memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God by Amber Cantorna

Cults and high-control religious groups are a longtime fascination of mine, and there are definite factions of evangelical Christianity that fall into this group (someone I attended high school with has fallen into one of these groups, unfortunately. It might actually be more than one; I’m not sure which group the second person affiliates with). I end up reading everything I can about these groups, and it was digging through a list of these books that I discovered Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God by Amber Cantorna (Fortress Press, 2017).

Amber Cantorna grew up the daughter of one of Focus on the Family’s top employees; her father worked for Focus almost his entire career. If you’re not familiar with this organization, it’s an evangelical Christian organization that guides families using a strict evangelical interpretation of the Bible. Amber was homeschooled, she grew up steeped in purity culture, and she knew her future would be one of marriage and motherhood, because that was the only acceptable future for a Christian girl. But as Amber grew, things didn’t quite fit in place the way Focus on the Family demanded them to, and she was left feeling…out of place. Not quite right.

It wasn’t until her early adulthood that Amber realized she was a lesbian. Coming out to her parents took a lot of courage, work, and help from her therapist, and it still couldn’t have gone worse. Her parents ended up cutting off contact. They weren’t there at her wedding, and as of the writing of the book, it seems as though they no longer speak to her.

It’s painful still, but Amber has managed to salvage her faith and grow into the person she was meant to become, with her wife at her side. She writes books and speaks to groups about living as a gay Christian and the importance of inclusion. Despite being abandoned by the family who once told her they would always be there for her, she’s managed to craft a beautiful life for herself. Living well truly is the best revenge.

Tough read in terms of story, but it’s ultimately one of triumph. I’m glad Ms. Cantorna has turned her pain into support for others, and I hope all the people who need to hear her story will find their way to this book.

Visit Amber Cantorna’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.


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