cover image Boy Erased

Boy Erased

Garrard Conley. Riverhead, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59463-301-0

In this exceptionally well-written memoir, Conley recounts his brief but harrowing time attending Love in Action, an ex-gay ministry. After the man who raped him in college outs him to his Missionary Baptist parents, Conley enters a tailspin that results in seeking conversion therapy to both placate his parents and find his own peace. He nicely weaves the account of his two weeks at Love in Action with stories from his earlier life to present a moving picture of the struggle to be gay%E2%80%94or stop being gay%E2%80%94in a conservative, southern Christian community. Particularly effective is the representation of his parents, who sincerely believe this is best for their son, and his recounting of this world slowly losing its grip on him. Other memoirs of ex-gay therapy survivors recount longer and more involved encounters with the process, but Conley offers enough for readers to understand the main concepts and methods of such groups. 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. (May)