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.
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.
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.
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