairy, the stench of cow shit slams up our noses, and we rise in unison, stomping on the pedals and gasping toward the cornfield on the other side.

It's been two weeks since we moved to the country, and this is our first foray into the wilderness beyond our backyard. Our destination is a cemetery we spotted during a drive last Sunday that Mother insisted on taking after church. While David and I sat in the back of the van glaring out opposite windows, she coasted down dirt lanes, chattering about edible corn fungus, pig manure fertilizer, and other gruesome factoids she'd gleaned from her recent subscription to Country Living magazine.

David nudged me when we drove by the graveyard. It was set back from the road a bit, filled with brambles and surrounded by one of those pointy black fences that circle haunted houses in children's books, usually with a large KEEP OUT sign on the gate. This fence bore no such sign. We looked at the tombstones jutting sideways from the ground like crooked teeth, and knew we had to return.

We have a thing for bone yards, as we do for all things death-related. It's part of our religion, the topic of countless sermons: Where will YOU spend ETERNITY? THE AFTERLIFE: Endless BLISS or Endless TORTURE? We are haunted by these questions. If we die tomorrow, will we join the choir of angels or slow roast in Hell? We're not sure of the answer. So we are drawn to graveyards, where we can be close to the dead and ponder their fate as well as our own.

Once we pass Hanke's Dairy, we sit back down onto our bike seats. Along the length of the cornfield, a series of plywood squares nailed to stakes bear a hand-scrawled message:

Sinners go to: HELL

Rightchuss go to: HEAVEN

The end is neer: REPENT

This here is: JESUS LAND

You see such signs posted throughout the countryside: farmers using the extra snippet of land between their property and the road to advertise Jesus Christ. Mother approves. She says the best thing you can do in life is die for Jesus Christ as a missionary martyr, but posting signs by the side of the road can't hurt either.

"Anything to spread the Good News," she says.

It was her idea to move to the country. She grew up in rural South Dakota and had been threatening to drag us back to the boonies for years. Dad finally caved in. His drive to Lafayette Surgical Clinic, where he's a surgeon, is half an hour longer, but now he's also gotten into the country act, donning his new overalls to drive his new tractor around our fifteen acres.

Our three older siblings escaped this upheaval by leaving for college, so that leaves my parents, my two adopted black brothers, and me.

Jerome, our seventeen-year-old brother, hightailed it out of this 4-H fairground a few nights after we landed. He got into a fight with Dad, stole the keys to the Corolla, and drove off. Hasn't been seen or heard from since, which is fine by me, since Jerome is nothing but trouble anyhow.

So basically it's me and David, our ten-speeds, and the open road. And while the country graveyard is puny compared to the one by our old house — Grand View Cemetery, which we visited often in search of fresh graves — it still contains dead people, and that's what interests us.

It takes us five minutes to pedal past the cornstalks, standing higher than a man's head, to a cluster of double-wide trailers on the other side. They're anchored in a half circle, with an assortment of plastic flamingos and gutted vehicles strewn on the bald clay before them. The irritating twang of country music leaks from the trailer nearest the road, and as we sail by, a heap of orange cats lounging in the engine compartment of a rusted station wagon scatters into the dry weeds.

I curse myself for wearing a dark T-shirt in this booming heat. We haven't seen another human since we walked outside and would have stayed indoors ourselves if boredom hadn't driven us into the farmland.

"Watch for heatstroke," Mother, a nurse, warned us before we left. "If you get cramps or diarrhea or start to hallucinate, walk your bikes."

Sweat drips into my eyes, warping the landscape, and I lift my T-shirt to wipe my face, flashing my bra at the empty world. Ahead of me, David rides shirtless, his scrawny torso gleaming like melting chocolate. He's draped his T-shirt over his head and tied it under his chin like a bonnet. Like a girl. As if he didn't look dorky enough with those black athletic glasses belted to his head with that elastic band. If anyone from Harrison sees us, we're doomed.

William Henry Harrison is our new school; Hick High, the townspeople call it. There will be 362 people in our class, compared to twelve at Lafayette Christian, our old school, and we don't know a single one of them. These are farm kids who've known each other since they were knee-high to a rooster, kids who've probably never seen a real live black person before. Kids who worry us a lot.

I stand up and stomp on my bike pedals, trying to catch up with David and tell him to put his shirt back on, but he's on his second wind and flying over the crumbling pavement at enormous speeds. I yell at him and he rolls to a stop in the shade of an oak tree, turns and grins as I glide up beside him. I stand over my bike, panting, and point at his head.

"What's up with that?"

"Keeps the sweat outta my eyes."

"Looks queer."

He shrugs and pushes his glasses up his nose.

"Come on, take it off. Someone might see you."

"So?"

"Do you want people to think you're some kind of weirdo?"

He shrugs again and stares across the road at a herd of cows trying to cram themselves into the shade of a small crabapple tree. His jaw is set; once David's brain has clamped onto a notion, there's no unclamping it.

I shake my head and reach into the grocery sack strapped to his bike frame for a can of strawberry pop. When I yank off the metal tab, warm red froth bubbles over my fingers.

"Gosh darn it!"

I hand the can to David.

"Go on and drink your half."

We're saving the other can for the graveyard. I lick the sugar from my fingers and watch a cow, this one with a black body and white face, plod after the shadow of a small cloud that drifts across the pasture. When the shadow slips over the fence, the cow halts, lifts its tail, and spills a brown torrent onto the ground. I wrinkle my nose and turn to David.

"Remember when we used to ride to Kingston pool to swim every day?"

He stops drinking and peers at me sideways. His face is dry while mine drips sweat; maybe there's something to his bonnet notion after all.

"'Course I remember, dufus. That was just last summer."

"Point is, we never knew how good we had it, compared to this." I swipe my arm across the landscape: corn, cows, barns. More corn.

"Could be worse," David says, giving me the pop can.

"How's that?"

"We could be dead."

"Well, yes. But this has gotta be the next best thing."

He snorts, and I drain the can and drop it back into the sack.

We push off and are just gaining momentum when a long red car with a jacked-up rear end barrels around the corner ahead of us. It races in our direction, the thrum of the motor getting louder and faster. Suddenly, it lurches into our lane.

We swerve down a small embankment into a cornfield, crashing hard into the bony stalks and paper leaves. The car blurs by amid hoots of laughter.

David untangles himself from his bike and offers me a hand up. I charge up the embankment to the road.

"Stupid hicks!" I scream after the car, as it evaporates into the horizon. "Frickin' hillbillies!"

David walks over to stand beside me.

"They must be bored too," he says. He shakes his head at the blank horizon and reties his bonnet. He always takes things calmer than I do.

We've seen the country kids before as we've traveled back and forth to town for church or supplies. We've seen them slouched against pickup trucks, sharing round tins of spit tobacco. Lounging on plastic chairs in front yards, watching cars go by. Maneuvering giant machines through the fields, their bodies dwarfed by metal.

They are alien to us, as we must be to them.

So much for the famous "Hoosier hospitality." When we moved to our new house, no one stopped by with strawberry rhubarb pie or warm wishes. Our neighbors must have taken one look at David and Jerome and locked their doors — and minds — against us.

David and I shove back onto County Road 50, determined not to waste our journey. We clear a small rise and spot the cemetery a quarter mile ahead.

"Race you!" David shouts.

We crouch behind our handlebars, and David gets there first, as always. We lean our bikes against the fence, which is coated with a fine layer of orange rust, and walk around to the gate. It creaks as I push it open. David rushes past me to a gray block of marble just inside the fence that is roped with briars. He tramples down the vines and squats before it.

"Here lies Mabel Rose Creely," he reads as I peer over his shoulder. "Born April 18, 1837, dyed November 9, 1870."

He looks up at me with a smug grin.

"They spelled 'died' wrong."

"Like, duh."

I pick my way through the brambles and crooked tombstones to a large tablet set off by itself in a corner and tap it with my shoe to flake off the mud plastering its surface.

"Check it out!" I call to David. "Enus Godlove Phelon! He's got your same birthday, June 2, 1851! Died October something ... I can't make it out."

"What's that name again?"

"Enus Godlove Phelon."

"Anus?"

"No, Enus! With an 'E.'"

"What kinda name is that?"

"A redneck name, for sure!"

We snicker and kick about for more stones. As I crouch to read them, I try to put the car out of my head and focus on the dead people beneath our feet. This is serious business, and I've got serious questions.

First, there's the appearance of the folks in the boxes. Do maggots fester in their eye holes like in horror movies, or do they stay pickled like the frogs in Biology class? David thinks it takes about two hundred years for a person pumped full of formaldehyde to turn into a skeleton, but I'm not so sure ...

Then there's the Afterlife question. Where is the soul of the person I'm standing on right now — Heaven or Hell? Were they satisfied with their lives, or did they want more? If they could go back and do it all over again, what would they change? Is Heaven all it's cracked up to be?

As I'm contemplating all this, I detect a movement out of the corner of my eye and raise my head. The red car. It prowls noiselessly along the cemetery's edge and rolls to a stop beside our bikes. I look at David, who's bent over a marble cross, cracking up over some dead woman named "Bessie Lou."

"David."

"... better name for a cow, don't you think?"

"David, stop it!"

His head shoots up at the alarm in my voice, and he follows my gaze to the car — four white bodies emerge from its interior — before standing to untie his T-shirt and slip it over his narrow shoulders.

They're farm boys, our age. Bare-chested and wearing cutoff jeans and baseball caps. You can tell they're farmers by their sunburns: Their faces, necks, and arms are crimson but their torsos are pasty, as if they're wearing white T-shirts. If you looked up "redneck" in the dictionary, they'd be there to illustrate, and I'd say as much to David if they weren't marching toward us with tight faces.

They halt in a row behind the fence. I glance at David. Behind his smudged glasses, his eyes are wide with fear.

"Whatch y'all doing?" the tallest one asks as a cow moos in the distance. He takes off his Caterpillar cap and fans his face with it.

"Just looking!" I say breezily, as if this was Montgomery Ward's and these boys were salesmen come to check on us.

"This here's the final resting place of my great-great-grand-daddy!" yells a boy with a Snap-On Tools cap.

The tallest boy tugs a piece of field grass from the ground and sticks the end in his mouth. He chews it slowly and saws his eyes back and forth between David and me.

David's mouth is gaping. I step between him and the farm boys, still grinning.

"We just moved out here from town and ..."

"Obviously y'alls ain't from around here, else you wouldn't be in there," says a third boy — this one in an International Harvester cap.

The runt of the litter, an acne-scarred boy in a Budweiser hat, grabs the fence in his fists and shakes it violently, rattling our bikes. Behind the tall iron grate, his stumpy body heaving back and forth in anger, he looks like a caged monkey having a tantrum.

"This here's an American cemetery!" he shouts. "Only Americans are allowed in there! It's the law!"

I take a deep breath and look back at David, who's now gaping at the trampled brambles at his feet. Close your mouth.

"That's fine," I say, shrugging. "We'll just leave, then."

I move toward the gate, and the human fence behind it, listening for the rustle of David's footsteps at my back. Move.

"What's wrong with blacky?" the runt asks. "Cat got his tongue?"

He lifts his Bud cap and orange hair falls to his neck. I ignore him, keeping my eyes on the road beyond him, the road that will lead us to safety. He moves aside at the last moment to let me push open the gate. I'm on a hair trigger. If they so much as breathe on us, I'll bloody their eardrums with my screams. I stop and wait for David to walk through the gate, then follow him to our bikes.

The farmers are at our heels.

"That darkie your boyfriend?" one of them asks to a burst of snickers. I pull my bike upright and wheel it forward so David can get his.

"No, he's my brother."

They crowd around us.

"What, your momma git knocked up by some Detroit nigger?"

There's a shuffle of dirty laughter and the runt leans forward, his pimpled jaw working up and down. He hawks a glob of chew into the dirt, narrowly missing David's sneakers. I glare at him and he throws his shoulders back and grins proudly, a string of spittle stretching from his pink face to the dust. David contemplates the lump of brown slime at his feet with knitted eyebrows, as if it were the saddest thing he'd ever seen. Don't you freeze up on me. Don't!

"Let's go," I order David, elbowing him in the ribs.

"Yeah, you'd best skedaddle," the tall one says.

As we mount our bikes, they watch with crossed arms and slit eyes. We've got enough fear ricocheting through us to propel ourselves all the way home without stopping. We ride in silence, cringing and waiting for the gunning motor, the flash of red behind us.

Only when we bump down the gravel lane to our house do I notice the trembling cottonwoods, the frenzied chirruping of sparrows, the dirt devils churning across the back field. On the horizon, heat lightning dances along a column of towering thunderheads. The air is suddenly sweet and cool, refreshing. It's perfect weather for a tornado.

Down in the basement, I fling myself belly-down on the cot and stare out the window at the trees pawing the green air. David's out there somewhere, walking Lecka before supper.

Neither of us uttered a word about what happened. We never do. But I can't smudge it from my mind. The farm boys' sneering red faces. The runt shaking the fence. The brown lump of spit tobacco. The anguish in David's eyes. They don't know the first thing about us; they just hate us because we're black.

The first time I felt surrounded by such hate was in 1977, when we were ten. We were driving down to St. Simons Island, Georgia, for vacation and stopped at a roadside diner in Birmingham for supper. David and I were cranky with hunger because we'd stuffed the liverwurst and lettuce sandwiches Mother passed out for lunch under our seat cushions in the van.

Dad led us to a round table at the back of the restaurant that was big enough for the eight of us, then David and I busied ourselves with the game on our placemats as we waited for the waitress to take our order. This was in our dill pickle stage, and while we looked for animals hidden in a jungle on our placemats, we debated whether to share a side of the crunchy sour disks or order a bowl each. We knew Mother's rule: We had to finish whatever we ordered, or eat it for breakfast the next day. We decided breakfast pickles wouldn't be half bad and to order a side each.

After a while, we noticed a silence and looked up. Our parents and older siblings — Deb, Dan, Laura, and Jerome — sat like statues, and beyond this familiar circle, the other diners glared at us with disgust stamped on their faces.

I was used to the curious looks and occasional frowns David and I gathered as we walked down the streets of Lafayette — I assumed people were as perplexed by my brother's skin color as I was when I first saw him — but I'd never seen anything akin to the contempt reflected in the eyes of those Alabama folks.

Mother gazed down at her place setting with a clenched jaw, and my father's cheeks burned red as he watched the waitress refill the coffee cups of the patrons at surrounding tables. David and I put down our crayons and focused on our parents, waiting for them to show us what to do.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Jesus Land"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Julia Scheeres.
Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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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Jesus Land 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
SVS More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book! I would recommend it to my friends.
Gwen Friesen More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It was very realistic and well written!
123skidoo More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this is such a touching story. it is one of those books that stay with you forever.
SunshineNat More than 1 year ago
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!
paulkid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Spare the rod and spoil the child? Seriously. This book is a great example of why it might be a bad idea to use the bible literally (or at all) when raising your kids. But I guess we knew that already. Still, if you like reading about screwed up childhoods like I do, then this is a good read for you. Or, If you're feeling like an inadequate parent, then reading this book may actually cheer you up a little, but not much.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Memoirs by people who had screwed-up childhoods are a guilty pleasure of mine, so it's hard for me to dislike "Jesus Land." Even so, Scheeres book has considerably less literary heft than say, entries in this genre from Mary Karr or Jeanette Walls. Still, "Jesus Land" is compulsively readable and often heartbreakingly sad, and it provides readers with a clear and disturbing picture of life inside Christian-themed teen recovery centers where Guantanamo-level abuses take place as a matter of course. While I'd read a few magazine articles about these sorts of teen camps, the details Scheeres provided still had the power to shock. Scheeres book also serves as an effective memorial for her brother, for whom she obviously felt a deep and abiding love. As a reader, I'm glad that she was able to get "Jesus Land" published. At the same time, there's a lot missing from Scheeres's story that might have made this a better, more insightful book. We see only a few glimpses of her father, and her older brothers and sisters are missing from this story almost entirely. Also, while Scheeres has since abandoned the faith in which she was raised, and one really can't blame her for doing so, she doesn't spend that much time explaining or critiquing it. As a former Catholic personally unfamiliar with American evangelism, some context might have been helpful. While I read "Jesus Land, I often wondered if her parents' religious values might have partly responsible for their awful parenting decisions, but Scheeres doesn't really delve in to this and lets their treatment of her more or less speak for itself. Her treatment of the racism her she and her brother suffer is similarly limited. While she makes astute observations about the racial dynamic within her own family, Scheeres doesn't spend much time trying to tie her experiences in to a larger narrative about race or explaining its deeper psychological or cultural motivations. It's possible that these criticisms are beside the point since this is, after all, an intensely personal book, and, in an interview included in my edition, Scheeres admits that she wrote it from the point of view of the teenager she used to be. Scheeres choice of viewpoint gives "Jesus Land" a certain immediacy; her descriptions of her sexual awakening are thrillingly explicit and powerful and provide a welcome and surprising counterpoint to the awful sexual violence found elsewhere in her memoir. At the same time, it often seems to limit her book thematically. She spends a surprising amount of time revisiting typical adolescent experiences that are not unique to her. I'd recommend this for fellow fans midlife memoirs, but other readers should probably start elsewhere.
megrockstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was written so eloquently it was hard to put down. The voice of the young girl just made you think she was right in front of you. Laughter at time and so sad at other times make this woman's life and memoir a fast read. I read primarily memoirs and this is definitely one of my favorites. The epilogue made me gasp!
artistlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up this ALA Alex Award Winner because I am fond of memoirs; I like to know how other people live. In her story, Julia's white Christian parents adopt two black boys, Jerome and David, seeing their attempt at a multiracial family in mid 80s Indiana as a test from God. Their dad is an absent father, a doctor, who sees fit to physically punish the boys. Their mom is more interested in the lives of Christian missionaries and doing the church's good than learning how her children's day at school went. Eventually, due to "bad behavior," (Julia will tell you the details), David and then Julia get shipped off to a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. It proves to be a dumping ground for teenagers whose parents were more devoted to God than loving and raising their children. Julia and David begin by surviving racist Indiana together. They then rely on one another again at Escuela Caribe, determined to get by and get out. It's a simply written tale of sibling love and necessity. A true testament to our own fallacies as human beings as well as our strengths and triumphs.
swl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Critiquing a memoir is difficult, because it's hard not to consider the life lived as well as how it's presented when evaluating it. In that light the second half of the book is more engaging than the first. I'm only a few years older than JS, so the midwestern hick world she describes is somewhat familiar and depressing. But I certainly never went to Christian reform school and found that part of the story gripping.The big story, of course, is composed of racism, religious fanaticism, and family dynamics - topics which will never go out of style. If this was a novel, maybe there would be a way to have a really satisfying retribution scene against any or all of these evils. In memoirs, it seems that the narrator's usual revenge is limited to merely living well. And this is as it should be - I don't know if dramatic smiting of enemies is a therapeutically useful reaction - but it does make for a possibly-less-satisfying read.My son's English teacher considers readers like me to be "plot junkies", and that may be true. If what you ask from your book is a thoughtful revealing of humanity and its lessons, then this may be a 5-star book. Lowbrow that I am, I found it just a bit unsatisfying.
chersbookitlist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a story! How this woman survived to tell about what happened to her is amazing. I have read no better book exposing the hypocrisy of rigid Christian fundamentalism, and its divergence from the true teachings of Jesus. This one is all the better because of the visceral and painful personal tragedy that unfolds for this woman in her family of origin.
midlevelbureaucrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Riveting. Heart breaking. Shocking. Difficult to put down. Very different from what I thought it would be, but a wonderful memoir of a 16 year old girl and her brother, revealing the unseemly underside of evangelical Christianity, racism, and parenting. Don't miss the chance to read this one.
Lexicographer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Julia Scheers has written a heartbreaking memoir about her childhood in a ultra-religious, racially-mixed family in 1980s Indiana. Mostly, though, what she has written is a testament to her adopted brother David, an explanation of her experience of their shared yet deeply disparate childhoods and a heart-felt account of her love for him. The book is shocking and horrific, but also deeply human, in its reminder of how much love can matter even in the most torturous of circumstances.
whoot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A riveting, if disturbing, book. Couldn't put it down, but I was never sure if it was because I was so appalled or because I still held out hope that something would get better or someone would help. The amount of abuse and racism that occurs under the guise of Christianity is unbelievable!!! This reminded me a lot of Glass Castle - two lives where the parents are crazy and out of control but the children prove resilient. It would be fascinating to know more about Scheere's journey after this segment of her life - recovering from these incidents could not have been trivial!!
autumnesf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A memoir on interracial adoption, child abuse and fanatical religion. Not easy subject matter but very well written. I couldn't put it down.
misfev on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down. It was definately a page turner. But it was also like watching a train wreck. You couldn't wait to read the next page, but yet you were almost afraid too. This book was unfortunately a memoir about a girl and her adopted black brother. The family moves to Indiana in the 80's, which incredibly is still rife with racism. Their mother is a psycho, and dad is violent. Especially to the adopted black brothers. It goes from the midwest to a real religious reform school in the Dominican Republic. It is also full of dark humor, which I love.
coolmama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking, shocking, could not stop reading it.WOW is all I can say.Julia's memoir to her adopted African American brother in her furvently religious household was really draining (but yet compelling) to read.Incredible that she chose to go on, really.
itbgc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read this book because several of my nephews (doctor's kids) lived in Escuela Caribe--the "Christian" reform school in the Dominican Republic. The author was there in the mid-1980s, and my nephews were there very recently at separate times. From what I gather, unfortunately, things haven't changed much at the school. Now I'm ready to have a conversation with my nephews about this place--if they'll let me. This is quite a shocking book. Why hasn't Escuela Caribe been shut down? I assume it's because it is in the DR. I do recommend reading this book, but it is quite explicit.
julierh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a gripping, painful, and incredibly well-written memoir about religious fundamentalism, family dysfunction, and the devotion the author feels for her younger brother
TanyaTomato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So very good. Julia is so brave to write this wonderful book about growing up with her adopted black brother, and reform school experience.
kewpie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had a lot of trouble finishing this book. First of all, I was surprised that considering how bitter and jaded the author was against Indiana, that this book would be considered for an Elliot Rosewater nominee. The author paints a very grim picture of the Lafayette area. I was shocked at the racist portrayals that seemingly everyone in the area suposedly has. Even her school teachers were openly anti-semetic and racist against African Americans. I worked really hard to get through her awful description of Hoosier life to get to her being sent to the Dominican Republic -- that section seemed even more outrageous than the first. I did some internet searching. Lo and behold, several people who previously attended the camp backed up her story. It didn't make it any more endearing to me. I think most of what she wrote would have been better for a private journal to be shared with a mental health councillor rather than the general public. I understand that she went through a horrible ordeal, but her vitriol was almost unbearable.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A disturbing memoir about a teenager growing up with two adopted black brothers in rural Indiana. one brother and the author are sent to a Christian Reform school in the Domincan Republic where they survive an incredibly abusive program. This novel was really well written and engaging. I think it is the first time I have read a memoir and kept thinking to myself - I really really wish this was fiction - much of it is too horrible to contemplate someone living through. The author has great tenacity though and is able to write about her life with great clarity and insight into those who treated her so poorly in her younger years. I hope that she has a great life now filled with people who love her... no child should grow up the way she did.