For the first time in almost three years I read a book I actually own. Over the last several years I’ve been reading a steady diet of library books, (with a few borrowed from friends and co-workers) and in the process completely ignoring the books in my personal library. Well, that streak recently came to an end. After realizing that 2011 is half over with and I’d yet to read anything of my own, in a fit of frustration I unearthed Kyria Abrahams’s 2009 memoir I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing from the sprawling cache of trade paperbacks piled beneath my cheap home entertainment system. As I cracked it open and began to read I quickly felt the long-forgotten surge of satisfaction that comes from of reading a book one actually OWNS. As I began to read, almost immediately I could sense that I’d picked a winner. Sucked in by the author’s compelling story, clever writing and surprisingly superb sense of humor, I was hooked. I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed is a terrific memoir.
I first learned of I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed when it was featured in Quality Paperback Club’s monthly catalog. A few moths later, a rather well-read friend of mine asked me if I’d read it and upon learning that I hadn’t, went on to tell me how much she enjoyed it and how I would too. It’s autobiographical tale of Kyria Abrahams, a former Jehovah’s Witness from southern New England turned slam poet and comedian. It chronicles her life starting with early childhood, her rebellious teen years, her disastrous marriage at 17 to a 24 year-old fellow Witness, her bouts with OCD, alcohol abuse, depression and marital infidelity and lastly her road to divorce, “disfellowship” and life as a rising star on the poetry slam circuit. All of this told with verve and humor, making even the most sad and pathetic episodes of her fractured life funny and engrossing. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book, even in public. This is a very entertaining memoir.
Like one of those “chicken or the egg” or “nature versus nurture” questions, one wonders why her family and ultimately Kyria Abrahams were so messed up. Can one blame her parents for their refusal to dissolve their loveless marriage ? How about her mother’s domineering and manipulative personality ? Her father’s inability to secure decent long-term employment ?
Or is her religion to blame ? With divorce prohibited, her parents would have little choice but to remain married to each other and as a result make life miserable for everyone in her family. Her religion’s eschatologically driven fatalism could discourage her and others in her family from pursuing any higher education, thereby limiting both career and intellectual development opportunities. Lastly, according to Abrahams Jehovah Witnesses believe that all non-Jehovah’s Witness Christians, or any non- Jehovah Witnesses for that matter are not God’s chosen. Could this help promote an insular and possibly antagonistic worldview making it difficult for her and her co-religionists to successfully relate to and interact with the wider public ?
What shouldn’t be questioned however is how much I enjoyed this book. If you like reading stuff by David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell then you gotta read I’m Perfect You’re Doomed. If you’re like me and you enjoy reading memoirs by authors like Veronica Chater and Christine Rosen who grew up in fundamentalist households, then you also gotta read this. Heck, it’s a great book. Just read it.