Boy Erased: A Memoir

Garrard Conley's haunting and introspective memoir, Boy Erased, recounts his 2004 freshman year in college--the year his deeply religious Arkansan parents discovered he was gay and sent him to be evaluated at Love in Action (LIA), a fundamentalist Christian ministry that adapted Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step program for gay conversion therapy.

The only son of evangelical Missionary Baptist parents, Conley was often required to help his father (who ran a car dealership before becoming an ordained pastor of his own church) in his ministering duties. While college opens his mind to new and challenging ideas, Conley's entire life had been shaped by Bible verses and End Times philosophy. So, when he's outed, he readily agrees to undergo the therapy.

Boy Erased offers an unusual firsthand perspective of gay conversion therapy: Conley is so steeped in his religious upbringing that he doesn't initially rebel against LIA's program. During his evaluation period (where he has to keep a Moral Inventory of sinful transgressions), he eventually realizes, "In the process of purification, you risked erasing every minor detail you'd ever cared about."

Conley is a vivid, compassionate and compelling writer who uses arresting imagery (his high school girlfriend's "predilection for French kissing ran a cold blade through the bottom of my stomach"). The portraits of his parents show them as sheltered and scared, but also loving and supportive. Boy Erased is a vulnerable coming-of-age tale that will educate and move readers. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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