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I'm Perfect, You're Doomed

Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing

Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Kyria Abrahams’s childhood was haunted by the knowledge that her neighbors and schoolmates were doomed to die in an imminent fiery catastrophe; that Smurfs were evil; that just about anything you could buy at a yard sale was infested by demons; and that Ouija boards—even if they were manufactured by Parker Brothers—were portals to hell. .

When Kyria turned eighteen, she found herself married to a man she didn’t love, with adultery her only way out. “Disfellowshipped” and exiled from the only world she’d ever known, Kyria realized that the only people who could save her were the very sinners she had prayed would be smitten by God’s wrath. Written with scorching wit and deep compassion, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed manages to be hilarious about the ironic absurdity of growing up believing that nothing matters because everything’s about to be destroyed..

I'm Perfect, You're Doomed
Kyria Abrahams

Questions and Topics For Discussion

  1. The book begins with a Frederick Perls quote: "Many factors come together to create this specific unique person which is I." Now that you have an understanding of Kyria as a child, can you identify some of the Jehovah's Witness factors that contributed to who she was? Examine her views on finishing high school, getting married, and having a job. What other external factors contributed to her personal development?
  2. What prescriptions do Jehovah's Witnesses give for proper parenting (see page 104)?  Do you agree with the methods described?
  3. Kyria describes her elementary school experience: "Unlike all the other students in the school, I was special. In short, the rest of my class was going to die at Armageddon. I was going to live forever—as long as I refrained from singing the National Anthem or drawing a turkey from the outline of my hand" (page 84).  How do the rules of Jehovah's Witnesses compare with the rules of other religions? Which religions are stricter than others in regard to what must be done to achieve eternal life?
  4. Abrahams humorously says of her early experiences in the Kingdom Hall, "We all knew what was in our thoughts (intense love for Jehovah possibly coupled with a need to pee) and there was no need to cause problems by talking about actual feelings" (page 34).  Does this description relate to Kyria's interactions with her parents while growing up? Why or why not?
  5. Discuss Abrahams’ recollection of swallowing a bottle of pills. Why do you think her parents responded the way they did? Compare with their reactions to Kyria's other decisions, such as dropping out of high school, divorcing Alan, and being disfellowshipped.
  6. Why do you think Kyria married Alan? What were her reasons for wanting a divorce? Do you understand the decisions she made?
  7. Examine the other relationships in the book. How does Kyria's marriage compare with that of her parents? How does she approach her second marriage proposal, this time to Penn? Do these relationships adhere to the rules for being good Jehovah's Witnesses?
  8. "I was overwhelmed with the need to interact with these people. I wanted to be them and I wanted to make out with them, possibly both at the same time." (page 289) This is just one of many emphatic descriptions throughout the book that Abrahams gives when meeting new friends for the first time. Discuss the peers she encounters during each phase of her childhood, looking closely at Sarah, Heather, Judy, and her fellow poetry slammers. Examine the effects, both positive and negative, that each of these relationships has on Kyria.                                                                            
  9. Near the end of the book, Abrahams writes, "It didn't feel wrong to have sex with my friend's boyfriend because I couldn't fathom anything being wrong any more. I'd been told that murder was as wrong as eating birthday cake was as wrong as smoking, as wrong as reading books, as wrong as having sex with your friend's boyfriend. I needed time to grade each of these things on their own merit, to make sense out of the world, one ruined septic system at a time." (page 365) How does this description compare with Abrahams’ sense of morality earlier in the book? At what point does she begin questioning the rules of being a Witness?
  10. Why do you think Kyria's mother and friend Maya both went back to being Jehovah's Witnesses after they were disfellowshipped? Why do you think Kyria never rejoined?
  11. In your opinion, does Abrahams portray her former religion and its members fairly?
Photo Credit: Todd Serencha

Kyria Abrahams was a regular columnist for Jest Magazine for several years, where she was featured alongside performers and writers from The Daily Show and Chappelle’s Show. As a standup comic, Comedy Central twice selected her as one of ten semi-finalists for the Boston Laugh Riots Competition. She has also been a repeat performer at alternative comedy shows like "Eating It" and "Invite them Up," as well as literary readings like "How to Kick People"--each of them places where the likes of Jon Stewart, Janeane Garafalo, Patton Oswalt, Fred Armisen, and David Cross have appeared.  Raised in Providence, Rhode Island she now lives in Queens, New York.

"Kyria Abrahams, former teen bride of a doomsday cult and seeker of salvation in slam poetry, tells the terribly funny story of her improbable life with candor, wit, and an unsparing eye for the perfect detail. Brilliant." -- Janice Erlbaum, author of Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir

"The funniest book I've ever read by a disfellowshipped Jehovah's Witness from Pawtucket. Very funny. Very, very funny. Very, very, very funny." -- Janeane Garofalo

"Amazingly vivid and profoundly compelling. Twisted, touching, absurd, hilarious, and honest. A new kind of memoir." -- Wendy Spero, author of Microthrills

"Kyria Abrahams can do the 'coming-of-age in a sea of eternal hellfire' story like nobody else. Her tale of an adolescence in the ranks of the Jehovah's Witnesses is irresistible, thanks to her hilarious, sweet, and knowing narrator." -- Bob Powers, author of Happy Cruelty Day!

"Miraculous...hilarious....Simultaneously affectionate and aware, Kyria recounts a childhood and young womanhood that at once seems completely universal and breathtakingly bizarre." -- Adam Felber, author of Schrödinger's Ball and panelist on NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"

"This acerbic, witty memoir chronicles the first 23 years of Abraham's life with candor and a good dose of comedy." -- Publishers Weekly

"A natural writer whose prose flows effortlessly as she easily mixes throwaway humor and painful memories in a compelling narrative." -- Booklist

"Undoubtedly the cleverest lapsed Jehovah's Witness yet, Abrahams offers a graphic, mordant, wickedly distaff take on her life." -- Kirkus

"Hilarious, raw, and touching...Abrahams emerged to write about her experience in an honest, funny, and somehow relatable way." -- The Comedians

"Abrahams provides readers with a profound anecdotal look of growing up as a Jehovah Witness" -- Harriet Klausner, Genre Go Round