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Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoirby Michelle Theall
Synopses & Reviews
Nuanced and poignant, heartrending and funny, Michelle Theall’s thoughtful memoir is a universal story about our quest for unconditional love from our parents, our children, and most important, from ourselves.
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.
"Michelle Theall can really write. This is a littlestory packed with big issues and told with real mastery." Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place, Lift, and Glitter and Glue
"Theall's written a memoir that is genuinely moving, compelling, and at times, hilarious. As she grapples with the basic questions of family, faith, love, and identity, she expresses with great poignancy the transformative power of love in all its forms." Wendy Lawless, New York Times bestselling author of Chanel Bonfire
"Michelle Theall is a fighter, and in her warm, courageous, deeply honest, heartbreaking, heart-mending memoir we bear witness to the staggering number of times she gets knocked to her knees, and cheer at increasing volume every time she comes up swinging. This timely reckoning with Catholicism, homosexuality, abuse, adoption, and illness, ultimately gives rise to a celebration of tenacity, forgiveness, and love. Teaching the Cat to Sit could convince the most committed outsider to come inside, and teach the rest of us how best to invite her." Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
"Theall's tightly wrought account serves as a powerful testimony to the healing power of language." Publishers Weekly
"At once powerful and touching, Michelle Theall's moving memoir captures the meaning of family — the families we inherit and the ones we make." Piper Kerman, New York Times bestselling author of Orange is the New Black
A compelling memoir of a gay Catholic woman struggling to find balance between being a daughter and a mother raising her son with a loving partner in the face of discrimination.
Alternating between reflections on her childhood growing up gay and Catholic in the Texas Bible Belt and her present-day fight with her adopted son’s bigoted school, Michelle Theall’s memoir is the compelling story of a woman’s search for identity and belonging in an often intolerant world.
Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s under the watchful eye of her obsessive-compulsive mother, Michelle’s unconventional upbringing included a best friend whose mother spoke in tongues and a divorced Catholic priest who was the parent of a teenage boy. It took her twenty years of fumbling, pretending, and self-hatred before she escaped — from Texas and the disapproval of her mother — to a remote cabin in the mountains of Colorado.
Finally able to accept her sexuality and redefine her faith as an adult, Michelle and her partner, Amy, decided to adopt a child together. After enrolling their four-year-old son at a Catholic school in liberal Boulder, Colorado and having him baptized, a priest suddenly decided to expel him due to the fact that he has gay parents. As Michelle stands up for her son, she takes a journey toward self-acceptance and discovers more about her family history than she’d imagined.
Offering clear-eyed commentary on intolerance in today’s society, Teaching the Cat to Sit is also a poignant testament to love’s ability to shape our humanity, sense of family, and ultimately, our connection to one another.
About the Author
Michelle Theall is the author of two health books, and her syndicated health and fitness column ran with McClatchy Tribune for several years. She has appeared on NBC Today, MSNBC, The Travel Channel, and the Fox Sports Network, and she garnered two prestigious Folio Awards for her work with Women's Adventure magazine. Theall won two awards of excellence from the North American Travel Journalists' Association for her feature and editorial writing. Michelle currently teaches writing and photography at the Creative Conferences. Her feature essay, All That's Left Is God, earned a 2011 GLAAD Media Award nomination and inspired her memoir.
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Biography » Gay and Lesbian