Garrard Conley, a 2007 graduate of Lyon College, will be the featured convocation speaker at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 23, in Brown Chapel on the Lyon campus. He will speak on “radical compassion,” and all interested persons are invited to attend this free event.
Conley will share stories from his memoir, Boy Erased, about growing up in a fundamentalist household and attending a conversion therapy program. In the midst of harmful practices and intense bigotry, Conley dug deep to find compassion for himself and even for the counselors who harmed him, struggling to understand what people should do when fundamentalist thinking damages their understanding of compassion and goodness. After over a decade of recovery, he will share some of his insights on human nature.
Conley wrote about his experiences in Boy Erased, an autobiographical account of his being outed at age 19 to his religiously-conservative parents, agreeing that he would attend a “gay conversion therapy” program at their request, its effect on him, and his decision not to “erase” who he really was but affirm his own, authentic identity while continuing a loving relationship with his family.
After the book appeared in late 2016, it attracted national attention, especially after Oprah named it to her list of The Best Memoirs of 2016. Pride recognized Boy Erased as one of 15 Must-Read LGBT Books of 2016, and Buzzfeed named it one of the Best Nonfiction Books of the year. It was also named as a top memoir by Travel + Leisure, Bustle, and the Los Angeles Times.
Joel Edgerton, a well-known actor, writer, director, and producer, read the book and decided he wanted to transform it into a film that would be faithful to the story. As a result, he asked Garrard to write a script, but the young author believed someone more experienced in the film world could do a better job. Edgerton then took it on, collaborating closely with Conley. Edgerton is also portraying the director of Love in Action, the conversion therapy program, directing, and producing.
Playing Garrard will be Lucas Hedges, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Patrick, a key character in 2016’s Manchester by the Sea.
Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe will portray Garrard’s parents. The film will be the first collaboration between these two top stars and longtime friends. It is set for release on September 28, 2018.
Garrard states, “It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to have this story taken so seriously and to have it be told by some very talented people.”
Conley applied for the Peace Corps while still a sophomore at Lyon. Immediately after graduating, he headed to the Ukraine as a Peace Corps volunteer. He also taught International Baccalaureate literature courses at the American College of Sofia, Bulgaria. During his time there, he realized how much Love in Action had brainwashed him and altered the memories of his youth, so he began work on the memoir.
Back in the U.S., Conley lives with his husband, Shahab Yunus, and teaches in Brooklyn, New York. He also runs the Memoir Incubator class for GrubStreet in Boston. His other work can be found in Time, Vice, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and on CNN.com, Buzzfeed, and elsewhere. He has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Elizabeth Kostova Foundation writers’ conferences and is now in talks with his publisher on his first novel, a historical fiction narrative set in the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, a time of widespread spiritual revival.
The Lyon College Scot Shop is selling copies of the book for $16 to be signed at the event.
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