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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 have so much respect and admiration for Amber because of her willingness to share her story. Stories like Amber's need to be told because they occur far too often.
It's difficult for me to understand how or why a parent would reject their child because of their sexual orientation but it happens a lot. I can understand a period of struggle and difficulty as Christian parents face a new reality and have to reevaluate what they believe - but I don't understand parents who don't come to the conclusion that they were obviously wrong about what they believed. I don't understand how they can go on for years believing that their child chose to be LGBT or that the loving same sex relationship their child is a part of is somehow wrong or sinful or that their child should practice lifetime celibacy. I don't understand how a parent stays stuck in that place but it happens a lot. In fact, according to a recent study more than 40% of homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT and most of those come from homes that identify as Christian.
Fortunately, Amber was in her 20s and independent when she came out to her parents so she wasn't homeless but she still suffered tremendously due to her parents rejection. It broke my heart when I read about the way Amber's family kept their distance from her after she came out to them. She trusted them with something personal and difficult that she was dealing with and they abandoned her when she needed them the most.
Amber didn't choose to be gay and didn't even want to be gay. Nothing happened to make her gay.That is just the way she was created and nothing was going to change that.
The good news is that due to some good fortune and Amber's own tenacity she was able to find supportive community with others.Her parents weren't there for her but she found friends who became her family and did what her family should have done. As she says at one point in her book, "family isn't always blood. There's also chosen family - those you choose to do life with regardless of whether you have the same DNA."
So, although Amber's story has pain and suffering and heartbreak included in it, her story also has hope and new life. Amber's story is real and authentic and sad and hopeful and encouraging and inspirational. It will make you cry and it will make you cheer.
I hope you will read Amber's story and share it with others. I believe that the best way to make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for LGBT people to live is for LGBT people like Amber to share with the world that their sexual orientation nor gender identity doesn't make them broken or less than. Instead of having to overcome being LGBT, the obstacle they have to overcome is living in a world that wants to keep them in the closet pretending to be someone other than the person they were created to be.
I'm thankful that Amber was able to refocus in the midst of the challenges she faced and create a life that led her to live authentically while honoring her core values and beliefs - because that's the kind of story that has the power to change hearts and minds and make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all LGBT people to live.
"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.
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