In Nelson’s debut memoir, a committed Catholic comes to terms with the fact that his son’s gay.
Expanding on his award-winning 2005 article for Notre Dame Magazine, “God Gave Me A Gay Son,” Nelson explores his son’s sexual orientation as well as his own growing awareness about life, family and the church. During a 2004 sermon that pushed for a measure on Michigan’s ballot to ban gay marriage, the author stood up, expressed his disgust and walked out of his church. How did a devout, unquestioning Catholic become an outspoken critic of the church’s homophobic policies and a fierce supporter of his son and the LBGT community? To answer this, Nelson delves into his own story, covering his strict Catholic upbringing, the rigors of raising six children, the revelation that his son was gay, his yearlong separation from his wife of 30 years, his emerging activism in the gay community and his struggles to cope with his wife’s death. Nelson’s memoir is a thorough study of a man coming to terms with his faith and his family. But the narrative does diverge on several tangents, including a large section on boating in the Great Lakes. But the story is consistently poignant and meaningful, buoyed by the author’s earnestness, his love for his family and his readiness to look at his own faults. Even when his writing wanders, Nelson’s work has heart; his insistence throughout the story that the experiences in his life have been a part of his continuing education feels authentic. Nelson frames himself as a layperson with important questions for his church, and his courage and curiosity should be appreciated by other adherents—not simply written off as the complaints of a disgruntled parishioner. His concerns are real, and the Church would be wise to listen.
A thoughtful, deeply personal reflection on a controversial institution.