Sunday, July 12, 2009

Best memoir about adolescence and racism EVER!

I grabbed a copy of "Jesus Land: A Memoir" on Friday out of a one dollar bin at a bookstore. I just finished it tonight.

I seem to always be just behind the curve of cultural phenomenons, and vaguely remember reading a review of this book in 2005 when it hit the literature circuit and Julia Scheeres' searing novel started picking up awards right and left.

"Jesus Land" is Julia's recollection of her childhood and adolescents growing up in a family run by fanatically strict fundamentalist Christian parents. But really it's about her adopted brother, David, who was African American and brought home by the author's parents when he was three where he became, in her words, 'my twin.'

Gentle, nerdy David's encounters with violent bigots become Julia's and the racism starts early. Part way through the book, Julia recounts the first time white kids try and beat them up ... they are just 8 years old.

In their teens, their parents relocate to rural Indiana, the upper domain of the Bible Belt where the locals treat David, and Julia by association, with anything but Christian kindness.

When Julia's other adopted brother, Jerome (the opposite of David in every way except his skin color), gets sent to prison, their parents ship David and then Julia to a fundamentalist Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic to "turn them around".

Julia Scheeres' description of life in Escuela Caribe doesn't read like a typical teen's recollection of boarding school or even a stint in juvenile detention. It's more like a Vietnamese POW camp. There's sleep deprivation, beatings, endless psychological torture and even typhoid.

If you only read one non-fiction book all this year, read this one.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Unsafe at any speed

My uterus tried to kill me on Tuesday. This attempt on my life by an internal organ came just before my 44th birthday.

I have no idea WHY my uterus tried to do this, she's always been a fairly quiet, taciturn gal unlike my ovaries who spent a good chunk of my twenties psychically screaming at me and offering up grapefruit-sized cysts like some weird threat. Get pregnant now bitch, or your lower intestinal tract gets it!

Visiting the ER just prior to your birthday means that every pasty, gray-green LPN/RN/NP/PA you meet, stops mid-monotone medical questioning and suddenly says "Oh, happy birthday!" Like they're really thrilled you dropped in to see them (a complete stranger) while they were working in the ER (a tense, dirty, despairing place that makes Greyhound bus stations seem hopeful and clean).

There's this weird assumption some men make about having a woman's body. It's assumed we know what we're doing, like we orchestrate and schedule things like morning sickness, endometriosis and breast cancer. Like maybe I just penciled in the word "hemorrhage" under Tuesday, June 30th on my wall calendar. As if I have some sort of communication and/or bargaining power with the complicated plumbing that makes up my sex organs. Note to my ovaries: Okay girls, no cramps before the end of the month or I take away all the chocolate.

The reality is when it comes to having a woman's body? Fellas, we have no fucking clue how to drive this thing. Communicating with our bodies is like giving directions to a 13-yr-old Brazilian cab driver in English. No comprende.

We women, hopefully, have a sort of body awareness. We get a feel for when things are going to happen, like puffing up like a water balloon means Aunt Flo's on her way or whatever. But it's not like my vag talks to me or something. It doesn't tell me what it's going to do.

My sex organ is like a brainless, flighty 2-yr-old Thoroughbred filly who flits around a pasture bolting away from every butterfly or bee that drifts past the end of her nose. She's unsafe at any speed and with any rider. My ovaries and uterus are like the Chevy Covair of the vital organ world. Seriously, Ralph Nader should publish a study on my vag and all the near collisions it's almost caused.

So right now, I'm doing what every woman on earth who lives any where near modern medical facilities does: I'm waiting. I had an ultrasound on Wednesday, right after the Tuesday High Drama in the ER but I have to wait.

I hate to wait.