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Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family (2016)

by Garrard Conley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6721735,139 (3.54)11
Biography & Autobiography. LGBTQIA+ (Nonfiction.) Nonfiction. HTML:The New York Times bestselling memoir about identity, love and understanding. Now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges, directed by Joel Edgerton. "Every sentence of the story will stir your soul" (O Magazine).
 
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.
 
When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
 
By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.
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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This is why I hold an issue with extremists in religion hijacking who a person truly is to fit what they believe is right in God’s image of us is honestly heartbreaking. ( )
  Elise3105 | Aug 13, 2023 |
Garrard Conley is gay and finally comes out to his parents. His father is a Baptist minister. He grew up in a strict, but loving home. His parents send him to a Tennessee program called "Love in Action" a gay conversion program. Garrard is sometimes able to stay with his mother in a motel when she visits. He tells her of the program. In time, his parents come to realize the program isn't working and they must accept him as he is. ( )
  dara85 | Sep 11, 2022 |
Why Does Different Have to Be Wrong?

There was a time when psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and psychologists considered homosexuality a disorder and experimented with a variety of techniques for curing the condition, the most notorious being transorbital lobotomies, torturous aversion therapies, mentally damaging blame the victim abuse, to name a few. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a disorder from the DSM-I. This, however, did not stop groups from pursuing ways to pressure individuals into changing their sexuality, or at least suppress it. In fact, currently, only a handful of jurisdictions in the United States prohibit what Garrard Conley writes about in novelistic memoir, Boy Erased. Love in Action (LIA), of which Conley writes, still operates, now under the name Restoration Path. John Smid, a real person appearing in Conley’s book, now admits that he was wrong, and acknowledges his homosexuality; in 2014, he married his spouse, Larry McQueen. You can detect bitterness at the end of Conley’s life story regarding the ex-gay leaders who now admit to the harm they did.

Conley recounts when a fellow student at his college who had raped him outed him to his parents. Both were very religious people, fundamentalists. Conley’s father owned a car dealership wherein he not only sold cars but proselytized to buyers and held prayer meetings with his employees. At the time, his father was on the verge of beginning a new life as an ordained pastor in the local Ministry Baptist Church. As for Conley, he appeared on the outside to be an ideal prospective minister’s son, replete with beautiful and popular girlfriend.

Conley’s parents were not the harsh types. They thought perhaps they had done something wrong, that maybe he was medically defective in some curable way, that professional help would put him back on the Christian path. LIA, which came highly recommended to them, seemed like a good option.

Conley recounts his time at LIA and with leader John Smid. LIA subjected Conley and the others to conversion therapy. This version, as explained by Conley, employed a 12-step approach. It forced participants to look deep into their family histories for issues, among them alcoholism, spousal abuse, and the like, that might account for the subjects’ aberrant behavior. As you might imagine, constantly dredging for problems, continually trying to prise from yourself some reason for your sexual abnormality, this unrelenting type of self-flagellation could lead to dangerous mental instability.

Coupled with this was Conley’s fundamentalist religious upbringing. His was, and probably remains, engaged in an inner battle to reconcile his sexuality with religious dogma that condemned him, that viewed his sexuality as a choice and thus a turning away from God. Conversion therapy only served to intensify this struggle.

Conley tries to convey his pain, but, unfortunately, in trying to treat his experience more like a novel than an introspective memoir, readers might not fully appreciate the agony such pseudo therapy caused him and others.

Boy Erased will appear as a film in late September, starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe. with screenplay adaptation and direction by Joel Edgerton, and may do a better job of portraying the emotional and mental turmoil non-acceptance can produce.

Those interested in LIA and religious conversion therapy in general might like to watch the documentary This Is What Love In Action Looks Like, as well as view a few interviews with survivors online. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Why Does Different Have to Be Wrong?

There was a time when psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and psychologists considered homosexuality a disorder and experimented with a variety of techniques for curing the condition, the most notorious being transorbital lobotomies, torturous aversion therapies, mentally damaging blame the victim abuse, to name a few. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a disorder from the DSM-I. This, however, did not stop groups from pursuing ways to pressure individuals into changing their sexuality, or at least suppress it. In fact, currently, only a handful of jurisdictions in the United States prohibit what Garrard Conley writes about in novelistic memoir, Boy Erased. Love in Action (LIA), of which Conley writes, still operates, now under the name Restoration Path. John Smid, a real person appearing in Conley’s book, now admits that he was wrong, and acknowledges his homosexuality; in 2014, he married his spouse, Larry McQueen. You can detect bitterness at the end of Conley’s life story regarding the ex-gay leaders who now admit to the harm they did.

Conley recounts when a fellow student at his college who had raped him outed him to his parents. Both were very religious people, fundamentalists. Conley’s father owned a car dealership wherein he not only sold cars but proselytized to buyers and held prayer meetings with his employees. At the time, his father was on the verge of beginning a new life as an ordained pastor in the local Ministry Baptist Church. As for Conley, he appeared on the outside to be an ideal prospective minister’s son, replete with beautiful and popular girlfriend.

Conley’s parents were not the harsh types. They thought perhaps they had done something wrong, that maybe he was medically defective in some curable way, that professional help would put him back on the Christian path. LIA, which came highly recommended to them, seemed like a good option.

Conley recounts his time at LIA and with leader John Smid. LIA subjected Conley and the others to conversion therapy. This version, as explained by Conley, employed a 12-step approach. It forced participants to look deep into their family histories for issues, among them alcoholism, spousal abuse, and the like, that might account for the subjects’ aberrant behavior. As you might imagine, constantly dredging for problems, continually trying to prise from yourself some reason for your sexual abnormality, this unrelenting type of self-flagellation could lead to dangerous mental instability.

Coupled with this was Conley’s fundamentalist religious upbringing. His was, and probably remains, engaged in an inner battle to reconcile his sexuality with religious dogma that condemned him, that viewed his sexuality as a choice and thus a turning away from God. Conversion therapy only served to intensify this struggle.

Conley tries to convey his pain, but, unfortunately, in trying to treat his experience more like a novel than an introspective memoir, readers might not fully appreciate the agony such pseudo therapy caused him and others.

Boy Erased will appear as a film in late September, starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe. with screenplay adaptation and direction by Joel Edgerton, and may do a better job of portraying the emotional and mental turmoil non-acceptance can produce.

Those interested in LIA and religious conversion therapy in general might like to watch the documentary This Is What Love In Action Looks Like, as well as view a few interviews with survivors online. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
I always find it a little difficult to rate memoir, since you can’t really critique someone’s life, and I think there’s a lot of value to memoirists writing in their own voice without too much editorial intercession.

I also don’t see much point comparing, as some reviewers have done, this book to the fictionalized movie adapted from it.

So I’ll just say that while there are certainly a few structural and stylistic things that weren’t perfect, overall I think Conley did justice to his own story, and I found it the book very moving. It must have taken a lot of strength to write and publish it, let alone to go through it in the first place. I would certainly recommend reading this memoir. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Garrard Conleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cavanaugh, MeighanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crouch, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willey, RachelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.

-- Flannery O'Connor, "Revelation"
If I'm looking at that wall and suddenly I say, "It's blue," and someone else comes along and says, "No.no. It's gold." But I want to believe that that wall is blue. It's blue, it's blue, it's blue. But then God comes along, and He says, "You're right, John, it is blue." That's the help I need. God can help me make that wall blue.

--Ex-gay leader John Smid, in an interview with the Memphis Flyer
Dedication
for my parents
First words
John Smid stood tall, square shouldered, beaming behind thin wire-rimmed glasses and wearing the khaki slacks and striped button-down that have become standard fatigues for evangelical men across the country.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Biography & Autobiography. LGBTQIA+ (Nonfiction.) Nonfiction. HTML:The New York Times bestselling memoir about identity, love and understanding. Now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges, directed by Joel Edgerton. "Every sentence of the story will stir your soul" (O Magazine).
 
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.
 
When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
 
By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

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