Thoughts on “Boy Erased: A Memoir”

My Serious Writing journey began after a health crisis in November of 2017 (more about that here, in “Permission”). The more serious I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that reading is just as important as writing–maybe even more important.

“Well, duh,” says the chorus of writers who’ve been through formal training in the discipline. Like just about everything else in my life, I’ve come to writing in my own time, and am developing my skills largely by my own devices.

One of the things I’ve done this year is put myself on a regimen of reading at least one memoir, at least one critical non-fiction book, and at least one fiction book at a time. This hasn’t always panned out to one each per month, but it’s been a good approach for me.

I think, though, that, trained or not, a person comes to writing memoir because they have something to say. And what they have to say will either resonate with the reader, which is a major goal of my own writing, or will give the reader a glimpse into a world that they couldn’t even imagine on their own.

Garrard Conley’s “Boy Erased: A Memoir,” fits both of those bills. In the book, Conley, who was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist family in Arkansas, chronicles his struggles attempting to reconcile the fact that he is gay with the expectations of his parents, his faith, and most of all, himself.

The recounting is couched within Conley’s 2004 experiences as a young college student participating in ex-gay conversion therapy. If, like me, the year 2004 screams at you as way too recent, be aware that as of today, this type of conversion therapy is banned in only sixteen states here in the US. Although some of the bigger conversion therapy operations may be now defunct, there is nothing to stop individuals in private practice from offering this type of “therapy”.

As Conley’s website points out, the T in our LGBTQIA+ community are at much higher risk of being subjected to such “therapy,” and of self-harm and harm at the hands of others, especially transwomen of color. We need to make room for these stories, as told by those who live them.

“Boy Erased” is well-written. Conley takes us cleanly to the heart of his angst and existential turmoil. Anyone who has grappled with the desire to be acceptable to their family, to their G-d, and to themselves, while at the same time wanting more than anything to just be, will see themselves reflected in Conley’s story.

As always, your thoughtful comments and questions are welcome.

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