A dark coming-of-age comedy that goes behind closed doors into the rarely-glimpsed world of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Gabe is a teenage Jehovah’s Witness convinced God is going to kill him at Armageddon for masturbating.
But Gabe’s not alone: There’s his best friend Peter, who writes obscenities in the margins of his Watchtower; Jin, the Korean kid in the congregation, who subsists on Ho Hos and Doritos; and Camille, who follows Gabe around, trying to be his girlfriend. When he falls in love with Jasmine, Camille’s beautiful older sister, things only get more complicated.
Meanwhile, the adult world around him seems to be going from mildly absurd to full-blown dysfunctional. His dad is an elder in the congregation who decides the fate of sinners (like the married couple who confess to accidentally having anal sex), while his mother waits for happiness on the other side of Armaggedon.
Fearing eternal damnation and caught in the only belief system he has ever known, it is up to Gabe to find a path to romance, love, sanity, and something like happiness.
Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk was a recommended reading pick from Vanity Fair, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR and other major media outlets.
Published by Soft Skull Press it’s a segment of my life as a Jehovah’s Witness teenager…in love with girls, trying to figure out life as a common coming-of-age arc all wrapped up in an environment that’s foreign to outsiders yet surprisingly common to those who grew up religious. It has less run on sentences than the above and people usually tell me, wow, I thought I had it rough, I was laughing my ass off. Which means they were laughing at me. And hell, I laugh at me too.
I worked with a couple of production companies and it was optioned with a push for a TV series and what I noticed on the visual adaptation that was happening was the enthusiasm from production companies, then moving forward pitching networks they couldn’t get on board. Which was a gift because I was able to learn really fast how to deal with rewrite requests and keep my nose in the game while letting trusted people who understood the vision try to go with it.
Ultimately, that lead to copious amounts of energy to be a part of that adaptation process and my belief that synchronicity wasn’t there yet.
Now it’s in the hands of a director through a production company that I have absolute trust in. I wrote the screenplay over about a year and we worked back and forth on notes and mythology of the world of JWs and how to capture that without poking fun at a very real belief system.
The delays, misfires, etc. before finally finding the right soul mates for the screen adaptation was an absolute miracle.
Below are reviews of the book when it came out.
Stay updated on our Facebook page with updates on the film as well as discussion of the book and the lunacy of growing up especially as a Jehovah’s Witness. Like the Facebook page here. (Tony DuShane 2014)
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
DuShane writes with an insider’s perspective about this unique world, balancing criticism with understanding and a convincing portrait of the struggle to integrate religion into a modern world, producing an ultimately touching story that will speak to atheists and believers alike.
San Francisco Chronicle
Some novels start out with a fair wind but blow themselves out long before reaching the final passage. Not this one. Getting on DuShane’s narrative arc is a voyage worth taking.
DuShane also nails the sense of fear and paranoia that grips younger members of his congregation. It’s like having the Stasi crash your school dance.
Because DuShane’s prose is stripped refreshingly and equally clean of pomp and pretense, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk is a book that will stay with me for awhile.
An Amazon Reviewer (one-star)
My nephew said this was a good book. There were interesting parts but overall I found it gross and unappealing.
The Brooklyn Rail
Beyond its somewhat unfortunate title, “Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk” runs the gamut from intensely horrible and angsty to laugh-out-loud ridiculous, and it provides a sharp and powerful introduction to a poignant new voice.
An Amazon Reviewer (five-stars)
I am surprised at how ravenously I devoured this book and that I already want to read it again, which is probably the highest compliment I can pay it.
Hipster Book Club
Tony DuShane has created a highly engaging narrative that is as hilarious as it is deeply moving.
Kenneth DuShane (author’s father)
I couldn’t stop reading, when is the sequel?
The Barcelona Review
I love this book for its excellent storytelling, for the clarity and effectiveness of the prose, for making me laugh, for causing me to gasp and to feel empathy for so many of the characters.
Below are a couple of books I have contributed to and edited.
Chemical Lust – Editor (Monophonic Press, 2006)