I recently had the privilege to read Paradise Bound, the debut novel by Carrie Bee. This was especially exciting because Carrie is a fellow author writing in the really minuscule sub-genre of Jehovah’s Witness-themed fiction. (Do we have our own Amazon ranking yet?)
Paradise Bound is the coming-of-age story of Ivy, a girl raised in a devout JW household. There is trouble in paradise when Ivy, a white girl, manifests an unapproved attraction for black guys. Navigating the Jehovah’s Witness written rulebook is hard, but dealing with the unwritten rules is really difficult. Ivy finds this out when she crosses the line with someone of a different skin color. What happens next will both shock and move.
Because I also was a young JW during the novel’s setting it was an especially entertaining time-warp acid wash and hip-hop skating parties. Carrie has a very entertaining voice and there were several laugh-out-loud moments. Readers of all backgrounds will find this book humorous and heartwarming.
I was able to speak to Carrie about her experiences in the JW community, Paradise Bound, and the perfect cocktail to drink with it.
To start, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a happily in love woman and I have three children and one grandchild that I couldn’t be more proud of. I enjoy the arts and people who open their hearts to me. I’ve worked in mental health and health care for the last 17 years.
What made you want to write Paradise Bound?
While growing up, I found that I really enjoyed expressing myself through writing short stories and poetry. It was therapeutic for me. In high school I took every creative writing class I could including journalism. My future goals were promising. My life took a drastic turn when I left the Jehovah’s Witness Organization. After years of being shunned by my parents, my only family, I just wanted it to make sense. How could 2 people seemingly good people shun their only daughter? Long story, short…I researched the Organization and networked with others like me and a whole new world opened up. I wanted to tell my story through fiction.
Are there any similarities between you and Ivy?
She is the person that I saw within myself years ago. Precarious yet naïve. She also had aspirations and dreams that were overshadowed by her parents desire to live on a paradise Earth. She and I always had doubts and questions which interfered with her relationship with her very devout father. We both watched as our mothers surrendered their own sense of being to conform to what was expected of them.
Ivy was always seeking the love of her parents who were more focused on their dedication to their Jehovah’s Witness lifestyle than her needs as a girl coming of age. Ultimately, my own parents continue to chose their ‘faith’ over me simply because I disagree with their teachings. I have been shunned since 1996.
As an ex-JW, what has been your experience with shunning?
Everyone has the right to have a relationship with their own family. The Watchtower dictates these relationships with tragic results. I was pressured into baptism at age 16. I had no idea of the consequences or what would ensue years later. That decision is the reason why I have be slandered, degraded, criminalized and hated. I could write another book just on this subject.
Jehovah’s Witnesses promote themselves as a united, multicultural organization. Paradise Bound presents a picture of a Jehovah’s Witness parents who are prejudiced and bigoted. What has been your experience with “race” issues within the religion?
In the early to mid 1900s,The Watchtower Society wove very racist thoughts into it’s publications. Now it is to the benefit of the organization that they appear to be in racial harmony as this tends to draw in more members. While everyone’s experiences differ, mine were not pleasant. It was okay to go to the Kingdom Hall and worship with black people…just don’t have romantic interest in one.
What advice would you give to a Jehovah’s Witness teenager, like Ivy, caught in situation of not believe the religion and not wanting to lose family relationships?
The Watchtower Organization teaches that the heart is weak and treacherous so following your heart is not an option. My advice IS to follow your heart. If the love of your family and friends is only hinged upon your believing the same way they do, THEY are the ones that are mislead. If you leave and they continue to love you and enjoy that family bond, they are genuinely showing what love is all about. But the WT teaches just the opposite. Unfortunately, in my experience, my parents chose their religion over me. They could’ve had both but chose to eliminate me from their lives and in self preservation, I had to remove their toxicity from my life as well. There IS happiness outside of the Organization.
One of things I enjoy doing is having authors pair a cocktail with their novel. If Paradise Bound was had an official drink what would it be?
Damn. You’re awesome! I’d have to say a ‘Hpnotiq Blue Breeze’. It’s a little sour, it’s sexy-sweet. There’s a splash of insanity but it will get you to paradise!
Thanks! It sounds awesome. Here’s how to make it.
- 2 oz. Hpnotiq
- 1 oz. Premium Coconut Rum
- Splash of Pineapple Juice
Pour ingredients over ice in a rocks or hurricane glass. Stir, garnish with a pineapple wedge.