Coming out and acceptance are two harsh realities, which are part of every queer person’s life. On one hand there is the mountain of guilt and foreboding that wears one down, for hiding their true self. On the other, the fear of losing their loved ones if they come out. Lucky are those who find love and acceptance once they do take the plunge. For a vast majority, coming out opens a floodgate of torture – both physical and mental.
So, it is not surprising that Connor Major’s religious mother shunned her son when he came out to her. His phone and laptop was confiscated. He was grounded. He is enrolled into the ‘Meals on Wheels’ programme run by the local church, and is under constant surveillance. But all hell breaks loose when Connor’s mother has him kidnapped and sent away to Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that “changes” queer children back to “normal”.
And Connor is not alone. There are many other young queer children, who are fighting with the odd and cruel realities of life at the ‘conversion’ camp. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide, from the campers to the supervisors, and even the director. Connor is resolute – he must escape from this place, along with the other kidnapped children, but first he must expose the secrets.
Without any shred of doubt, this book is as dark as it can get. Conversion therapy and persecution of queer people is not an easy subject to write on. But there is hope in the form of Connor – the protagonist. He is a complex personality, whose character arc evolves as the story progresses. He is brave, strong, resolute, and full of hope. He also helps other campers in need, and wants to rescue them.
And not just Connor, we have been provided a background for several other campers – their back stories and experiences at the camp. Their time at the camp have shaped them, and continue to dictate their life choices. More importantly, for a hard and dark narrative as this one, the pace makes it a worthwhile read, without getting boring. The element of thrill and suspense makes it more endearing.
Most importantly, ‘Surrender Your Sons’ initiates a conversation about conversion therapy, which parents the world over must engage with. We all need to let people be themselves – and not force them to fit in the mould of the society. Love is love. And no one must be persecuted for who they choose to love.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights
It is a sweet irony that I am writing this review on a day when my State of West Bengal has started strict lockdown measures to break the chain of COVID transmission. Lockdown – this is definitely one of the words that have become part of everyday lexicon post March, 2020. And it is also a divisive idea that has the society split wide open.
While scientists and the medical fraternity are vocal about complete shutdown, economists, and governments across the world have often been found not to keen to enforce a lockdown, as livelihoods of millions would be threatened because of it. However, we live in times, when one has to choose between life and livelihood.
Last year, the Government of India announced a countrywide lockdown at four hour’s notice, leaving millions of Indians – mostly migrant workers stranded. The government’s handling of COVID had been lackadaisical, whimsical and downright unplanned. The lack of foresight and forward planning among the policy-makers plagued the nation, for which we are suffering till date.
Abantika Ghosh’s book ‘Billions Under Lockdown’ throws light on India’s tryst with the pandemic. I have been zealously following her updates on Twitter, and this book gave a better insight into how the ‘backroom offices’ in the corridors of power functioned to deal with this unforeseen enemy. From the sudden lockdown to economic slowdown, the sloth reaction to the first few cases to the stage of community transmission — she has chronicled it all.
From controversies – for example, the various ‘remedies’ offered to rid India of Corona – to the confusion in scientific community regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine, struggle with flailing health infrastructure to the politics surrounding COVID, and the vaccine diplomacy – she has given a detailed perspective of the year gone by.
The book is a must-read for public policy enthusiasts, as well as policy makers, for a know-how on what not to do – and some best practices – while dealing with a pandemic.