Show 160: Julia Scheeres

“In the name of religion, (Julia) Scheeres (Jesus Land) and her adopted black brother, David, suffer cruel abuse, first in their Calvinist home in Indiana in the 1970s and then when their surgeon father and missionary-minded mother send the teens to a fundamentalist Dominican Republic reform school that is run like boot camp.  The self-righteous sermonizing would be hilarious if it were not the justification for vicious punishment.

“The racism is open, from the other kids and from authority.  Scheeres tries to find comfort in drink and in sex with a classmate … What is unforgettable is the tenderness between sister and brother, as uplifting as any sermon.  Their relationship is never sentimentalized: She is ashamed of the times she turns her back on him, tired of being called “nigger-lover . . . the black boy’s sister,” but they help each other through the worst with horseplay, humor, and courage” – Hazel Rochman @ American Library Association

Jesus Land is a harrowing memoir, a survivor’s testimonial, as well as a harsh look at the seamy underbelly of fundamentalist Christianity.  But above all, it is a love story… The facts of Scheeres’ story are horrific and heartbreaking, but what makes Jesus Land remarkable is her plain, straightforward, unsentimental point of view… what makes Jesus Land unique and easy to relate to is its unadorned, dark humor… Many of us could have had the misfortune of stumbling into Jesus Land, but few would have the spirit to survive.” —Los Angeles Times

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