Jesus Land
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Jesus Land

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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  10,760 ratings  ·  1,190 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,...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Counterpoint (first published January 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Rachel
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
MistyAnne
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
Joe
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
Debbie
Mar 05, 2008 Debbie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The credulous
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
LARRY
As posted in [http://www.amazon.com]:

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...more
Toni
Oct 28, 2007 Toni rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Consuelo Mendoza
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
Cherie
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
Philip
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...more
misha
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
Debbie Mcnulty
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 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: memoir, adoption, 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...more
Dawn
Aug 31, 2012 Dawn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christian parents
Shelves: biography
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Darnell
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...more
Pamela Pickering
Feb 16, 2008 Pamela Pickering rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Heather
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
Caroline
******NO MAJOR SPOILERS******

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. Scheeres chose to start her memoir with sixteen-year-old Julia, however, with a few flashbacks to younger years. The book's strength is in Scheeres's ability to make her young self and her "twin" adopted brother, David, come alive; the memoir is told in Julia's voice, but the reader gets a very go...more
K
Oct 26, 2009 K rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Rachel
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...more
Kim
Dec 07, 2008 Kim rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Kelly Kittel
Well-written tribute to her brother, David, and memoir of the abuse and neglect they both suffered in the name of Jesus. Reminds me of a couple of quotations I read recently by Anne Lamott: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” and "Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” So, my...more
Jennifer
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.
Emily
(Alex Awards, non-fiction)

What an interesting book! This story focuses on Julia, a white girl, and her adopted brother, David, who is black. Her parents are “Jesus freaks” and frequently beat their adopted black children. Julia loves David, but has difficultly showing it. Her brothers are the only black people in their small, rural Indiana town and are the subject of racial slurs and attacks. David is a good kid, but he acts out once and is sent to “Escuela Caribe” in the Dominican Republic. The...more
Chris
Just finishing this one up. I was drawn in because the main characters (do you call them characters when it's a memoir?) are a white girl and her black brother, who was adopted. Being the mom of an adopted daughter who is of a different race than my husband and I, I thought it might offer some interesting insight. It did, but in a horrible way. The family who adopted the boy, besides the author/ sister, does not seem to see him as a family member or their child at all, but rather as some sort of...more
Lori Weir
Jesus Land is a very powerful and very personal story. No matter how prominent organized religion has been in your life, there is a lot to absorb from this memoir. This book could have been heavy and sad but Julia's wry humor really makes you laugh in spite of the desperate situation at home and abroad. And, her recollections of her youth were hilarious (I also was an "80's" teen)!

Scheeres give a first-person account of life surrounded by racism, fanaticism, and injustice in the name of God. But...more
CJ
I discovered this book because Scheeres has a new book coming out about the Jonestown massacre. While I was reading the reviews for that new book, I found this memoir and devoured it in a day. I am fascinated by people who live completely different lives while living similar lives to mine. I grew up in Michigan, Scheeres grew up in Indiana - how different could our upbringings be? Turns out, VERY different.

Scheeres' parents were strict Christians (sponsoring Missionaries, going to church more th...more
Wendy Burks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephen Gallup
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...more
Krissy
This was an awsome book. At first I didn't really think I would like it, it just seemed like it would be a little boring. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Sometimes you find a book that really makes you grateful for the family that you have, and this one was it for me. It's about a young white girl and her two adopted black brothers, and her super religious parents. The parents are absolutely awful to both the girl and the boys, treating all three of them like crap. The girl is very cl...more
Alena
I find it difficult to review this book because it left me so angry. In the synopsis readers are told that Julia and her brother face the "usual trials" of growing up in a rural community, compounded by the tensions of a mixed-race family. This description is not only misleading, it misses the point of the entire memoir.
Julia and David do not face "usual trials." They are severely abused -- emotionally and physically. Since I believed I was reading a memoir about religious extremism, this abuse...more
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“It took him a while to figure out that gaining an audience was not the same thing as gaining friends.” 23 likes
“This here is: JESUS LAND” 1 likes
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