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 Caribea religious reform school in the Dominican Republicis 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.
©2006 Julia Scheeres (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
“Like the best writers, Scheeres offers her characters in the fullness of the contradictions they hold in tension, and with great and clear-sighted empathy, and at the end of the audiobook, the listener might say: They’re so much like me.” (Salon.com)
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
Sheeres shares jaw-dropping stories from her childhood in the mid-1980s when her Bible-obsessed parents moved their family to Indiana. Her two adopted brothers, both African-American, faced cruelty and racism in and outside the home, a 15-acre farm where the children were little more than slaves.
Christian radio served as an alarm clock at six o'clock in the morning. Spy speakers were installed around the house so that all their conversations could be heard by the mother. The violent father, whose favorite biblical injunction was "spare the rod, spoil the child" beat the sons countless times and left permanent scars.
Eventually, Sheeres and her younger brother were sent away to an over-the-top Christian boot camp in Latin America that takes a "by-any-means-necessary" approach to getting repentance from the students. You can't help but wonder if the kids are going to be killed.
This book was not enjoyable in the sense that it was happy, hopeful, or even primarily redemptive. In fact, many passages of this book made me angry - not at the author, but at her parents (her father's abuse and her mother's cold indifference and hypocrisy)... and then to add reform "school" on top? This is not the Jesus I know... any of it!
I have to include the black v. white race issue here, as it was prominently displayed in the book. I honestly challenge anyone to find where in the Bible it says that black people are inferior, as for some reason that seemed to be the prevailing belief in conservative America...
I read this book on the heels of reading Lauren Drain's "Banished - surviving my years in the Westboro Baptist Church". There are many parallels, and yet these two women have come out completely different - one a secular humanist with no need for religion; the other still seeking answers and believing that there is a God of love out there..
Elizabeth Evans was incredible as a narrator for this book. She infused so much of the teen angst, pain and frustration that Julia must have felt... I felt like a young Julia Scheeres was telling me her story.
As stated above, many parts of this book made me angry. It is a cautionary expression of the Biblical words for parents not to grieve their children. It causes me to reflect on how I plan to raise my own children as a Christian. They will need so much more than just food and shelter - they will need love and affection, something notably absent from Julia's parents.
This book is not representative of all Christians, or Christ Himself. I personally believe that one can be a strong believer in Christ and neither hold so many convictions as to stomp out compassion and grace nor so few as to be ineffective. Christ - as portrayed in the Bible - is not a brutal task master nor a spineless sissy.
I applaud Julia Scheeres for writing this brutally honest book and Elizabeth Evans for perfectly narrating it.
I thought the reader got the essence of the author and I forgot that I wasn't listening to a young woman telling her own story. The story of conservative religion affecting young teenagers mixed with racial intolerance tell the story of our similiar South African experience with that era.
I found Julia's candidness regarding her own personal journey most affecting as well as the relationship with her brother, David. There were moments when I groaned aloud at the abuses that happened to both of them.
I could not stop listening.
I loved the similarity to my own growing up in a racially intolerant society - one that didn't understand teenagers at all and spent no time in changing that attitude.
She afforded the mother a sharp, intolerant voice that I may not have been as affected by. She brought Julia to life through her complimenting the excitement, or sadness with her tone of voice.
There were many because she took me back to me being a teenager. I think that every time the love that Julia had for David was related, it reminded me of the relationships that one has with one's siblings in an environment when children are trying to survive - when on the outside everything looks perfect.
I have just bought her other book. Julia fascinated me so much with her amazing resilience and her love for her brother.
The relationship between the narrator and her adopted black brother is shown through the years. The hypocrisy of her religious parents and the racism in her Indiana hometown were touched upon. I learned a bit about the experience of being a white girl and having black brothers.
The final chapter was worth listening to: a touching section that showed how much she loved her one brother.
However, most of the book was full of overwrought descriptions of the mundane. I fast forwarded through many sections. Heavy use of adjectives that often felt off and many descriptions felt contrived.
The narrator made this story seem harsher than it may be in print. The dialogue was read in irritating "religious" voices that made the content seem like hyperbole. Everyone was an enemy except for her brother and that made the chapters hard to trudge through.
This story would've been better told as an essay.
I love and appreciate the honesty in this book. It was brave of Julia to share such detail about her life and family that has shaped her as a child and young adult. This book will make you cringe, cry and laugh and ultimately want to give Julia a long embrace.
There were a few instances where I felt the reader added more snark than was in the original text, but it gave the main character more personality overall. This was a great lostem .
Scheeres captured beautifully the ways in which someone's awareness evolves-it was not rushed, and I feel like I know her and her brother like childhood friends.
My parents told me that my very first word was...BOOK! That was no surprise to me. I have always been surrounded by books.
I couldn't wait to get in my car in the morning for my long, horrible drive to work because I had this wonderful book to keep me company. Julia and David are more than just brother and sister by virtue of adoption; they are best friends and soulmates. Jesus Land is the story of their deep and abiding love for each other in the face of racism and abuse at the hands of sadistic so-called "Christians" during the early 1980's. This book won my heart, broke my heart, dragged some of my own demons from their hiding place, and made me laugh...all at the same time.
I grew up in rural Illinois the same time as Julia Scheeres grew up in rural Indiana. Her memories reflect so many of my own in regards to racism, religion and the constant peer pressure. I felt as though I was on her journey with her as she traversed heartbreak at the hands of her own family and prejudice at every turn.
I don't think there is any book that compares to this one - this is such a personal story.
My favorite scene is when Julia Scheers returns to Escuela Caribe and offers the advice "trust no one."
I wanted to desperately finish this book in one sitting because it was so good. I wanted to know that Julia Scheers somehow found happiness and that David found the true meaning of family.
This memoir is truly moving. It is so heartbreaking and honest, I want to thank Julia Scheers for finding the strength to write it.
"Evil Alice & well & living in middle america"
Horrified at the parents in this story immensely sick & sadistic parents belong behinds bars, Julie sounds very bright & seems to have a lot of emotional strenght she certainly needed it.
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