Title: I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing
Author: Kyria Abrahams
• Exceptionally witty memoir of an otherwise depressing life story
• Manages to make a tragic story interesting, entertaining, and even amusing
• Not a lot of explanation of Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine, if that's what you are looking for
• Memoir of growing up in a Jehovah's Witness family
• Describes the life of a young woman who makes a lot of bad decisions
There aren't many people like Kyria Abrahams. That's good in a sense, because I'd hate to think of many people enduring what she's gone through, but it's also bad because if more people had her character, they might have an easier time dealing with traumas and crises. Developing a quick but twisted sense of humor must help when coping with difficult experiences, but few develop it quite as thoroughly as Kyria did. It's little wonder that after the Jehovah's Witnesses she became a become stand-up comedian — not the usual sort of transition, but in her case it fits.
Kyria Abrahams' book I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing is, as you can probably guess, all about growing up in a Jehovah's Witness family. Most such books focus on the horrors created by religious doctrines and the fanatical adherence to them, but Abrahams doesn't hesitate to reveal the ways in which she contributed to her situation through bad decisions followed by awful decisions followed by "can it get any worse" decisions.
Granted, those decisions can't be separated from her situation. For example, it's not hard to understand why she'd want to marry before she even reached the age of 17 — her home situation was definitely worth wanting to escape, and then there was the sexual pressure that could only be legitimately released through marriage. Still, it's impossible not to read her account without knowing that it's a train wreck in progress, far too obvious for anyone to miss, yet she continues to find ways to help make to a bad situation even worse.
This is especially true when it comes to her aforementioned marriage. No matter how dysfunctional her family was, she wasn't being physically abused like some Jehovah's Witnesses. No matter how badly she wanted sex she couldn't have imagined that sex would be very good if with a person she wasn't the least bit attracted to. You want to shout out "No, don't do it!," but of course she does it and doesn't realize that the marriage was a mistake for at least year, at which point she decides that only adultery will give her an escape. Yes, it made more sense to sleep with someone other than her husband than to simply walk away.
All along she also believed that the destruction of the entire world was immanent. She and her fellow Jehovah's Witnesses would be saved while everyone would be killed. That's why she never bothered to finish school — no one would need schooling after the coming apocalypse.
That's why she wanted to get married sooner rather than later. In such a context, an unhappy marriage doesn't seem important if being married is necessary to ensure you spot among the saved — after all, her parents stayed married and they seemed to hate each other.
So why did she want out? I think her marital unhappiness was creating doubts that even she didn't entirely recognize. It was, however, pushing her to question what she had been told and act in ways that were incompatible with JW doctrine. Raising such questions too overtly, though, is dangerous when it means risking the loss of everything you've every known: every family member, every friend, every single support structure you ever thought you could call on.
Lucky for Kyria Abrahams, the time period before she was finally disfellowshipped allowed her to develop relationships with people who would help her in her time of need. Indeed, they proved to be better friends after such a short time than people she knew her entire life:
For the past 23 years, I'd been told that it was not possible for anyone to survive outside the safety and guidance of God's organization. Leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses would be like leaving the haunted cabin in the woods to "go check on that strange noise." Never again would a disfellowshipped person find caring friends or experience true love, as these things did not exist in Satan's world. [...]
These worldly, godless poets had loaned me money when I hadn't asked for it and had given me a place to stay. When the people I'd known for 23 years stopped talking to me, the people I'd known for 23 days helped me move. [...]
No longer holding back and waiting for a perfect earth, I now needed to teach myself how to survive on the actual, existing one. I had a whole backlog of learning experiences to get through, most of which would take years to be expunged from my credit report. I needed to **** up and I needed to start ****ing up soon. What else could I do but keep moving forward? After all, this life is the only one we've got.
You probably won't learn a lot about the Jehovah's Witnesses you didn't know before, unless of course you knew basically nothing, but I don't think it was intended as an expose of their religion. So if you're looking to learn more about them from a factual perspective, this isn't the book for you, though it might provide some insights on behavior that you otherwise may have found bizarre. At the same time, though, it also probably isn't for you if you have no interest in them whatsoever.
I'm not sure who the target audience is, other than perhaps other former Jehovah's Witnesses, but I'm also not sure that it needs one. Kyria Abrahams tells her story with enough wit and snark that it will likely be enjoyed by just about anyone. It's an easy book to enjoy but hard to put down.