Monday, August 30, 2021

Book Review: "Affliction: Growing Up with a Closeted Gay Dad" by Laura Hall

Affliction: Growing Up with a Closeted Gay Dad is a poignant, thought-provoking memoir about the effects of a man’s hidden sexuality on his family.

Laura and her siblings loved to hear her parents talk about their romantic first meeting and whirlwind courtship at the cusp of WWII. But as she grew older, she realized there were many things different about her father and her parents’ marriage, many questions that were never answered to her satisfaction.

In 1975, when Laura was a 24-year-old mother on the verge of a second divorce, she was trying to figure out why she had trouble with commitment and fidelity. She suspected her father had been a womanizer through her life, and it impacted her and the way she viewed love, fidelity, and commitment. But when she asked her father whether he cheated on her mother, his answer surprised her: he was gay.

Laura Hall’s tremendously powerful memoir is the story of a man forced into a different life than the one he wanted, and the impact of that decision and his struggles with living the life he chose despite his desires. It’s also a look at the way gay people were treated during those times, how following their heart and libido could ruin their lives for good and, of course, endanger their safety.

The book also looks at her parents’ relationship through the years, how it changed and fractured and was rebuilt as both tried to come to terms with her father’s desire to live as his true self. At the same time, it’s an account of how our parents’ lives impact the way we grow up and pursue relationships of our own.

Affliction really moved me. I know there was a time in the late 80s/early 90s as I was struggling with my own sexuality that I wondered whether I should try to live a “normal life” instead of acknowledging the reality of being gay. I’m glad I didn’t but I understand why so many men and women made the decision to hide their true selves and live a life that was more acceptable to society and those around them, at least in those days.

Thanks to Laura Hall and She Writes Press for the complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review!!

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