Teaching the Cat to Sit

Teaching the Cat to Sit

A Memoir

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  • customer 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.
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  • Gallery Books | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451697292 | 
  • February 2014
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Read an Excerpt

Teaching the Cat to Sit CHAPTER ONE
JULY 27, 2009: BOULDER, COLORADO

“RAIN IS GOD’S SPIT,” Connor tells his grandmother through my iPhone. He turns his head sideways and puts his right eye close to the screen, as if she might be trapped inside it. “God spits. He really does.”

My mom’s sandpaper ex-smoker’s laugh bursts through the speaker like a spray of gravel from a semitruck. With equal parts amusement and disapproval, she says, “Oh, Connor, I’m sure God... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Teaching the Cat to Sit includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In her poignant memoir, Michelle Theall tells her compelling story of a woman finding that middle place between being a daughter and being a mother, as a Catholic gay woman who is raising her son with a loving partner and flying in the face of discrimination. Author Michelle Theall grew up Catholic in the Texas Bible Belt. She also grew up gay. Throughout her childhood, she found herself at odds with her strict Roman Catholic parents, bullied by her classmates and kicked out of the very Christian organizations that claimed to embrace her. Shame and longing for her mother’s acceptance led her to deny her feelings and eventually run away to a remote stretch of mountains in Colorado. There, she spoke to God every day, but rarely saw another human being. At forty-three years of age and seemingly settled in her decision to live life openly as a gay woman, Theall and her partner attempt to have their son baptized into the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in the liberal town of Boulder, Colorado. Their quest to have their son accepted into the Church le see more

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