Jesus Land
Julia Scheeres
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Buy *Jesus Land: A Memoir* online

Jesus Land: A Memoir

Julia Scheeres
Counterpoint Press
356 pages
September 2005
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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Sometimes memoirs can be overly sentimental. Sometime they can be heart-wrenching but redundant. Neither is the case with Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres. It is an unnerving and sometimes darkly comical tale of Julia’s childhood: bonding with her adopted black brother, David, in rural Indiana (and later at a Dominican Republic reform school), dealing with her sadistic, abusive parents and clashing with the ideology of supposedly devoutly religious people. The title of the book is taken from a road sign Julia saw in Indiana, “This here is: Jesus Land.”

Scheeres does an amazing job of recounting in an uncritical voice the horrific episodes of attempted rape (and sexual abuse from an older brother), beatings her father gave to David, and endless racial taunting by the kids at school. But the abuse wasn’t only physical; there were the psychological force-feeding of biblical verses and radios blasted early in the morning. But Julia tells it all in a lucid, pity-free manner which endears you to her and her true love for her brother David:

After David was sent to the Dominican Republic, things didn’t calm down at home. Mother read my diary and found out I’d snuck into Fast Times At Ridgemont High“They showed some teats is all,” I’d written, and my parents started becoming suspicious of my whereabouts. One day shortly afterward, my father confronted me in the kitchen, demanding to know where I’d gone after a babysitting job the night before. I knew he suspected me of seeing Scott, whom my parents officially disapproved of after learning his parents weren’t church people and that a neighbor spotted a porno magazine in their living room. That night I hadn’t seen Scott, but dad kept insisting I tell him ‘the truth’ and kept insisting I come straight home. His face grew redder, his voice fiercer, until something popped in him and he threw me on the kitchen counter and came racing at my throat with his hands. I instinctively knocked them away, and then mother – who was sitting on the sofa – stood up to say she’d found an Arby’s cup beside the driver’s seat of her Audi, which I’d borrowed because the Toyota was in the shop. That day I realized I wasn’t immune to my father’s violence. For years, while my brothers were whipped and I was spared, I thought I had some sort of biological privilege – that my father wouldn’t hurt his own genetic material. But in their absence, my father didn’t have anywhere to train the spotlight of his rage but me.”
With just a hint of sadness and many funny scenes (I dare you to not laugh out loud when you get to part where the priest tries to hinder masturbation!) Jesus Land is an uplifting and satisfying book that is sure to please its readers.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bobby Blades, 2005

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