Authors: Julia Scheeres
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
“[A] rough, brutal, and shockingly good memoir . . .
is matter-of-fact, clear-eyed, and compassionate, without vindictiveness, which is, of course, what real Christian charity is about.”
“[A] darkly comic memoir.”
“Julia Scheeres has written a love story that is as romantic and as sad as any recent memoir you’ll read . . . What Scheeres’ devastating book maps out is the story of this thwarted relationship, which somehow survives every twisted setback and deprivation to emerge intact. . . . It’s tough going, but life-affirming.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“What did Julia and David learn from their strict Christian upbringing? How to write apparently . . . Everything in this memoir, including its final tragedy, is brightly, clearly rendered, by a voice as rich in forgiveness as it has unforgivable stories to tell.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[Scheeres] deftly exposes the disparity between her parents’ religious beliefs and their actions . . . and confesses with honesty and emotion her guilt and shame at abandoning her little brother in her search for acceptance. This work will force readers to relive the angst of being a teenager at a new school and desperately trying to fit in. Highly recommended.”
is a fascinating study of how so-called discipline warps young minds . . . poignant and [more] important to share.”
] is a book readers are sure to be talking about, and references to such titles as “Running With Scissors” and “Girl, Interrupted” will likely be drawn. Scheeres succeeds at relating a harrowing life story with effortless humor and wisdom.”
“[A] gripping memoir.”
“The grace and emotional brawn that carried Julia Scheeres through the pummeling brutality of her youth has enabled her to tell the tale with a measured intensity that pulls you to her side and keeps you there. I could not stop reading this book.”
—Mary Roach, best-selling author of
“The writing is Dickensian in its blend of the tender, the brutal, and the absurd.”
“A harrowing memoir of coming-of-age amid religious zealotry . . . Scheeres manages to balance her righteous rage against fanatical hypocrisy with a smart sense of humor . . . poignant and heartbreaking.”
“A frank and compelling portrait . . . Tinged with sadness yet pervaded by a sense of triumph, Scheeres’s book is a crisply written and earnest examination of the meaning of family and Christian values, and announces the author as a writer to watch.”
is an extraordinary memoir not just for the jaw-dropping tale it depicts, but for the wit and honesty, and literary courage within it pages. This book will make readers think of the
Bastard Out of Carolina
, but there’s nothing derivative in it. For all its hardship and terror, it is above all a love story. Scheeres is the real thing, and this is a book that should last for a long, long time.”
—Tom Barbash, author of
The Last Good Chance
On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal
“The road out of an intolerant small town leads straight to a faith-based reform school in journalist Scheeres’s scarifying memoir . . . A bristly summoning of unpretty events, conveyed with remarkable placidity.”
“This book will break your heart and mend it again. Julia Scheeres peels back the shiny, plastic veneer of fundamentalist Christianity to reveal the intolerance, hypocrisy and cruelty that can lie beneath. She does this with a merciless eye for detail, and an uncanny ability to evoke the essence of the Midwest. However, it is the exquisite candor and humor which makes
so worth the reading. That, and the simple human love that shines out of every page.”
—Lisa Reardon, author of
The Mercy Killers
“Woody Allen once said ‘If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.’ He was right.
is the story of Christianity gone horribly awry, of children entrusted to unfit parents, and of siblings united against terrible odds. Scheeres’ is a heart-breaking memoir, a compelling read that will hold you fast from start to finish and leave you in tears.”
“Julia Scheeres’ beautifully-written memoir took my breath away—for the cruelties she suffered, for the courage it took to survive and tell her story, and for her enduring, sparkling faith. She is able to describe the everyday details of her experience with a clear, candid eye, and without bitterness—making her story vividly alive, at turns heart-breaking and humorous.”
—Laura Fraser, author of
An Italian Affair
“A real-life coming-of-age tale is told in
. . . Scheeres . . . looks back with journalistic clarity and literary grace at her teenage years.”
“In this brilliant, sorrow-filled, race-tangled memoir, Ms. Scheeres story-telling skill makes you cheer for her and her adopted brother every step of the way as they navigate a cruel childhood. You will especially love the well-written sections about Ms. Scheeres’ exile to a Dominican Republic reform school—inhabited by many emotionally-uneven adults who prove the adage that some Christians are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.”
—Joe Loya, author of
The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell
Copyright © 2005, 2012 by Julia Scheeres
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in Publication Data is available.
1919 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
Distributed by Publishers Group West
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
“And ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.”
—JOHN 8:32, ESCUELA CARIBE HANDBOOK
AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIA SCHEERES
The events in this book took place a long time ago, and involve many people with whom I no longer have contact. In the interest of protecting their privacy, especially that of people who were minors at the time, I have changed names and, in some cases, identifying details.
The time element is compressed for the sake of narrative flow, but the events portrayed herein are true.
IN GOD WE TRUST
It’s just after three o’clock when we hit County Road 50. The temperature has swelled past ninety and the sun scorches our backs as we swerve our bikes around pools of bubbling tar.
A quarter of a mile downwind from Hanke’s Dairy, the stench of cow shit slams up our noses, and we rise in unison, stomping on the pedals and gasping toward the cornfield on the other side.
It’s been two weeks since we moved to the country, and this is our first foray into the wilderness beyond our backyard. Our destination is a cemetery we spotted during a drive last Sunday that Mother insisted on taking after church. While David and I sat in the back of the van glaring out opposite windows, she coasted down dirt lanes, chattering about edible corn fungus, pig manure fertilizer, and other gruesome factoids she’d gleaned from her recent subscription to