Giving Voice to the Powerless: Julia Scheeres

At Wednesday’s reading, Julia Scheeres reminded her audience of the power of writing. Escuela Caribe, the school she was sent to as a teenager for being a “fornicator and an alcoholic,” was shut down after the publication of her memoir and the activism of other alumni. Jesus Land, her memoir, is also a tribute to her brother, David. In her introduction, Center for Literary Arts board member, Jessica Taylor, lauded Scheeres’s courage and compassion. Taylor expressed Scheeres’ strengths perfectly, especially her ability to align herself with her subjects to tell their stories and capture their spirits. Scheeres gave an emotional reading of excerpts from both Jesus Land and Jonestown. Perhaps the most interesting part of the night was hearing the commonalities between the two books. As Scheeres noted, both books are about a sense of solidarity, the desire for normalcy and acceptance, and promises used to veil the bad intentions of others. While both books have similar themes, there are other “eerie parallels” between the settings in her books, such as the careful censoring of incoming and outgoing information by those with power over the powerless.