Item description for The Spanking Room: A Child's Eye View of the Jehovah's Witnesses by William Coburn...
Overview I had stopped vomiting, but still shook and sobbed. Mom returned to the room to sit on the edge of my bed. Again she asked, "Billy what's wrong?" "That was my bus route," I whispered when I could get words out. "What if someone I knew came to the door?" "So?" "They'd find out I was a Jehovah's Witness." Mom's hand met the side of my head in a flash of brilliant white light and an explosion of pain. I collapsed onto the mattress while she flailed at me, her rage-clenched fists thudding into my eight-year-old body. "How dare you?" she shrieked. "You awful, rotten child! How dare you be ashamed of Jehovah? I hate you! I hate you!" The Spanking Room is the true story of a young boy's upbringing, and how the unorthodox doctrines of the Watchtower Society encourage violence against its most helpless members-the children. Whether you are looking for specific answers or an overall understanding of Jehovah's Witness beliefs and practices, The Spanking Room delivers in a straightforward, compelling manner. Journey with little Billy Coburn as he grows up in the Watchtower Society, learn what Jehovah's Witnesses believe about God, and experience the inner workings of the Kingdom Hall through a child's-eye view. If you or someone you love is a Jehovah's Witness, this book is for you.
Publishers Description I had stopped vomiting, but still shook and sobbed. Mom returned to the room to sit on the edge of my bed. Again she asked, "Billy what's wrong?" "That was my bus route," I whispered when I could get words out. "What if someone I knew came to the door?" "So?" "They'd find out I was a Jehovah's Witness." Mom's hand met the side of my head in a flash of brilliant white light and an explosion of pain. I collapsed onto the mattress while she flailed at me, her rage-clenched fists thudding into my eight-year-old body. "How dare you?" she shrieked. "You awful, rotten child How dare you be ashamed of Jehovah? I hate you I hate you " The Spanking Room is the true story of a young boy's upbringing, and how the unorthodox doctrines of the Watchtower Society encourage violence against its most helpless members-the children.
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Bill Coburn is a Christian, a husband, and a father. He is a successful technical recruiter with a list of clients that include the Pentagon. Bill is an accomplished public speaker and has given seminars, classes, and workshops on subjects ranging from drug awareness counseling to close-combat survival at West Point. He is also a Master of Tae Kwon Do, a discipline he's taught for twenty years.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Spanking Room: A Child's Eye View of the Jehovah Witnesses?
Love Mom, Question Her Faith, Be Embarrassed by Mom, and Fear Her Religious Discipline Dec 29, 2008
The Spanking Room (as the title suggests) is one part child-abuse tale, one part description of Jehovah's Witnesses from a terrorized child's perspective, and one part autobiography outlining the worst parts of a troubled childhood. From this book you'll learn a lot more about how much it hurts a child to be abused by a mother than about the Jehovah's Witnesses. The book does not intend to be a theological look at the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the author does include some perspectives on how the group's views and authority differ from Bible-based Christian beliefs and authority.
A spanking room is reported by this book to be part of every Kingdom Hall (often doubling as the women's rest room). Apparently, Jehovah's Witnesses take their children to services (which are long), and any misbehavior can be addressed by a pretty firm spanking (bare flesh with tools stronger than a hand) that leaves serious bruises. The author also reports being hauled to the room by his hair. At home, a good whack was often received as well.
Although there's a lot of physical pain described in this book, the psychological pain of the author is greater. It's tough to be a kid of a JW . . . and you feel excluded from the peer group at school.
Life was made more difficult by his father not being a Jehovah's Witness (and opposed to the religion) while his mom was quite fervent. This led to many family conflicts that didn't make life any easier for the author.
I feel sorry for the author. I hope that writing this book was therapy for him.
The most useful thing I found in the book was the information that you can ask the Jehovah's Witnesses who visit your house to take you off their list and they will stop knocking on your door. Most of the revelations about the church are ones I've known for a long time.
Unless you don't know anything at all about Jehovah's Witnesses and want to learn about how a child can be traumatized by a believer of this faith, I suggest you skip the book.
I often hold nice conversations with Jehovah's Witnesses, Bible in hand quoting Scripture, and they go away smiling. I'll have to ask them about the spanking rooms the next time they stop by.
A Dyspeptic Screed Dec 27, 2008
I agreed to read and review The Spanking Room because I thought that by doing so I might learn something useful about the Jehovah's Witnesses of whom I know little. Instead of useful information, I got a two hundred page jeremiad that blamed the Jehovah's Witnesses for nearly every negative aspect of the author's upbringing. I'm sorry he can't let it go, but there are many people of that faith who live happy and productive lives seemingly unscathed by the dire practices alleged in the book. To me, the book was hard to read. The style is juvenile and whiny and often borders on the asinine. I expected a "child's-eye" view of life as a Witness, not a childish one. If you need an example, the author repeatedly returns to and magnifies the incident in which he was putatively punished for bidding "Mr Microphone" goodbye during a church meeting. Some readers obviously enjoyed it, but for me it was a waste of time. Read it and decide who's right.
Oh, memoirs, memoirs, why do you haunt me? Dec 6, 2008
William Coburn, The Spanking Room (WinePress, 2008)
As much as I keep beating my dead horse about how much I hate memoirs, I always seem to end up getting roped into reading them somehow. This is my latest solicited review book (well, the latest I've actually finished; a collective apology to the rest of you lot for being so far behind...), and while I did realize it was a memoir going in, I couldn't resist the idea of a Jehovah's Witness expose. On the other hand, I seem to have missed the part where the author mentioned the book was from WinePress (for those of you unfamiliar, think of WinePress as a Christian version of AuthorHouse, competing head to head with Xulon, the Lulu of Christianity). But I dove in anyway, despite the book having two strikes against it before I even cracked the cover already. And I have to say, I'm starting to revise my opinion of memoirs; despite the fact that I've still found the majority of them I've read loathsome (assuming they're even partially true, as we have found out over the last few years how few of them actually are), some of them are getting slotted into the category of "guilty pleasure". The Spanking Room fits quite nicely into that niche--I enjoyed it (if "enjoyed" is the proper word for a catalog of abuse such as this), but I felt vaguely dirty doing so.
Before actually getting into the book, I do have to comment on what, for me, was one of the books' most amusing parts, the hypocrisy inherent in criticizing parts of religion A that are also parts of religion B (to which you subscribe). I can certainly understand the sentiment; after what Coburn went through, I can't imagine not seeing every last aspect of the Jehovah's Witnesses as inherently evil. But that tends to lead to a blind eye when, say, criticizing the proselytizing aspect of being a Witness while ignoring the proselytizing aspect of born-again Christianity. (And yes, Coburn is a born-again Christian; this should be obvious from the press and the general tone, but he explicitly states it in the final chapter.)
Once you're past this, however, the book definitely does have its guilty-pleasure aspects. Coburn sees himself as something of a black humorist. The book does have its funny parts--though it's more a humor of the snorting rather than the belly-laughing variety--but what really makes it shine is Coburn's gift for observation. This does bring up questions about veracity; how much is an adult going to remember about his preteen years, especially in such detail?--but there's solid grounding for the overall shape of the thing, as Coburn points out a few times (he suggests checking out the Jehovah's Witness website and reading some of the books and pamphlets to be found there. Illuminating stuff indeed).
There are also certain aspects of this book that only a Biblical scholar, at least of the casual variety, could have shed light on, and as most of those who know the Bible well are Christians, there is value in reading a Christian's account of the inside affairs of the Witnesses. Coburn points out a number of differences between the New World Translation (used by the Witnesses) of the Bible and other translations, and shows how sometimes translating one word differently can lead to entirely different conclusions being drawn from those passages. While those of us who endlessly debate religion are well aware of how this defines much of the difference between various flavors of Judeo-Christianity, less religiously aware folks will probably find these sections of the book quite enlightening.
I'm giving the book three stars and a conditional recommendation. There are obviously folks who will find what Coburn has to say unbelievable, offensive, or some combination of the two. Hopefully the review above will give you some insight into whether you're one of those people, and if you are, you would do well to avoid it. However, if you're a fan of memoirs in general, or just like seeing a religion get a good hiding from someone who was once involved with it, then you should definitely consider giving this one a go. ***
An Overzealous Mom Empowered to "Spank" by Her Knew Faith Oct 20, 2008
William Coburn, a Christian and martial artist (a fact I throw in that is completely irrelevant), writes an interesting memoir about growing up with a mom who converts to the Jehovah's Witnesses and zealously adopts their practices and lifestyle. He discusses the turmoil it immediately had on his immediate family as well as the doctrines this denomination advocates and teaches.
It does not take long for the book to connect its title to its narrative. On page 19, when mothers and leaders are discussing creating a spanking room by the women's bathroom, Coburn relates the conversations these mothers had. One is frustrated because spanking "bare bottom" does not work on her child (so another mother suggest getting a brother - code for a male Jehovah's Witness- to spank her child).
He talks about the peer pressure to be a "better Jehovah's Witness" within the group. The dynamics in the family are interesting, particularly since mom is the only really "voluntary" Jehovah's Witness. I think, however, that this dynamic would certainly be interesting no matter the religion or lack thereof, with or without a "spanking room." This may be a little more strained in Jehovah's Witness' home because of holiday celebrations (which he spends a considerable amount of time on) because Witnesses adamantly oppose holidays including birthday celebrations.
He also discusses "Watchtower" theology and the out-workings of this theology. Yet, I do think he at times makes the inductive fallacy. He talks about as a Witness that he was taught not to enjoy life; however, I have known some Witnesses very well and they seemed to enjoy life. Now, I was an outsider, yet, they did not appear to me to be longed face, suffering stoics. He does provide an insider view on the many "predictions" and "anticipations" of Armageddon. The book then picks up some steam when others do not. This is toward the end of the book, and many non-fiction works have a tendency to slow down a bit towards the end. Coburn's book does not and this carries the reader to the end.
I am not sure how much of the family problems and dynamics are caused by the Witnesses or his mother's instability. I suspect she would have had these problems if she was an atheists and his dad was a practicing Christian. Her vision and purpose seems to have provided her ammunition to strain the relationships in the family; however, I do agree that a denomination that develops a "spanking room" does not help matters.
Memoir of one horrific Jehovah's Witness childhood Oct 12, 2008
The unwelcome arrival of Jehovah's Witnesses at the door is both a staple of American experience and a puzzle. Just who are these well-dressed, seemingly happy people we love to hate -- and what do they believe? Are we justified in shunning them and dreading their footfalls on our doorsteps?
William Coburn's book sheds some light on the inner life of one JW family and one congregation. Coburn grew up in what he describes as a normal family until his mother converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses when he was four. For the next decade and more, his mother ran hours-long study sessions, scoured the neighborhood for converts, and brutalized Coburn and his brother for the smallest infractions, hoping to beat the devil out of him. Coburn implies that these beatings, spankings, punchings and full face slaps were "de rigueur" for Witness families. Certainly, they were a staple of his. And at the very least, more than a few children were dragged, sometimes by their hair, to a special room in the Kingdom Hall reserved for corporal punishment.
All in all, a miserable way to grow up.
The book falls a little flat, though, in discussing Coburn's experience within the wider context of the Jehovah's Witnesses in America. The Witnesses that Coburn describes are certainly patriarchal, controlling, rigid and more than a little strange. Some JW beliefs are fairly odd as well, including a literal belief in the book of Revelation's statement that only 144,000 souls attain Heaven (sorry, all slots were filled by 1935) and that the imminent end of the age will allow only JWs to live forever on in a "New System" on "paradise earth," Jehovah-God having killed all non-believers. But I questioned how typical was Coburn's experience. Guilt-crazed, fanatical parents are found in every religion.
"The Spanking Room" is Coburn's attempt to deal with the shame, guilt and weirdness placed on him by a mother who dealt with her own demons by clinging a rigid and unforgiving doctrine. It's an interesting read as a testament of how one life can be drastically affected by religious extremism. JW's impact on families (especially those like Coburn's where one parent is a non-believer) can hardly be squared with the Christian tradition of life-long fidelity, peacefulness and forgiveness. If it can't be read as a survey of the entirety of Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs and practice, it does work well as a single instance of how being a JW can warp and shatter a family's peace and a child's sense of safety.
Disclaimer: this reviewer received the book gratis from the author.