Synopses & Reviews
One of the most compelling, page-turning memoirs to come along in years-by turns jarring, shocking, and funny a keenly moving ode to the dream of perfect family.
Sinners go to: HELL.
Rightchuss go to: HEAVEN.
The end is neer: REPENT.
This here is: JESUS LAND.
Julia Scheeres stumbles across these signs along the side of a cornfield while out biking with her adopted brother, David. It's the mid-1980s, they're sixteen years old and have just moved to rural Indiana, a landscape of cottonwood trees and trailer parks and a racism neither of them is prepared for. While Julia is white, her close relationship with David, who is black, makes them both outcasts. At home, a distant mother more involved with her church's missionaries than with her own children and a violent father only compound their problems. When the day comes that high-school hormones, bullying, and a deep-seated restlessness prove too much to bear, the parents send Julia and David to the Dominican Republic to a reform school there.
In this riveting memoir, first-time author Scheeres takes us with her from the Midwest to a place beyond our imagining. Surrounded by natural beauty, the Escuela Caribe is governed by a disciplinary regime that demands its teens repent for their sins under boot-camp conditions. Julia and David's determination to make it through with heart and soul intact is told here with immediacy, candor, sparkling humor, and not a note of malice.
"It is Scheeres's high emotion and her tight control of her narrative within that emotion that is most striking. Her anger serves her well: it is focused, justified and without a trace of self-pity." New York Times
"[W]hat makes Jesus Land unique and easy to relate to is its unadorned, dark humor." Los Angeles Times
"Julia Scheeres has written a love story that is as romantic and as sad as any recent memoir you'll read." San Francisco Chronicle
"This work will force readers to relive the angst of being a teenager at a new school and desperately trying to fit in." Library Journal
"A bristly summoning of unpretty events, conveyed with remarkable placidity." Kirkus Reviews
"The writing is Dickensian in its blend of the tender, the brutal, and the absurd." Booklist
This riveting memoir is the story of a 16-year-old girl and her adopted, black, 16-year-old brother in Indiana who are sent to a reform school in the Dominican Republic by their violent father and distant mother more involved with her church's missionaries than her own children.
About the Author
Julia Scheeres has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, El Financiero, and Wired, and has twice been a finalist for journalism awards presented by the USC Annenberg School for Communication. She lives in Oakland, California.