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Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God Hardcover – October 1, 2017
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"Amber Cantorna's story of growing up gay and Christian will resonate with anyone who has struggled with feeling different or not fitting the mold. Her bravery and perseverance will inspire other LGBTQ people, and her love for her faith will change many hearts and minds in the church. This is an important book for all Christians to read and share, and I am very grateful to Amber for writing it."
--Matthew Vines, executive director of The Reformation Project, author of God and the Gay Christian
"In Refocusing My Family, Amber Cantorna gives us the privilege of stepping into her remarkable story; one she tells with clarity, vulnerability, and great courage. It is a raw and unflinching walk through the treacherous minefield of being both gay and Christian in a world that tells you these things are incompatible. It is at times heartbreaking and other times overflowing with hope, as all our stories are which is the point. Amber reminds us that our desire to be known and loved is universal. Step into her story and you will surely find yours as well."
--John Pavlovitz, author of A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community
"The all-too-common practice of rejecting LGBTQ children from their Christian families is a religious tragedy Amber Cantorna has experienced firsthand. Yet, exiled from her family home, Amber clung to the assurance of things hoped for. Thank you, Amber, for sharing what it is like to walk the gay Christian crucible of faith toward dignity, healing, and most miraculous of all love."
--Jennifer Knapp, Dove Award winning artist, singer/songwriter/author, founder of Inside Out Faith Foundation
"Literally millions of us trusted James Dobson and Focus on the Family to guide us in how to raise the ideal Christian family. Refocusing My Family pulls back the curtain and reveals the real-life realities behind Focus's books, purity rings, and radio shows. I hope that today's young parents who are part of the evangelical community will allow Amber s story to guide them into a better way of parenting, so they can discover a more authentic way of being Christians and human beings, too."
--Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"I am one of millions who raised their children on Dr. James Dobson's parenting principles. While I long ago left the grip of manipulation, exaggerations, and hypocrisy sourced with Dobson and the Focus on the Family organization, Amber grew up in the midst of it. She gives her readers an intimate perspective of her Dobson-esque family with the imposed stress for imagined Christian perfection. Her memoir of the damage along with the struggle to survive and overcome the toxic grip of her family is worthy of reading." --Kathy Baldock, founder and executive director of Canyonwalker Connections, author of Walking the Bridgeless Canyon
"In Refocusing My Family, Amber Cantorna is able to share honestly about her own struggles of growing up within the Focus on the Family organization. Through these pages, she lifts the covers off of harmful practices to bring much needed nuance to the Christian faith. Amber is a remarkable testament of how God was able to break the spiritual and mental chains that had kept her from being her true self. I hope and pray this book is widely read."
--Danny Cortez, copastor of New Heart Community Church, Whittier, California
"Amber's book, Refocusing My Family, crystallizes the unique journey of LGBTQ people with conservative, evangelical parents and families. Her intense fight for love and life itself is on every page of this important, life-giving book. A must-read!"
--Susan Cottrell, author of "Mom, I m Gay," founder and president of FreedHearts
"Amber writes a courageous deep dive into her experience in and out of the closet. Her memoir, Refocusing My Family, will help many young people struggling to live an authentic life. Her words touch the heart and offer hope."
--Gayani DeSilva, MD, author of A Psychiatrist s Guide: Helping Parents Reach Their Depressed Tween
"You will cry and you will cheer as Amber Cantorna shares her journey of overcoming tremendous difficulties in order to live her life authentically, while still honoring her core values and beliefs. Refocusing My Family is the kind of story that has the power to change the world into a kinder, safer, more loving place for all of us to live."
--Liz Dyer, founder and owner of Serendipitydodah for Moms a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids
"Conservative evangelical Christianity cannot come to terms with the stubborn fact that 3 to 5 percent of the human family is LGBTQ. They have cornered themselves into a place where accepting this fact is theologically impossible. Therefore, when one of their own children turns out to be a part of this sexual/gender minority, it creates an extraordinary crisis for families, churches, and above all for the LGBTQ person.
Amber Cantorna has survived this crisis. But it was a near thing. Her story is equally tragic and inspiring. I hope that within our lifetime stories like hers will no longer have to be told." --David Gushee, president of the Society of Christian Ethics, president-elect of the American Academy of Religion
"I have spent my professional life as a storyteller. I have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with so many people from across a broad spectrum of issues and points of view. Rarely have I been as struck by a personal story as I have by Amber's. Hers is a story of redemption in a world that requires people to live in confined boxes. In our current political and social climate, her story resonates, opens eyes, and proves that Christ's love is bigger than those who try to control it."
--Patrick Jager, CEO of CORE Innovation Group, award-winning television producer
"At once both intimate and deeply affecting, Amber Cantorna's moving memoir powerfully unpacks the shame and self-loathing so often felt by those caught in the cross hairs of conservative Christianity and sexual identity. Her ultimate redemption comes when she is finally able to step beyond the confines of her Focus on the Family upbringing to find unconditional love among her new chosen family. A must read!"
--Daniel Karslake, director/producer of For the Bible Tells Me So and For They Know Not What They Do
"May Amber's story do for you what it did for me: teach me that it will only be through the stories of the marginalized that the church has hope for finding the healing it so desperately needs."
--Colby Martin, author of UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality
"Refocusing my Family is as much a harrowing tale of one woman's struggle to swim up to the surface as it is an indictment of the deadening consequences of bad religion that holds people under in the name of all things holy."
--Mark Tidd, founder and copastor of Highlands Church, Denver, Colorado
"No amount of theological posturing has the power of a story well told, and Amber Cantorna's Refocusing My Family is a beautiful narrative of the journey from torment and shame to authenticity and hope. Wherever you find yourself in the LGBTQ debate, this book will get you thinking about what really matters." --Paula Stone Williams, national transgender advocate and former megachurch preaching pastor
About the Author
Amber Cantorna is an LGBT Christian and the homeschooled daughter of a Focus on the Family executive. Since coming out, she has founded Beyond, a nonprofit organization focused on helping LGBT people navigate their coming out process. She s a sought-after speaker and musician, and blogs at AmberCantorna.com. Amber currently lives in Denver with her wife and their two dogs.
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"I know you think you know what's best for you, but I've lived a lot longer than you and can tell you this won't end well."
"If you ever have a girlfriend she will never be allowed in our house."
"It's extremely selfish of you to do something that makes you happy without thinking about how it affects the family."
The irony of the last quote is that Amber spends the entire book thinking about her family. They would not ask a straight child to sacrifice their happiness. They may be upset if they did not follow a more exact blueprint, but it would not be with the same severity. In Evangelicalism marriage covers a multitude of sins-- unless you're gay.
This was all exasperated with her father's senior position in a ministry that regularly degrades LGBT people and champions a nuclear version of family that is becoming less and less accessible for a number of reasons. It left Amber radioactive as her future changed once she came out.
I haven't met many Christians who know what gaslighting is, but anti-LGBT Christendom is really good at it. Half the battle is sifting through it. We are less successful and burdened down with shame because of propaganda machines like Focus on the Family.
The only virtue of the ordeal for myself was knowing if I still held onto my Christian faith after all this, then I know it is truly mine. Amber is one of those too.
Read this book and consider the lives of gay Christians and the kind of shrapnel homophobic attitudes may leave inside us. If it is in your power at all, make space for LGBT people in your life, known and unknown, Christian or not, it will save lives.
"Refocusing My Family" is a kind of death-and-resurrection story. Amber realizes the truth of who she is and must come to terms with that by letting go of the woman that she was raised to be: Heterosexual. Her coming out story - the one where her parents cast her out of their lives unless she "repents" and walks away from a "gay lifestyle" - wrenched my heart. Yet embedded in all her pain was a seed of hope, thanks to the warm embrace of the folks at Highlands Church in Denver and the skilled counseling of her therapist. That hope fuels Amber's desire to live authentically with the knowledge that she's God's beloved today just as she was before she realized she was gay. Fortunately, she has the perfect partner to walk the rest of this journey with her, and that's her wife, Clara. I wish them much happiness and pray that anyone reading this review would pick up a copy of this gem of a book and risk having your heart changed for the better.
I was raised in a Christian (Southern Baptist) family. We were made to attend church with our parents as adolescents, but given the option to attend church in my later years in high school. I greatly appreciated my parents for allowing me to make decisions for myself regarding my relationship with God.
I had two siblings, a bother and sister. My brother and I were inseparably but he was killed in the line of duty when I was a young adult.
My sister married a man that believed in controlling his wife and forcing my sister to be submissive to him. After all, this is what the "Good Book" said. When I "came out" or rather when I was "outed", my sister jumped at the opportunity to drive a wedge between me and my mother, who was my only parent living. This came in the form of scare tactics to make my mother believe that I was evil and that only my sister should be the sole heir to her estate. I was estranged from my mother for over 5 years before reuniting with her. I was so honored to share her the last year of life as the daughter I had always been.
The evilness of religion can be so toxic and destructive. I do not attend church today because I do not trust the intentions of organized religion.