Amen: The autobiography of a nun

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.

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amenBefore 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.

sister-jesme-amen-autobiographyThe press comes to know about it and they question the congregation. They tell them that she is mentally unstable. That’s when sister Jesme comes out with the truth.

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.

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33 thoughts on “Amen: The autobiography of a nun

  1. It always makes me sad to see a book about an important subject with writing so bad it makes it hard to go through. It really is a shame she didn’t ask for help from a co-author!

  2. At least you did finish it, so that’s fair. Thanks for an honest review. It seems she’s not the best writer from what you say but it also sounds like her story needed telling. If only to defend herself. I wish her well.

    • Exactly, her story deserves to be told. That’s the exact reason why I wrote this review. I don’t bother writing reviews for books I do not like 🙂

  3. The Sister Abhaya case was made into a movie – with a Mallu hero. Gosh! I love it. I am not sure if the movie is entirely true! Though, it seems it is.
    I heard about this book, and heard it had started a chain reaction in Kerala, seriously I won’t want to read it.

  4. I saw that on your blog a few days ago and thought it looked really interesting but couldn’t find anywhere that would send it from the UK. I was going to skip your review (as you suggested, because I wanted to read it) but after reading your ‘conclusion,’ I think I’ll skip the book now haha!

  5. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Celibacy is against nature. If we act against nature with Celibacy it would naurally leads to sexual starvation which in turn leads to forced sex. Nuns and Fathers are normal humans with thier basic sex instincts which they forcebily suppress with their blind beliefs. But how long can they do that!!.
    Chruch cannot take away the rule of Celibacy since this rule is the foundation of their beliefs. Lets the Fathers and nuns celebrate thier life secretly if they are doing some good work for the society. By this way forced sex can be avoided. What is the problem with Sr. Jesme. She is a blind believer and is unable to accept the truth of life.

    • Yes they are humans, but they also know what they are getting into when they decide to become nuns or priests. Sexual starvation is no excuse for forced sex.

      It’s easy to say someone cannot accept the truth of life but it’s really difficult when you are yourself a victim of forced sex. And Sr. Jesme’s book is not only about that. She also points out the corruption and the petty jealousies that go around in the church. We cannot just dismiss what she has to say, there are some harsh truth’s in it.

  6. An autobiography written in pain with suffering mental torture does not require writer’s skills. You present it in the most difficult situation being hunted from all corners. Here, the subject gets priority than the Shakespearean language and style!

  7. On Pg.20 in the book – Sr.Jesme says that in June 1974 her family took her to watch the film “Sound of Music” in order to discourage her to become a nun.
    This is definitely not possible since “Sound of Music” released in 1966 and even in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta it must have run for a maximum of six months. And in the small town of Cochin where she lived in those days, it must have lasted just a couple of weeks!
    So how did she see it with her family in 1974 – a full 8 years later?
    Besides in 1974 there were definitely no video VHS tapes, VCD and DVD. Even the movie in a spool would be impossible to lay hands on in small town like Cochin.
    Sr.Jesme seems to have put in this “Sound of Music” rubbish just to “spice” up her autobiography! A lie definitely by this ex-nun.

    • I really don’t think that she would resort to lying for spicing up the book for half a para. What you are saying could be true but I also know that in small towns movies released much later than the actual release date. I remember watching Jurassic Park in a theater years after its release, in a small town. So you’d never know.

    • Hello dear… even now also in some villages in India plays amitabh bachan’s Sholay…the old one released in 1975. So in 1974 running a 1966 movies doesn’t sounds like a lie. If u say it’s a lie then u may even tell that the whole book is a lie…lol

  8. hey violet…
    thx for the review…she wanted some changes..i felt tht book was a desperate attempt to get the attention of public towards these kind of immoral practices…..and obviously she doesnt want the next generation of sisters to face what she had gone through…in tht way it was a great attempt….

  9. being a parish member in Kerala i personnel y know about what is happening inside the church.sister jesme have taken the first step. but still there are many nuns troubled by sexual and mental harassment. In other hand many of them secretly enjoying their ‘ DIVINE SEX LIFE” . since i have stayed in a convent hostel i personnel y seen many surprising incidents. this can be avoided only if they have family life. priest and nuns should permitted to get married. leading a divine and peaceful family life will encourage them to praise Jesus more. let others learn morals from this family s. worship,prayers, gospel,. blessings, everything should start from the family. if do so changes will happen automatically. good family s are the back bone of great society

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