Riverhead Books, May 2016
A beautiful, raw and compassionate memoir about identity, love and understanding.
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.
advance PRAISE FOR BOY ERASED
“Exceptionally well-written… This timely addition to the debate on conversion therapy will build sympathy for both children and parents who avail themselves of it while still showing how damaging it can be.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“Boy Erased is an essential document of the early 21st Century. Conley bears witness to something history will eventually condemn as too horrible to have happened, but he also takes the pain of ‘ex-gay therapy’ and makes of it not just a record but a wonder.”
—Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“This brave and bracing memoir is an urgent reminder that America remains a place where queer people have to fight for their lives. It’s also a generous portrait of a family in which the myths of prejudice give way before the reality of love. Equal parts sympathy and rage, Boy Erased is a necessary, beautiful book.”
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
“Garrard Conley's memoir about the author’s time in the ex-gay movement is actually about surviving an attempt at soul-murder. The author has given us a clear and beautifully written account of what he went through. This is a book that had to be written, and it deserves a wide audience.”
—Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
“In 1982, Edmund White broke literary ground with his memoir A Boy’s Own Story. Now it’s Garrard Conley’s turn to bring his own story to readers. Conley is brave and honest in his depiction of growing up gay in conservative Christian America. As White was three decades ago for his generation, Conley is an important and necessary contemporary voice.”
—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and Comfort
“A brave account of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality in an environment that reviles him for it. A triumphant, heart-felt story.”
—Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land
“An intimate portrait of a young man taught that his attention to men is an abomination before God, a generational curse passed down through his family, a predilection akin to pedophilia that he has to erase if he wants to be worthy of love. Conley tells his story beautifully, with candor and courage and with compassion not only for the boy he was but for the parents who sent him to ex-gay therapy. Here at last is a story of evangelical homophobia from the inside, from a survivor and former believer, rather than from the incredulous outside. A vital book for young people still struggling with self-hatred inside the church and for anyone who’s escaped it.”
"Deep in the heart of these painful experiences there is a writer finding himself, bringing joy and purpose to the most wrenching scenes. Garrard Conley has a hell of a story to tell, but he tells it with complete intelligence and gravity and beauty. This is a book that matters on every level, from the most intimate to the most political, and it settles into the reader's memory perfectly and permanently. BOY ERASED is the book for our times--an important book, and a true companion."
-Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat
“Conley searches for the answer in this highly introspective memoir. In alternating chapters, the author recounts his life both inside and outside of therapy, including the difficulty of growing up gay in the South. Closely observed feelings are the fuel that drives this complex coming-of-age account… Moving and thought provoking.”