Book Review: Boy Erased: A Memoir – Garrard Conley

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Publication Date: May 10, 2016 by Riverhead Books
Genre & Theme: NA, Contemporary, Family, Drama, Homophobia

Boy Erased is probably the most difficult book I’ve read in ages. It’s a difficult read because it’s blunt in its narrative, honest in sharing and dissecting each character and event and really just made me too emotional, that there came a point that I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it.

Boy Erased is about the author’s experiences growing up in an ultra-religious family while struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and going through a brutally horrifying gay conversion therapy. It is also a story of loss, acceptance and triumph – a memoir exemplifying the strength of human spirit in surviving an ordeal that no human being should ever have to endure.

(I am crying while writing this review)

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it feels like the homophobia that was all so present through out the book has been part of my life and I know how painful that was for someone so young and still finding his place in the sun. Here, I felt Conley’s pain what with so much emotional and psychological assault from his community and from his own flesh and blood.

The conversion therapy made me an emotional mess. The stories depicted by Conley oh-so eloquently was disturbing and heartbreaking at the same time. These horrors may have been the reasons why I was waiting for him to finally slap some sense into his family until the very end of his narrative. There is that brewing anger inside me that wanted him to reclaim what he’d loss through all those years when he was suppressing his true self and what he had to endure when he was enrolled into that crazy program intent to “change” him.

I thought that in this age and time, Boy Erased should be a required reading starting in high school. People must be aware of the consequences of such horrific programs and the long lasting effects of homophobia especially to the LGBTQ+ youth.

I don’t usually read memoirs but having discovered Garrard Conley’s story has enlightened me even more that WE still have a lot of work to do and WE still have a lot of battles to conquer. I highly recommend this to my friends, colleagues and anyone interested to explore the complex workings of the mind and the heart – just be ready to bawl your eyes out!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

About The Author
Garrard (pronounced without the final ‘r;’ a family oddity) Conley is the author of the memoir, Boy Erased, out from Riverhead (Penguin) May 2016. His work can be found in TIME, VICE, CNN, Buzzfeed Books, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. He has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Elizabeth Kostova Foundation Writers’ Conferences and has facilitated craft classes for Catapult, Grub Street, Sackett Street Writers Workshop, and the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown. If you are interested in contacting him, you can find information here.

After growing up in a small Arkansan farming community, heading to a liberal arts college a few hours away, completing service for Peace Corps Ukraine, and attaining a Master’s degree in creative writing and queer theory, Garrard taught literature in Sofia, Bulgaria at The American College of Sofia. He now lives in Brooklyn and teaches in NYC.

He has way too many coffee cups and never enough coffee.

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