Riverhead Books (Penguin-Random House)
A life spent questioning one’s self-worth, one’s faith, one’s sanity is not a life worth living.
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“. . .will touch many who struggle with being “different” . . .”
In the coming out memoir, Boy Erased, Garrard Conley boldly shares his inner and outer struggles of dealing with his homosexuality, his fundamentalist upbringing in Arkansas, and his parents’ expectations of him becoming the perfect son.
Young Garrard realizes that he’s different from other boys– he likes to look at men in a different way than others–but his family’s strict Missionary Baptist religion prohibits such sinful thoughts, let alone actions. To make matters worse, his father begins a second career as a preacher, and to openly confess his gay nature would destroy his family’s good name in the church. Going off to college to study English literature, Garrard is haunted by his feelings and finds himself in a difficult situation when he is raped by another student who then turns around and tells on him to his family. The rapist claims it is all Garrard’s fault, and so as a victim he is further persecuted and questioned.
Garrard’s parents fear for his immortal soul and enroll him into an “ex-gay” program, Love In Action, a place that is anything but loving. There he is subjected to amateur brainwashing techniques in the guise of a twelve step addiction program. If he will only take the first step and admit he is wrong and admit he is “addicted to being gay”, then he will be “cured” according to LIA. But Garrard eventually sees through the doublespeak and self-loathing his ex-gay instructors try to instill in their clients. He realizes somewhere deep down that God would not have made him gay to lead him into self-destruction and despair. He knows his parents love him and will come to accept him, and so he walks out.
Boy Erased is a poignant story that will touch many who struggle with being “different” and who question their existence in the face of prejudice and ignorance.
Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews