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Jesus Land: A Memoir

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  16,343 ratings  ·  1,568 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 1980s were a trial by fire.

In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest, a
Paperback, 363 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Counterpoint LLC (first published September 6th 2005)
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Kelly Pedro In the acknowledgements, she mentions her sisters, so she must still be in contact with them.
Christie The last thing we heard about Jerome was that he was in prison for robbing a store with some kids.

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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  16,343 ratings  ·  1,568 reviews

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Apr 24, 2008 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 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
Charles J
Aug 28, 2015 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
Nov 23, 2007 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 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.
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, womens_lives
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

Heartbreaking, shocking, touching, angering. This book is these things and more. Like The Glass Castle: A Memoir, 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. She recounts incidents from her younger years in plentiful flashbacks replete with vivid and heart-rending detail.

The memoir's strength lies in Scheeres's ability to make her young self and her "twin" adopted brother,
Jan 26, 2013 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
Book Concierge

This is a memoir of growing up with parents who adhered to a religious fundamentalism but who were abusive to their children. Scheeres was the youngest child in the family, and the last biological child born to her parents, who subsequently adopted two African American boys. David, was practically Julia’s twin, with only a month or so difference in their birthdates. They grew up as brother and sister, and shared dreams of one day growing up and moving to Florida together. When David and J
Sep 16, 2007 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
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
Oct 22, 2007 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
Elyse  Walters
Sep 25, 2015 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 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 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
Jun 01, 2011 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
Nov 02, 2008 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.
Oct 25, 2009 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
Daniel Casey
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Having been raised by reactionary fundamentalist Christians in the rural upper Midwest, I found Scheeres prose unsettling in its utter accuracy. Both brutal and banal, she writes of casual as well as overt racism, sexual abuse that's all too common, and the aggressively ignorant beliefs of evangelical Christians who care more about power over people than any kind of goodness. This memoir made me shudder and reminded me of all the shame, rage, fear, and confusion I experienced growing up just a d ...more
Mar 18, 2009 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. ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
4.5 stars Once I got into this book, I couldn’t put it down, letting my other books sit so I could finish it. I’ve had it on my shelf for a long time and finally decided to pick it up and so glad that I did. An amazing, sorrowful memoir that I recommend to everyone.
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
I've finished the this book and still can't believe it happened. I kept having to remind myself that it was nonfiction.
Geraldine (geraldinereads)
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, reviewed
This memoir is about Julia and her adopted black brother, David. She talks about her childhood with him, her super strict religious parents, all the racism David had to go through, and the religious reform school they were both sent to in the Dominican Republic.

I noticed some reviews were saying that they don't think Julia is being truthful in her memoir. They don't have the facts either so I don't think people can say what is and what isn't true. Someone in the reviews commented that they think
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a reader, I seem to specialize in literary nonfiction and memoir that can include the word "harrowing" in any review.

I greatly appreciated Scheeres' "A Thousand Lives" (about the Peoples Temple/Jonestown) some years ago, and finally picked up Jesus Land when I stumbled upon it in a used book shop a few weeks ago. This is not the book I expected. Sure, I knew it would be rough -- sent off, along with her African American brother, to a fundamentalist Christian reform school in the Dominican Re
"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.
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
If you read one memoir this year it needs to be this one. Written by Julia Scheeres from the LA Times, it is an incredibly powerful story of growing up in an incredibly horrible yet somehow religious family with 2 adopted black brothers. She tells the story of sexual abuse from one of her adopted brothers, her immense love for the other, her parents who practiced corporal punishment in its worst forms, and her time at Escuela Caribe, the now famous Christian reform boot camp in the Dominican Rep ...more
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
An excellent memoir about the highly dysfunctional Scheeres family, a middle class family of Calvinists in Indiana. The (self proclaimed) religious parents adopted some African-American children when they were young, and though they raised these two boys with their family, never did the parents treat the boys "as they're own". The parents are cruel, but particularly so to Jerome and David. This book, though written in Julia, the youngest daughter's voice and is her memoir, is equally about David ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
You know, I could almost give this book a heart because I could NOT put it down. It's compulsively readable.

Julia tells us about her unique childhood being raised by very strict Christian parents in the Midwest. Her parents have four children of their own, and they adopt two African American boys. One of the African American boys, David, is the same age as Julia, and this memoir relates their story of growing up together as siblings.

Unfortunately, this tale is not a pretty one. Julia's parents a
Nov 14, 2007 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
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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

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