Monday, January 26, 2009
I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed by Kyria Abrahams
I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing by Kyria Abrahams sets a tone of voice, a quirky perspective, and sardonic humor from the very first chapter which reads with the sharp snappiness of a stand up comedy routine. Thankfully, after the first chapter, the book settles into a more narrative flow, remaining true to the voice, with only the occasional biting comment and brilliantly surprising metaphors. Abrahams shares her story about growing up a Jehovah’s Witness in Rhode Island in a family that clearly needed more than the neighborhood Kingdom Hall could provide. Her parents are miserably married but unable to leave the marriage without risking being excommunicated, or, as the JW’s put it, disfellowshipped. As Abrahams approaches pre-adolescence, where everyone has the angst ridden conviction that they are alone and the sole freak in a world of normalcy, she is forced to renounce holidays and Smurfs all for her religion’s sake. As she gets older, her sense of isolation and desperate need for community grows. Her friendships have a furious neediness and her own dysfunctions manifest in other self-destructive ways. That she eventually breaks away from a faith she never fully embraced is inevitable. How she does so is perversely fascinating as Abrahams holds nothing back, exposing her train wreck choices with enough humor to lighten up what could have potentially been an utterly depressing and despairing story. Although the last few chapters seem to rush through to a not quite satisfying closure, over all the memoir is satisfying enough to make me wonder what happened next. Does Abrahams ever return to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or does she choose to follow a different spiritual path? According to the single sentence blurb on the back of the book she is a standup comedian (not a surprise), spoken-word poet (and unfortunately never shares any of her good poetry but oddly chooses to share a typical teenaged attempt at verse), and web producer (I don’t even know what this means because I’m pretty sure that the web was around long before she first used a computer so how can she possibly have produced it?). I should offer one caveat in my review. I read the acknowledgments when I was more than halfway through the book and was pleasantly surprised to see the name of someone I know. So by some small world coincidence, Abrahams and I are only one degree removed from one another. And thanks to my daughter this means that Abrahams is only four degrees removed from Kevin Bacon. Or maybe that’s five . . . I always forget the exact numbering of these things.