Chana Wilson, Lesbian Therapist, Shares Her Story

When we think about people telling their stories, we don’t necessarily think of therapists being those people—isn’t it more about other people telling us theirs? But Chana Wilson is a therapist, and in her recent book called Riding Fury Home: A Memoir she has quite the story to share.

From the official book description: “In 1958, when Chana Wilson was seven, her mother held a rifle to her head and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed and she was taken away to a mental hospital. On her return, Chana became the caretaker of her heavily medicated, suicidal mother. It would be many years before she learned the secret of her mother’s anguish: her love affair with another married woman, and the psychiatric treatment aimed at curing her of her lesbianism.”

The book’s website features some Q & A that includes the following quote from Wilson on the highly relevant issue of conversion therapy:

My mom’s story shows the anguish caused by psychiatric treatment that attempts to convert gay people into being straight. My mother became severely depressed by not being able to be her true self, to love another woman. My whole family suffered from her misery: Dad, Mom, and me. Sadly, some people today are still being subjected to therapy to try to change their sexual orientation.

Author Alison Bechdel, who’s also a lesbian and whose own recent book is also about her complex relationship with her mother: “Chana Wilson’s astonishing story is a hybrid of nightmare and fairy tale in which every child’s worst fears and fondest hopes about their mother come true.”

Other Selected Reviews:

Publishers Weekly: “From the horrors of her childhood in 1950s New Jersey to the liberating discovering of her sexual identity decades later, psychotherapist Wilson’s memoir is as heartbreaking as it is uplifting. Through sharing her personal tale of forgiveness and unconditional love, Wilson breaks the silence on the trauma of oppression and the ecstasy of self-acceptance.”

Dorothy Allison, author: “Chana Wilson has done a wonderful thing—putting on the page so much grief, fear, and stubborn awe-inspiring endurance…This is not heroes and villains, but a layered, intimate exchange in which it seems the child is never quite allowed to be a child—and yet still manages to hang onto a carefully constructed loving closeness.”

Curve Magazine: “This lovely memoir is a welcome resource for those with mental illness in their families, especially if they have to cope, as Wilson did, with caring for a difficult but much loved parent.”

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