I recently finished reading Kyria Abrahams book, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing. Since I’ve used its cover image several times on my web site, actually reading it seemed fair. Here’s the thing I should have guessed from the cover: I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed isn’t a hate fueled rant or a whoa-is-me sob story. It’s a memoir that’s actually funny!
Kyria has also posted plenty of YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure and writes for a website called Street Carnage. Check’em out. They’re worth your time. (I’ll be adding links to them on my blog roll soon enough.)
Here’s what she has to say about her book.
When my agent first sent the book to the publishers, she got a response saying, “You sent me a memoir about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness?” My agent replied, “No, it’s a FUNNY book about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness.” Then the publisher was like, “Oh, never mind, I misunderstood.”
I think a lot of authors don’t really understand that our lives aren’t very interesting. Even people who have led fascinating lives – it doesn’t mean it will necessarily make a good book. You have to make it funny and entertaining.
You can also see a short clip from an interview with Kyria where she explains a little about writing the book here.
Kryia, why did you decide to write I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed?
I was having lunch with this woman who had published a memoir and we were discussing what I could do with my story. She suggested a memoir, not thinking I would actually do it. A few months later, I came back to her with a proposal and asked what she thought.
It had to be a book, though. There was really no other way to tell this story. It couldn’t be a film, unless someone was exceptionally talented. You need to understand too much about the people in order to come to a decision at the end. It’s way too involved to be anything other than a book.
Guys, if you read her book, you might want to see that movie.
Kyria, how did you get Touchstone to publish your book? Did you have an awesome agent, or is there a story there you could share with us?
Yes, I do have an awesome agent, but that’s besides the point. Laurie Abkemeier is a great woman and she really believed in the story.
There aren’t a lot of short cuts. Even if you get a book deal based off a blog, you still have to spend a lot of time on the blog. The process is just a lot of hard work. You need to write a solid book proposal and then start querying agents.
Have you caught any flack over the book? Even the glossary at the end has funny lines that might set some people off.
Here’s an example from the first entry in her book’s glossary:
144,000 (Anointed Class, The Little Flock)-While the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses will live forever in an earthly paradise, 144,000 have been specifically selected to ascend to heaven in order to sit at God’s “right hand” and rule with Christ. They will sit by his right hand because his left hand is presumably busy giving AIDS to gay people.
I’m sure that went over well. 🙂
Yes, I caught flack. That’s part of knowing you did something right. Anyway, screw’em if them can’t take a joke. I personally think that self-righteous people help to publicize your work. They make a big deal about how they don’t like it and, in the meantime, they make themselves look like jerks.
I think bad reviews are some of the best publicity. It’s like, “Hey, you don’t want to be an angry jerkoff like THIS guy, right? Look how mad he is over nothing! So you should like this book!”
How old were you when you stopped going to your old Kingdom Hall?
I think I stopped around 20, but kinda hung on for two more years, attending on and off and pretending like I was just “busy” all the time.
Are there any particular issues that drove you away from Jehovah’s Witnesses or that are keeping you away from their Kingdom Halls?
It was just so boring and awful. I hated my life and I hated my husband and I just had to get out. I mean, I was married at 18, and wanted to have a childhood.
Boring and awful sums up a lot of things about my experiences with my Kingdom Hall, too.
Anything you’d like to share with us about why you’re an atheist? Or would you even describe yourself that way?
Yes, I am a proud atheist! I was agnostic for a while and I fooled around with calling myself “spiritual.” I continued to pray because I figured it “couldn’t hurt.” I also made the mistake of getting involved in AA, which I quickly realized was a cult. Instead of learning how to stop harming myself with alcohol, I just ended up surrounded by a lot of Jesus freaks and people who believe things like, “Everything happens for a reason.” It ended up doing more harm than good.
I became an atheist when I was assaulted by my ex-boyfriend who – surprise! – I met in AA. My life fell apart and prayer DIDN’T work. At this point, it became glaringly clear that if there was a god, he was on the side of the abuser. I mean, the guy got a promotion at work. And then, all these “spiritual” people in AA took care of him and gave him a place to live. They totally shunned and ostracized me, and a few people even said I deserved to be hit.
Some of the nicer AA members told me to pray, but they still didn’t want to get involved in the situation. Only a few good people stuck by me, and I’ll always be grateful to them.
Ultimately, when I really needed assistance and money, the only person that helped me was an atheist. I wouldn’t have survived without her. I once had a Christian explain this by saying, “Maybe God sent an atheist to help you!” I’ll let you chew on that for a while.
It was clear that AA had done nothing but bring drama and crazy people into my life, so I distanced myself from them and became an atheist. Only then did my life start making sense!
In AA, I saw first hand what believing in God can do. It basically turns you into an accomplice to whatever bad situation is happening. Instead of helping someone, you tell them to pray. So many people threw me under the bus with that prayer crap. And, not surprisingly, not a single one of them has bothered to call and offer an amends, which is something you are supposed to do in AA.
Religious people talk a big game, but when it comes to behavior and action, they can be pretty evil on the inside. I hope they learned from their mistake, but I doubt it. That kind of person doesn’t have the capacity to grow. Only by becoming an atheist was I able to fully realize that we personally have a responsibility to be kind to each other – because there is no god, there is no prayer, there is only ourselves. It’s the reason I’m not “agnostic.” I am proud to be an atheist.
I try my best to go out of my way to help others, if I can. Belief in an interventionist God encourages people to sit on their asses and do nothing, but they still feel good about themselves afterwards. If you’re a loser, you should at least have to live with that knowledge. But they think they are wonderful. It is harmful to a functioning society.
NOTE: The links to Alcoholic’s Anonymous’ website and to the article about it being a cult are mine, not Kyria’s. Oh, and I pretty much agree with her points here. Not all religious people are evil creeps, but religion can make it easier to be an evil creep if that’s what you are. Prayer makes you feel like you’ve done something, but actually doing something to help others is what makes a difference.
Do you have any other projects that are forthcoming?
I’m writing a second book (about domestic violence) and I’m redesigning my website to include my photography work.
Where and when can we get a copy of your audiobook recording of I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed?
I’m not sure yet! I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available!
Finally, when can we expect the color “mephamonium” to appear in our Crayola boxes?
(Guys, if you haven’t read the book, you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about here.)
Any day now, I hope! I think Crayola has really fallen behind by leaving out the single best imaginary color in the universe!
There’s another video interview with Kyria (a bunch of them are floating out there, actually) that’s really good here. At ten minutes, it’s one of the longer ones. Check it out. There are also some book reviews, here and here, that might interest you if you’re thinking about reading I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed.
Thanks to Kyria for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of her audiobook, so I hope she’ll let us know when that comes out, too!