Jesus Land

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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend