Leslie is the author of several spiritual/inspirational guides (Divine Destiny, My Last First Year), but in his memoir, he focuses on his childhood and adolescence, with particular emphasis on his complex relationships with his emotionally absent mother and with a God who, Leslie was told, would condemn him to hell. In clear, direct prose, Leslie recounts a childhood marked by loneliness and discomfort, yet facing this adversity he managed to engage in the challenging psychological and theological questioning it took to harmonize his faith, sexuality, and love of family and forge an unshakable identity from the ashes of despair.
Though the emphasis on loneliness and depression at times can be repetitive, this focus does elevate the impact of Leslie’s eventual spiritual and sexual transcendence at the conclusion, while also serving as corollary of Leslie’s theory that heaven can be accessed in life through dedicated spiritual work. As he puts it, “the Universe provides us with Heaven at birth. But as reflections of God, we must claim Heaven ourselves.” Leslie makes the case that only through such a journey could he experience this spiritual change and “earn [his] place among the seraphim.”
Takeaway: Touching memoir of finding one’s self and faith growing up gay and Catholic.
Comparable Titles: Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kevin Sessums’s Mississippi Sissy.
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