As the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival approaches this weekend and Pride Week officially begins today, the latest and fourth book from local publisher Brown Paper Press, The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir, is a culturally relevant, harrowing account of the six years Canadian-born Peter Gajdics spent in gay-conversion therapy.
“Peter’s story is bigger than his own remarkable experience,” Jennifer Volland, co-publisher, said in a statement. “His book explores how trauma can pass from one generation to the next, and how deep-seated shame, no matter how misplaced, can lead people to abandon their true selves. Anyone who has ever felt oppressed or has experienced childhood trauma will relate to the author and his story, regardless of their sexuality.”
Gajdics called attention to his work by submitting a proposal through Brown Paper Press’ submissions page, and his words soon stood out. Despite receiving plenty of proposals, as a small press with limited resources and a specific vision, co-publishers Volland and Wendy Thomas Russell must be incredibly selective.
“But I was immediately struck by a couple things,” Volland told the Post. “First, the contemporary relevance of Peter's subject matter. Second, the thoroughness of his proposal. And perhaps most importantly, the content. I was drawn into his story on the first page and couldn't stop reading.”
His memoir fits with Brown Paper Press’ mission to publish works that are relevant to contemporary culture, and, although the two parties began working together before the recent presidential election, Gajdics’ work has become all the more timely, taking into consideration the administration’s controversial stances on gay rights, Volland said.
“Once we were in touch with Peter, we found out quickly that not only is he a gifted writer, he is also an articulate, thoughtful, and lovely person,” Volland continued. “And he has boundless energy and passion for this project, which makes him a dream to work with. We feel incredibly fortunate.”
Raised in British Columbia by a mother who survived a communist concentration camp and a father who was orphaned at a young age in war-ravaged Hungary, the Catholic faith of Gajdics’ family strengthened after their move to Canada. The rejection of his homosexuality drove the author to seek help from a psychiatrist in his early 20s.
A young Gajdics found himself in a cult-like atmosphere, medicated and a part of an experimental form of primal therapy which sought to regress him to a childlike state emotionally so he could later be “re-parented” in a “healthy way.” According to his doctor, this method would result in curing him of his homosexuality.
Forty-two states still allow conversion therapy for minors, despite evidence of its psychological damage to young people, while California, most recently New Mexico and six other states have banned the practice. And as the Trump Administration dismantles LGBTQ rights, church-funded conversion programs continue to gain support, according to the release.
The author hopes his memoir might serve as a call to action to put anti-gay therapies out of business for good.
“At a time in history when a change of government and a strike of the pen could rescind legal decisions and set human rights back decades, I remind myself that perhaps now more than ever the world needs true-life stories, road maps, and an empathetic voice from those who’ve gone before,” Gajdics said in a statement.
“In Peter Gajdics’ memoir, we’re taken into a real-life horror film of malpractice and corrupt psychotherapy, hoping at every turn of the page that our narrator escapes,” author of Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person, Daniel Zomparelli, writes in his review. “A shocking, crystal-clear, unsettling book. The Inheritance of Shame is both a necessary and devastating memoir about the trauma of conversion therapy and the homophobia that persists to this day.”
Two upcoming events will celebrate the release of The Inheritance of Shame.
On Tuesday, May 16 at Fingerprints Music, the official date of the book's publication, a book launch, reading and signing will take place starting at 7:00PM with a wine reception by Berlin Bistro and music by local folk duo Bearcoon. To RSVP for the book launch at Fingerprints, call (562) 433-4996. For more info, visit the event page here.
On Thursday, May 18 Brown Paper Press presents Pride Night at the Art Theatre. A free screening of Call Me Kuchu, the award-winning 2012 documentary about openly gay activists in working in Uganda to defeat legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by death, and a conversation with Gajdics and Ellen Hartwick, clinical director of The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, will start at 6:30PM.
The two Long Beach events will kick off Gajdics' West Coast book tour, which also includes a reading and signing with author Dan Lopez at Book Soup in West Hollywood on Friday, May 19, followed by stops in Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and, finally, his hometown, Vancouver, according to the release.
“Writing this memoir was an act of survival — an act of defiance against the effects of silence,” Gajdics said in a statement. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to speak when so many others, by default, endure other forms of this experience in silence.”
Fingerprints Music is located at 420 East 4th Street.