“Affliction: Growing Up With A Closeted Gay Dad” by Laura Hall, is a memoir of the author’s life mainly as it relates to her gay father. When she was 24 years old Laura asked her father if he had ever been unfaithful to her mother. His answer - that he had always been gay, shocked her. Over the course of decades, her father shared stories with her that both illuminated things and threw her into confusion.
Author Hall has crafted a compelling tale involving multiple points of view. I really appreciate teh conversational tone of her writing - I felt like I was sitting in her living room sharing a cup of tea with her. The story moves around in time as she recounts childhood memories and interweaves them with conversations with her father as she is an adult. She also recounts conversations with her mother during this time, although her mother was far less forthcoming.
While I found the memories and conversations Laura related intriguing, for me the main fascination of the book was in the understanding of how gay men who came of age in the 1930’s and 40’s had to behave differently to survive. As someone who has known older gay men and who struggled to understand why they remained in the closet even though times have changed, I found this a revelation. One of my favorite parts of the story is towards the end when Laura relates a conversation with her granddaughter and marvels at how accepting of homosexuality her granddaughter is, in contrast to what Laura’s father encountered.
Ultimately, Laura Hall has written a memoir filled with surprises, quiet reflections and compassion. Compassion for her father and mother who chose safety and security over being their authentic selves, and compassion for herself as she navigates family secrets and absorbs how they ultimately affected her life. Sadly, in the end she was unable to truly discuss this situation with her mother. I think that this tale is also a cautionary one, illuminating what happens when secrets are too closely kept.