I read the book Jesus Land about three weeks ago now. I was mesmerized by it from the moment I picked it up and never stopped reading it until I had it finished that same day. This book spoke to me in ways I had never imagined. As soon as I put it down, I contacted the author through her website. She recently returned my e-mail with a brief but lovely response - for which I am grateful.
I wanted to write a review about this book here on the blog, but find that words fail me. Instead, I will post the letter that I sent to her on the day that I read the book. To protect the identity of a couple of people, I have deleted a sentence or two ... but for the most part, this is what I sent to the author, Julia Scheeres on July 11, 2009:
I just finished your book Jesus Land --- literally five minutes ago. As soon as I put it down, I had to visit your website to see if there was a way in which I could contact you to express my sincerest thanks for your book, as well as my deepest apologies for the pain I can only imagine that you feel over the death of your brother. I also hope to express to you that as an adoptive Mom to a Haitian born son, I am eternally grateful that you have put to words so much of what I have seen in the adoption community .... that is ... over zealous, white, evangelical Christians who adopt "black" children in order to "save their souls" ... all the while never truly loving these children as family, and often treating them as burdens to be overcome in order to become right with God, etc...etc... David's story is one that I have witnessed in my own life. It is why I bought the book. It is a subject matter that I have desperately wanted to see written about. And you wrote about it so perfectly ... so lovingly ... so honestly ...
I truly feel at such a loss to express to you just how much your book means to me. I have deleted at least a hundred different sentences in this brief e-mail already. I guess I am overwhelmed with emotions. Perhaps I haven't given myself time to fully digest the book --- as I read it non-stop as soon as I picked it up today. I just know that I NEEDED to contact you.
I can tell you that my son, Isaac, is the light of my life. Though I never gave birth to him (plainly obvious from my lily white skin)... I truly believe that he and I made a pact to become mother and child before either one of us was born. His adoption story is one that I would love to share with you sometime. It has its own magic & heartbreak. And ultimately it is a love story ... just as your relationship to your brother is. My son (age 4) and I get many of the same looks as you and your brother did. Our relationship is totally understood by some ... unimaginable to many ... disgusting to others ... and yet there are those who think I am some sort of hero for adopting the "unwanted" from a third-world country (these people make my stomach lurch). And then there are those evangelical Christians who worked with the same evangelical orphanage that I did --- people who were also adopting --- but for all the wrong reasons (to bring these heathen kids to Jesus and to never "spare the rod" in doing so) --- these are the people who often haunt my thoughts. It is their adopted children (some who I came to love) that I cry for. The orphanage itself reminds me of the "reform school" that you and your brother endured. In order to work with them I needed to act the part of the evangelical christian ... a role that was easy for me given my childhood ... but was hard for my Turkish born husband. I wish I could have taken all the children home with us ... but I knew who my son was ... and it was him we came to find. Not to rescue ... but to FIND. I already knew him in my heart, I just needed to get him home to me for good. And I did. And life is good. But I never forget the others.
Anyway ... I am rambling a bit. I just really want to thank you in a million ways ... for a million reasons. Your abuse at the hands of Jerome is something else that spoke to me personally ... as well as your relationship with Scott ... your reasoning for such a relationship, etc. I felt you girl. Truly. And though I am so sorry for the life experience it took for you to write such a memoir, I thank you for putting it out there.
Lastly, if you are interested, I invite you to check out my blog: www.thishandmadelife.blogspot.com. The following posts deal with parts of my son's adoption:
There are many more, but I'd have to do some serious blog searching to find them (he came home over 3 years ago).
Well, again, thank you Julia from the bottom of my heart. Please know that I now carry you and David in my heart forever. You did him a wonderful tribute by sharing him with others ... as he cannot now be forgotten ... ever. Please let me know if there is any way I can help the children of Escuela Caribe. I have signed up for your updates ...
Much love to you & yours,
The above photo is of Julia and her brother, David. taken in 1986.
I hope by my putting this letter "out there" --- some of you may be interested in reading the book. Though some parts of the book spoke to me more than others, this really is a memoir for everybody. It is interesting and compelling on more levels than I could convey here. If you read it, please let me know what you think.
Thanks & Love,