Teaching the Cat to Sit by Michelle Theall (Gallery Books, February 25, 2014)
This memoir is unsettling, riveting and very heartwarming and hopeful all at the same time. Theall is very honest in her exploration of her relationship with her family, the one into which she was born and the one she created and how Catholicism affected many aspects of her life growing up, her relationship with her mother and her adulthood living life as a gay woman with a life partner and a son they want baptized. Growing up in the conservative Bible Best of Texas was not easy for a tomboy; a troubled relationship with her mother who often blamed Michelle for her depression, pulling out her Catholicism and using guilt as tool, made life even more difficult for Michelle. Finally admitting she was gay was a great relief to Michelle, and coming out to her parents seemed a next logical step as she was certain they already knew. They didn’t and were not as accepting as Michelle had thought; neither was the Church in which she had grown up in and turned to in times of trouble (Michelle was diagnosed with MS in 2003). The local parish at first refused to baptize Michelle and her partner’s adopted son (who was a student at the parish’s school) and then held a baptism at a time other than right after a mass when the rite is normally conducted, encouraging it to be a community event. Shortly after, the pastor, using Catholic doctrine and the Archdiocesan rules, decides that children of gay parents are no longer welcomed in the school setting Michelle off on a writing campaign (culminating in this book) fighting for her rights as a parent and her son’s rights as an innocent, even as she jeopardizes her relationship with her own family.