Jesus Land

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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


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.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate