Review published on April 22, 2017.
This is not an easy read. At turns violent, sexually explicit and traumatic, this memoir by Peter Gajdics (pronounced Gay Dicks by those at school who tormented him about his sexuality) also reveals a disturbing use of alternative treatments in psychiatry that do nothing to heal but intensely harm those who seek sanctuary with them.
Peter, born in Vancouver, Canada is brought up in a strict Catholic family. His father had emigrated from Hungary, escaping tragedy, and his mother also ran from persecution as a German in Tito’s communist dictatorship in Yugoslavia (having been imprisoned in a concentration camp as a young girl). Peter is sexually abused aged six and as a young teenager truants from school in an increasing spiral of sexual promiscuity whilst struggling to accept his homosexuality and his inability to share his feelings with his parents and siblings.
However, when he seeks therapy with ‘Dr Alonso’, Peter finds himself becoming involved in quite (to us as readers) bizarre treatments known as reparative therapy, which tries to ‘cure’ homosexuals. Rather than a cure, this is an horrific curse on a young man who is nearly destroyed as the individual therapy becomes a group cult known as Styx houses, which include high doses of medication, being slaves to the doctor and losing contact with family and friends.
If you are easily upset then this is not the book for you. However, if you can stick with Peter’s story, his escape and reconciliation with the outside world (particularly his father and the life he had in Hungary), it is a life-affirming read.
Even today, despite the World Health Organisation denouncing reparative therapy as unsound, many still want to see it used (including the current Vice President of America Mike Pence).
I reviewed this for the publisher, which is expanding its list of LGBTQ titles so would not have read it otherwise. However I am so glad I did and I commend the author for allowing us insight as readers into a truly devastating world, which thankfully now has resolved into a life that he is happier to inhabit.
Philipa Coughlan 4/3
The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir by Peter Gajdics
Brown Paper Press 9781941932087 pbk May 2017
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