Book Review: I’m Perfect; You’re Doomed By Kyria Abrahams
Kyria Abrahams is rising in visibility in comic circles. She originally wanted to tell her memoir as a one-woman show, but instead ended up writing it down as a book. Kyria’s memoir takes the reader from an inside look at what it was like to be raised a Jehovah’s Witness in Rhode Island in the late 1980s and early 1990s to her marriage at 16 to her eventual disfellowship. Not your typical serious-toned memoir, Kyria approaches her heavy material with a comic’s graceful tongue-in-cheek snark.
Anyone who had a fundamentalist upbringing will find the first half of Kyria’s book incredibly relatable and will be relieved at being granted permission to laugh at the absurd concerns fundie kids get saddled with. Kyria was encompassed in a conservative world continually seeing demons lurking around every corner, or even in that plate you stupidly bought at a yardsale from that old woman who is probably a witch. A typical example of her writing style can be found in the first chapter, “The succession of power was this: Jesus was the head over man; man was the head over woman; and woman was the head over cooking peach cobbler and shutting up.” It’s rare to find a laugh out loud memoir dealing with something as intense as being raised in a cult, and Kyria handles it well.
This style holds out through Kyria’s early teen years and her rebellion of marrying a Witness eight years older than her. It starts to fall apart after the wedding though. The writing becomes fuzzy. It’s unclear exactly how much time has passed or why she suddenly stopped going to the Meetings (the Witness version of church services). This, to me, should have been one of the most compelling parts of the book. Why did she leave? Why was she so incredibly desperate to be disfellowshipped that she actually asked for it at the meeting about her adultery? Although earlier in the book, Kyria demonstrates remarkable acumen at analyzing herself and her behavior, at the end of the book she loses this. I am certain, as an ex-fundie myself, that Kyria spent a lot of time analyzing why she left, yet none of this introspection is written into the book.
Similarly, the reader is left really wondering about Kyria’s OCD. While it was excruciatingly debilitating in her mid to late teens, it seems to suddenly mostly disappear, or at least disappear enough so that she can live in a crappy apartment in a bad neighborhood by herself. I’m not discrediting Kyria, but what happened in that interim?
The seemingly sudden decision to get disfellowshipped and the lack of information on her OCD are the two most glaring examples of the disjointedness of the second half of the book. Of greater concern to me, though, is the fact that Kyria really does seem worse off at the end of the memoir than at the beginning. She ends up in a crappy apartment, drinking and doing drugs fairly consistently, screwing random poets, having given herself permission to “fuck up.” This is a stereotype of the ex-fundie woman, and I have to say it’s a fairly accurate one. Normally though, this is a phase the person goes through before finding her own new footing using morals she has chosen for herself. I’m a bit concerned that ending on the rebelling and going crazy note rather than the finding the new footing note will make fundamentalists feelvindicated. They will point to this as evidence that they are correct that apostates really are worse off. What concerns me more though is the general population reading this book, the ones raised normally who are not apostates, were given no guides by Kyria to understand why she behaved the way she behaved. There are very good reasons why ex-fundies go crazy for a little bit. They weren’t given the tools to deal with the world. The lack of introspection in the second half of the book will leave people who haven’t experienced it thinking the problem is Kyria’s inherent nature and not the way she was nurtured.
The book still does provide good insight into the world of those people who knock on your door in pairs. Additionally, it is refreshing to read a funny memoir about a serious topic.
3.5 out of 5 stars