Even when society, friends, the legal system, and the Pope himself swing toward acceptance of the once unacceptable, Michelle Theall still waits for the one blessing that has always mattered to her the most: her mother's. Read more...
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Even when society, friends, the legal system, and the Pope himself swing toward acceptance of the once unacceptable, Michelle Theall still waits for the one blessing that has always mattered to her the most: her mother's. Michelle grew up in the conservative Texas Bible Belt, bullied by her classmates and abandoned by her evangelical best friend before she'd ever even held a girl's hand. She was often at odds with her volatile, overly dramatic, and depressed mother, who had strict ideas about how girls should act. Yet they both clung tightly to their devout Catholic faith--the unifying grace that all but shattered their relationship when Michelle finally admitted she was gay.
Years later at age forty-two, Michelle has made delicate peace with her mother and is living her life openly with her partner of ten years and their adopted son in the liberal haven of Boulder, Colorado. But when her four-year-old's Catholic school decides to expel all children of gay parents, Michelle tiptoes into a controversy that exposes her to long-buried shame, which leads to a public battle with the Church and a private one with her parents. In the end she realizes that in order to be a good mother, she may have to be a bad daughter.
Michelle writes with wry wit and bald honesty about her life, seamlessly weaving her past and her present into a touching commentary on all the love, pain, and redemption that families inspire. "Teaching the Cat to Sit" makes us each reflect on our sense of humanity, our connection to religion, and our struggles to accept ourselves--and each other--as we are.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-18
- Reviewer: Staff
A gay journalist living in Boulder, Colo., with her longtime partner and adopted child, Theall picks relentlessly at the baggage from her Texas Catholic upbringing, determined to free herself from the oppressive effects of silence and shame. Theall and her partner, Jill, agreed to have their almost-four-year-old son, Connor, baptized in a quiet, “closet” ceremony at their local Catholic church, yet were appalled to be notified untactfully by the pastor that a homosexual lifestyle was not accepted, prompting the couple to withdraw Connor from the church’s nursery school and provoking all kinds of trouble with Theall’s pious, disapproving parents. Born in 1966, and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003, Theall had wrestled with issues of shame and acceptance her entire life; at age 11 she was raped by her best friend’s father and never told her parents because she knew her mother would be mortified and denounce her. The pattern of silence and denial was entrenched throughout her childhood, torturing her emotionally, and even after Theall came out to her parents, she felt keenly the residual effects of her mother’s displeasure, especially her inability to bring Jill into the family. Theall’s tightly wrought account, first prompted by the journalistic outcry over leaving her church and then shaped into a long article in a Denver magazine about becoming gay that shocked and enraged her parents, serves as a powerful testimony to the healing power of language. (Feb.)