Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today by Kate Bornstein


If you're looking to read a memoir about sexual/gender identity, this is a four star book. If you're more interested - as I was - in reading a memoir by an ex-Scientologist, Ms. Bornstein has thoughtfully included a list of such books at the end of hers, because this wasn't about Scientology. Sure, she spent twelve years doing apparently boring work for the Church, and it definitely colored her thinking for the rest of her life. But that's actually the least interesting part of her story, oddly enough.

Bornstein is a unique individual who has had a great number of rare experiences. She writes well, and her ideas have apparently caused a lot of controversy. This book may shock and/or disturb the less open-minded, but how many like that would even read it?

I can appreciate the author's struggles and humor in the face of them, but I do get the sense that she uses that humor to undercut the severity of her pain. Takes one to know one.

The thing is, I really wanted to read a comprehensive and sensational insider's indictement of Scientology. So I was disappointed, and feel a bit misled. Bornstein doesn't satisfactorily explore the effects being in a cult - and it IS a cult - has had on her psychology. She calls her own veracity into question, probably in an attempt to avoid an attack by the Church. I can't blame her for that, but it also makes me sad.

I'd like to ask Bornstein: where is your anger? Even a "beta wolf" as the author calls herself, gets angry, and after everything the world has put her through, I can't imagine she's not been overcome by rage. It's hiding under the jokes, isn't it, Kate? It's too bad she couldn't be honest about it. This book might have been more relatable and compelling. People like to share each other's outrage, but Bornstein doesn't let us. So instead of a hot, soul-baring story, it's luke-warm, defenses-managed one. I say, if you're going to write a memoir, let it be brutal. Still, it took courage to share as much as she did, especially with all the conservative hate in America these days.

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