Jesus Land

<i>Jesus Land: A Memoir</i>. By Julia Scheeres. <i>Counterpoint. $23.</i>

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Jesus Land is a harrowing memoir of coming-of-age amid religious zealotry in 1980s Indiana. When she’s three, Julia Scheeres’ parents adopt two black boys into their white evangelical family. While Julia becomes best friends with her new brother David, their father mostly ignores his sons, save for whupping them, and their mother advises them to turn the other cheek to the racist violence they encounter outside the home (getting beaten up is no excuse for being late to dinner). As the kids enter adolescence, things start to fall apart. Julia starts sneaking sips of Southern Comfort, and bookish David, in increasing danger at home and at school, becomes self-destructive.

Their parents’ response is to ship them off to a fundamentalist reform school in the Dominican Republic, where sanctimonious sadism reaches a new level. The staff punches the kids, forces them to do manual labor, and viciously humiliates them, all while bellowing, “You are not right with God!” In reaction, Julia and David learn to fake being saved and to trust no one but each other.

Scheeres manages to balance her righteous rage against fanatical hypocrisy with a smart sense of humor. Jesus Land is a poignant and heartbreaking story, reported by a survivor of family values gone awry.

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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