What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your most serious book ever, because, well, it’s recent!)
Well, it would have to be Amen: The Autobiography of a nun by Sister Jesme. I just read it and I already have the review, so I thought I’ll post it with today’s BTT.
Before you read further let me warn you, I am not going to recommend this book so there are going to be a few spoilers in this review. So if you are planning to read it, skip this. But do come back and tell me what you think of the book.
There are 2 sides to Amen. First is, how is Amen as an entertainment medium and second is the subject matter. And although it’s difficult to separate the two, I have to make that distinction here.
Amen is an autobiography of a nun, something that’s very apparent from the name. Sister Jesme, born in 1956, realized that she wanted to spend her life in service to Jesus when she was in her late teens. She completed all those courses and compulsory tests that you are supposed to do if you want to become a nun, for years and years apparently.
After joining the Church as a nun, she realizes that things are not like she thought they would be. In her book she mentions that homosexuality is very common in the Church and those who don’t reciprocate the senior sisters advances have to face the consequences. Sister Jesme was forced into a homo relationship with a sister and although everyone knew about it they did not object. In fact they encouraged her to co-operate for their peace of mind. She also states examples where a few priests are involved in sexual relationships with the nuns. She also tells us that corruption is very common in schools and colleges run by the church. They ask for donations and many sisters harbor petty jealousies against other sisters.
Sister Jesme was very outspoken on various issues such as donations among others which led to some of the senior sisters turning against her. They perceived her as a threat. She gives a lot of examples and incidents to prove the point. After some years, when she becomes the principle of a college, they try to remove her from the post by falsely accusing her of wrong doings. When that is unsuccessful, they try to get her admitted to a mental hospital and start treatments on her. Finally, she has enough and leaves the Congregation and goes into hiding. She is afraid that they will force her to come back and eventually prove that she is mentally unstable.
This book is one more embarrassment to the Catholic Church in Kerala along with the string of incidents that splashed on South Indian newspapers recently. There was a Sister Abhaya Murder case in which two Catholic priests and a nun were arrested and the suicide case of a nun who was made to do all the chores in the convent and in the night she was sexually harassed by the head of the convent.
I don’t know if anything happened after this book was released but there is one thing that Sister Jesme mentions in the epilogue which was really disgusting and something that is not expected from a religious body.
“The church also brings out a bimonthly called the Truth. In march issue, X, no. 2, the editor himself has done a cover story about me with the heading –Amen: The Autobiography of Sr Jesme: The confession of a prostitute). The cover carries a photograph of my body, across which are plastered my references to sex in the book, taken out of context.”
All I can say is that whatever be her personal reasons for writing the book I feel it was necessary. A few corrupt priests and nuns should not be allowed to corrupt the entire church system. For those who think this book is against the church and all the holy nuns, let me tell you it isn’t. It’s against corruption and a few bad people. I hope the church instead of denying the charges and accusations, try to find out the guilty and make it safe for others.
Now onto the point about how entertaining was the book. Honestly it was boring. I couldn’t bring myself to read it after about 100 pages. But I finished it because I wanted to know what happened. The writing style is very novice and like reading history notes or something. One incident blends into the other and before you try and understand what happened you are pulled into an entirely non-related incident. I literally had to slog through it.
Sorry Sister Jesme, but I think you should have co-written it with another author. This book was first released in Malayalam although it was originally written in English. The Malayalam version was an instant hit and went to it’s third printing in the first month itself.
Woah…that was some review, wasn’t it? I’m surprised if you reached this far.
Conclusion: Skip it. Read the news and Google the reviews. Time is too precious. 2 stars.