Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing

Kyria Abrahams' I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing is a brave, marvelous and astounding memoir. The fact that Abrahams broke away from being a Witness and, moreover, wrote a funny, tragic, and insightful memoir about the experience is both inspiring and admirable. The trick that she pulls off, and a difficult one at that, is imparting enough information about Witnesses (which, I might add, does indeed require a book-length project, unless one wants to stereotype Witnesses), while still garnering sympathy for the narrator and thus explaining her departure from the sect.
 
In hilarious but often sad scenes, Abrahams describes growing up in a Witness family whose constant visits of encouragements from elders and parents wildly swinging from being devout to lax members of their congregation. Her unhappy home life leads her to impulsively get married at 18. By 19 years old, she is realizes she is in a loveless marriage, manipulated and controlled by her religion, and tries to get out, either through daytime drinking, initially laughable attempts at affairs, cutting, and trying to think for herself. Why does she have misgivings about feeling sorry everyone who is not a Witness, because they will perish shortly after the Armageddon?
The only obvious drawback to Abraham's accomplishment is that she turns to drugs, boozing and sex in her efforts to break away from her congregation. Drugs, of course, and any abuse of the body are anathema to Witnesses, as is sex before marriage. They are allowed to court, marry, and then sex becomes acceptable between two people sharing the bond of holy matriomony and who who love each other. Drinking, contrary to popular belief, is allowed for Witnesses, so long as they drink in moderation. However, by using these means of escape, Abrahams may, unfortunately, confirm devout Witnesses' deeply-held belief that those who turn away from the only true religion are doomed to a life of sin in a world controlled by the devil.
However, I digress. This book is a maddening and brilliant vivisection of a very controversial religion. Why can't JW's give blood? Why can't they celebrate birthdays, Halloween, or Christmas? If anyone was ever curious about any of these facets of the religion, they can find answers to these queries, and much more, here. As well, Abrahams humanizes Witnesses. They are not robots. They agonize with the religion's views on topics such as homosexuality. For those who are curious, gays and lesbians are supposed to be able to study the Bible and build up enough moral fortitude to ultimately become good, end-of-the-world-fearing, heterosexuals.
Author photo of Kyria Abrahams. As she has survived her own self-destructive youth, but also the Jehovah's Witnesses, one feels the need to congratulate her on both counts. Congratulations, Kyria Abrahams. You made it through.
To top off her engrossing story, Abrahams spices every page with pop-culture references, including the JW fear of the demonic Smurfs and how Smurfs are supposedly tools of the devil out to corrupt children. I wonder if Abrahams has heard of Tattoo This Madness In, Daniel Allen Cox's searing novella. In his rough-and-tumble tale, Cox makes an in-your-face, Cronenberg-esque attack on Jehovah's Witnesses. His protagonist turns other witnesses away from the sect, putting them through life-altering, traumatic experiences, and then tattooing each new disfellowshipped member with a Smurf tattoo.

As for I'm Perfect, I have to go with Janeane Garofalo’s blurb on this one–this is certainly the funniest book I have ever seen done by disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness from Pawtucket. In all seriousness, however, Abrahams has done something truly astounding and enlightening here.
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2 comments:

  1. Good read!

    The Orwellian Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society defrauded my family so I have a healthy measure of justifiable anger also.-Danny Haszard Bangor Maine 'apostate with an attitude'

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    1. Dear Danny:
      Thank you for taking both the time to read my review about the JW memoir and for your comment. As someone who has significant knowledge of Witnesses, having studied the relgion with a close friend for five years in my youth, you have my sympathies. Still, if ever you have time, Abrahams' book is worth the trip as a breakdown of many of the sect's details, for its use of humour, and also because the book can reach Witnesses, both current and disfellowshipped. JKM

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