Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Jesus Land” as Want to Read:
Jesus Land
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Jesus Land

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  14,140 Ratings  ·  1,433 Reviews
For Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother David, "Jesus Land" stretched from their parents' fundamentalist home, past the hostilities of high school, and deep into a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. For these two teenagers - brother and sister, black and white - the 1980's were a trial by fire.

In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest,
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by Counterpoint (first published January 1st 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Jesus Land, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Jesus Land

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 24, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it
Many people on this forum say it was hard or impossible to believe that all of these things could have happened to one person. But I have no trouble believing these things could have happened - in my job I hear these kind of stories every day. One person said that the author should have kept these stories to herself or only shared with her mental health counselor. But if she chose to break the silence of her ordeal I see nothing wrong with that. And I liked the fact that her relationship with Da ...more
May 14, 2008 MistyAnne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Julia Scheeres's memoir is perhaps one of the most haunting, powerful memoirs I've read. She details the heart-wrenching abuse she endured at the hands of her Christian family and the abusive reform school she attended with her adopted African American brother in the Dominican Republic. Her tale of severe sexual, emotional, physical, and religious abuse highlights issues of power and domination that are sometimes present in the American church. However, even as I wept for her and her brother whi ...more
Nov 23, 2007 Joe rated it it was amazing
I cried when I read the last line of Julia Scheeres tragic and touching memoir. Scheeres sucked me into her life and I couldn't put the book down for a second. My blood boiled at several points through out the book. Is it truly possible that people can be so heartless and cruel? Is it truly possible that while I was living a carefree childhood, Scheeres (who is only two years older than me) was living in a private hell? Jesus Land reads like a well paced, well written novel but I had to keep rem ...more
Mar 05, 2008 Debbie rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: The credulous
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2015 Charles rated it liked it
I think I’m well-positioned to review this book, because I grew up with Julia and David Scheeres. More precisely, we all went to Lafayette Christian School through eighth grade. Both Julia and David were in my brother’s elementary school class, one year ahead of me. Jerome, her older adopted brother, was in the class two years ahead of me. Lafayette Christian figures heavily in the story, although the story itself takes place starting two years after graduation from that school.

I can’t decide qu
Jun 19, 2007 LARRY rated it it was amazing
Shelves: womens_lives, memoirs
As posted in []:

Oh. My. Goodness! Julia writes this honest memoir of her Christian childhood. However, the Christian family is nothing but a facade to impress the members of the local Calvinist church. Julia's mom is obsessed with missionaries and constantly plays Christian music. Her eyes is like those of a hawk, always watching the kids...and spying with the intercom as well.

Julia's surgeon father is worse. He's the one that beats Julia's adopted Black father with 2x4's u
Dec 22, 2012 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: she-wrote-it, memoir

Heartbreaking, shocking, touching, angering. This book is these things and more. Like The Glass Castle, Jesus Land is a memoir of an imperfect--to put it mildly--childhood. This riveting account opens with Julia Scheeres as a desperate sixteen-year-old but not desperate in the superficial way typical of many sixteen-year-olds. She recounts incidents from her younger years in plentiful flashbacks full of vivid and heart-rending detail.

The memoir's strength lies in Scheeres's abi
Oct 22, 2007 Antoinette rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: atheists
Shelves: memoirs
The events in this memoir are incredibly tragic, as is the approach to explaining them. Overall, a compelling childhood presented in a childish way. The relationship between David and Julia is heartbreaking. A black adopted brother, the privileged white biological daughter that loves him. It took me a long time to finish this book. It was interesting enough, and well written, but there was something terribly offensive about it. The author tried very hard to be casual about things that were obvio ...more
What is a Christian? Really. I was reading an article on CNN about Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and about half-way through the article there’s a girl CNN was asking about Bell. From the article: “...Today she attends a non-denominational church and self-identifies as a “Christ follower” but bristles at being called a Christian.”

But what does that even mean? Doesn’t Christian literally mean, “Christ-Follower?” Christianity is
Jan 26, 2013 Cherie rated it liked it
I was told not to focus on the cover, that this book was not about religion. The person who told me so, was correct. The book was about what people do in the name of religion. It was also about bigotry and racism. This book is a Memior, written by a woman who's strictly devout Midwestern Calvinist white parents adopted two young black boys to raise with their 4 children. The woman of the story is three years old at the time, the same age as the youngest black boy. The story is told in the voice ...more
Sep 16, 2007 misha rated it really liked it
Such a tragic, heart breaking story that once again, just makes me want to go find some kid and just hug them. The amount of abuse that these kids went through made for a tough read. It's interesting to read this after The Glass Castle and Running with Scissors, other stories about equally difficult childhoods, but each author had different ways to protect themselves. Running with Scissors was about using humor in the face of pure shit. Glass Castle had indeed, a wall around how awful a childhoo ...more
Sep 25, 2015 Elyse rated it really liked it
This is an oldie!

I read this long before I was writing reviews ---

I was looking through my Friday reviews this morning by many of you charming people --when I came across this book again.

This book is another reminder of how religion can go wrong-wrong-wrong!

**NOTE: Its kinda-creepy-weird reading...(hard to pull yourself away)....but not pleasant!
Consuelo Mendoza
Dec 20, 2013 Consuelo Mendoza rated it really liked it
Julia Scheeres' Jesus Land tells the story of Julia and her brother David, both sixteen-year-olds of different races who are insulted and humiliated due to their love for each other as brother and sister. This book is set up on the rural part of Indiana during the 1980's, when racism was still in abundance within our society. Searching for freedom from their violent father and their mother, who cares more about the church than she cares about her own children, Julia and David fight through vario ...more
Debbie Mcnulty
Jul 14, 2012 Debbie Mcnulty rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
I really had to think how I was going to talk about this book. As I read about Julia’s life there were many times I wanted to quit. Not because of her writing style but because the story was so hard to digest. I come from a hard childhood myself and this memoir dredged up some difficult memories for me. I have read many books about people coming from rough back rounds and leaving the faith of their childhood, but none as heart wrenching as this. It always surprises me the things people as willin ...more
Jae Ran
May 24, 2007 Jae Ran rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: adoption, memoir, race
I thought this was a thoughtful and harrowing memoir. As a transracial adoptee who was adopted into a fundamental Christian home and who also had siblings "homegrown" to my a-parents, I found this memoir quite interesting - especially the first half dealing with their teen years in a small farming community in Indiana.

I would have liked to have read more about Julia's other older siblings and I thought the second half (about Julia and her brother's experiences at a reform school in the Dominica
Nov 02, 2008 Kim rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who whines to much about their life
Recommended to Kim by: book club member
Shelves: book-club
Only read this book if you want to become depressed. It is very well written and the characters are so memorable but the story is just too hard to take at times. One of the people in my book club expained it best by stating that sometimes you had to walk away from it to be able to finish it. If you ever thought that your life growing up was hard, read this in comparison becuase it will make you thank your parents (thanks Mom!) for giving you a great childhood.
Mar 18, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2009
Fascinating & shocking look at life in a conservative Christian family in the bible belt. I was horrified by the racism, emotional abuse and physical abuse that these kids suffered at the hands of their parents and the Christian reform school they were sent to. I really didn't know that schools like these existed, I guess I'm naive. I always appreciative my own normal upbringing when I read a book like this one.
May 03, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing
[4.5 stars]
I've finished the this book and still can't believe it happened. I kept having to remind myself that it was nonfiction.
Feb 14, 2017 britt_brooke rated it really liked it
"Just as Jesus requires blind faith from his believers, we require blind faith from our students."

Julia's narrative flows like a well-written novel which I appreciate because it broaches some tremendously tough subjects: racism, religion, mental, physical, and sexual abuse.

The school in the DR is only part of the story. Home life was a mess. It's a tough read, but worth it.
Oct 25, 2009 K rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: strong stomached fans of "The Glass Castle" and similar dysfunctional/abusive family memoirs
Recommended to K by: Chani Garb
Julia Scheeres's train wreck of a memoir is divided into two parts. The first focuses on her upbringing in a strict, abusive Calvinist family. In an apparently self-deluded display of Christian charity her parents have adopted two black boys, whom they not only abuse but fail to protect from the inevitable racism of 1980s middle America. The older boy, Jerome, rebels; the younger boy, David, whom Julia is memorializing in this book, dreams of a happy, functional family but only Julia is receptiv ...more
Nov 14, 2007 Rachel rated it liked it
A gift from my dear sister to give me insight into my new home -- Indiana. I haven't met any folk that resemble those depicted in this book yet, but I wonder if I'd recognize them if I did - they seem somewhat caricatured in the book.

This is a memoir of a woman whose family adopted two black children, grudgingly, and proceeded to treat them badly and tolerate their poor treatment by everyone around them in rural Indiana, including the author herself. The author loves her adoptive brother, but i
My 7-year-old son saw me reading this book.

Son: Why are you reading a book called Jesus Land?
Me: It's a true story, about this girl... Oh, here, read the back.
Son (after reading the back of the book): Why are you reading about a girl with a messed up life?
Me: I don't know.

I have seen this book around, but wasn't sure about committing, and then I saw it at the Friends of the Library book sale -- the one where you can fill a grocery bag with books for $1. My standards get lower when faced with tab
Jun 01, 2011 Melki rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, memoir
Schadenfruede or just curiosity? I do seem to have a fascination for reading about those who've had unpleasant childhoods - "The Glass Castle," "Running with Scissors" and now "Jesus Land." What a sad, sad memoir, yet the author tells her tale matter-of-factly - no self-pity here. Scheeres spends her teenage years in rural Indiana with a violent father, an unbalanced mother and her two adopted African American brothers. Her close, almost twin-like relationship with her brother David is the heart ...more
May 15, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
Good book, although disturbing. After reading Jesus Land, it's hard to believe that folks still insist on taking the Bible as a literal, concrete set of instructions... I mean, in Proverbs alone there are highly offensive passages such as the one often quoted by the 'missionaries' in this book, 'spare the rod, spoil the child' stuff. When will people grasp the Bible as an entire story, a part of God's masterpiece, of which God's amazing Love and His wish for us to love one another as He loves us ...more
Mar 31, 2008 Darnell rated it really liked it
This memoir points out a lot of the problems I have with certain religious types. The author's parents adopt two black children in the name of charity but then proceed to neglect all of their children, trying to substitute their own lack of ability to love with God's love.

Things get to a point where the author passively experiences racism, rape and complete subjugation of her free will in a very matter-of-fact and observational way. She's numb to what's happening even as she tells it in her own
Pamela Pickering
Feb 05, 2008 Pamela Pickering rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ?? only to people who like memoirs
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
Holy cow, I'm really having a problem rating and reviewing this book. I would have to compare it to a car wreck---something horrible and tragic but often we feel compelled to watch. I took this book on a plane with me wanting a simple, easy read. It wasn't difficult in the ability sense but horribly draining in the emotional sense, I still felt a need to finish it. So many horrible things happen to the two main children in this book, (David's story especially broke my heart)***spoiler alert**: e ...more
Stephen Gallup
Jul 01, 2008 Stephen Gallup rated it liked it
Other reviewers have used the word “caricature” in discussing this book, and they may be right. I assume it’s an attempt at an accurate portrayal of the author’s extraordinarily evil family (and other “resources”), but wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’d embellished things a bit. With the possible exception of Becky, there is not even one responsible/virtuous adult in the entire saga.

That said, it’s a very simple story, probably on the YA level. The author stays in the voice of her teenage
Kelsey Hanson
I must say that I enjoyed this story much more than her story on Jonestown. This book tells the very sad story of Julia and her brother David as they grow up facing racism, abuse and religious extremism. I've always believed that religion is a tool that can be used or abused. It was definitely abused in this instance. I hope that the school they were sent to has since been closed.
Sphinx Feathers
Jul 14, 2016 Sphinx Feathers rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, memoir
I had a hard time getting into the book; reading it had a different feel than many memoirs. It almost felt like reading something that was being told tiredly. At first this was grsting, but once the story picked up it was fine.
Wendy Burks
Oct 19, 2011 Wendy Burks rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Memoirs and Biogr...: More favorite memoirs 1 30 May 08, 2014 09:48AM  
Jesus Land 10 134 Oct 18, 2013 04:58PM  
  • Name All the Animals: A Memoir
  • I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing
  • Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture
  • Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple
  • Change Me into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir
  • Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy
  • Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement
  • Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back
  • Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical
  • All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India
  • Another Place at the Table
  • Borrowed Finery: A Memoir
  • Driving with Dead People
  • Hope's Boy
  • Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited
  • Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found
  • The Mercy Papers
  • Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan
I was born in Lafayette, Indiana and now live in the Bay Area. I'm the author of the memoir "Jesus Land," which was a New York Times and London Times bestseller and of the award-winning "A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown," which is being developed into a feature film. I teach memoir and creative nonfiction, online and in San Francisco, and work with private clients on book projects. ...more
More about Julia Scheeres...

Share This Book

“It took him a while to figure out that gaining an audience was not the same thing as gaining friends.” 29 likes
“This here is: JESUS LAND” 2 likes
More quotes…