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SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon's Life: Healing From the Shame of Religion, Rape, Conversion Therapy & Cancer by [Kerry Ashton]

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SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon's Life: Healing From the Shame of Religion, Rape, Conversion Therapy & Cancer Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 17 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Saint Unshamed is A TRIUMPHANT MEMOIR about how one man managed to find a way out of a culture that would silence him. In his memoir, Saint Unshamed, actor and writer Kerry Ashton likens shame to an insidious disease that threads through the body and the psyche, slowly destroying and devaluing everything it touches. Ashton caught it early--from his parents, from his Mormon faith, from his burgeoning understanding of his own sexuality. Brutal, graphic, and historical, this memoir tells not only Ashton's harrowing story, but also that of the many gay men who struggled with their sexual identity and health during the latter quarter of the twentieth century. Now capable of understanding much of what he has endured, Ashton begins with his own lack of shame, a state he spent decades trying to achieve. Shamed by his family for being effeminate and policed and punished by Brigham Young University, Ashton nevertheless emerged the victor, but he also endured electroshock therapy that forever damaged his nervous system and a disturbing and violent rape.
 
In the midst of his own story, Ashton also discusses friends who lost their lives, including gay men who killed themselves, who contracted HIV, or who buried themselves in heterosexual marriages. He gives life to rest stops and gay cruising grounds, relating both their necessity and the danger they represented for men who could not speak about their sexual needs. Ashton also tries to make sense of his religious and family life. Strict Mormon laws regarding sex, from masturbation to intercourse to anything in between, informed much of Ashton's suffering, but to deny Mormonism would have been to lose his family, his faith, and, in many ways, his identity as a young man. Ashton's electric scenes speak to that quandary and make real the many parts of life that are barred to men who come out.
 
Though the memoir progresses almost to the present, Ashton's young adulthood and childhood produce the best-wrought scenes with the most at stake. The pacing and the tension there is literary; scenes are full and include actions and reactions. The moves through time are frequent. Barbra Streisand movies are referenced to help keep years straight in the story, which also pays homage to Judy Garland; The Wizard of Oz becomes an extended metaphor with clear parallels in Ashton's story. Ashton's encounters with famous people are charming and interesting in and of themselves.
 
Devastating but ultimately hopeful, Saint Unshamed is insightful as it reveals a generation of Mormon men who were hurt and sometimes destroyed by the church's positions on their sexuality. It is A TRIUMPHANT MEMOIR about how one man managed to find a way out."
FOREWORD REVIEWS/CLARION BOOKS
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"This POWERFUL, EXTENSIVELY DETAILED MEMOIR tells the life story of Kerry Ashton, who grew up gay and Mormon in a small Idaho town. An actor and playwright, Ashton dramatically tells his tale, first detailing his abusive childhood and struggles at college and later discussing his efforts to become a famous actor while learning to overcome his childhood shame.
 
Ashton's parents argued constantly. His mother, he writes, was "the only source of love I knew," while his father was frequently enraged at his youngest child's "sissy" behavior, such as when he performed the Cowardly Lion's song from The Wizard of Ozor cried during his parents' shouting matches.
 
At Brigham Young University, Ashton discovers sex in a restroom and deals with a crush on his friend Harlan, who slowly reveals his own troubled past. It's fascinating to watch this friendship--and the handsome former Marine's complex feelings towards Ashton--unfold.
 
Ashton is viciously raped during a hookup, and under threat of expulsion when university authorities learn of his cruising, undergoes electroshock therapy to "correct" his sexuality. (The Mormon church believes gay members can be changed and threatens excommunication for any who 
refuse treatment.) The procedure leaves his hands 'constantly shaking.'
 
Eventually, the author, with the help of his therapist and loving partner, works through the past trauma and begins to reconcile with his family.
Ashton is a passionate, unfailingly candid narrator. Using vivid detail, he crafts absorbing scenes. Overall, this is a compelling look at the repercussions of being gay in a community that sees this as a source of shame--a detailed record of one man's hurt and healing, while many more with similar stories have yet to speak of their pain."
BLUEINK REVIEWS
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"Ashton's memoir tells stories of his troubled childhood, the excitement of being an aspiring actor in New York City, and his first real love for another man. Growing up in the heart of Mormon country in the 1950s, or the "LDS yellow brick road," as he calls it, Ashton spent his early childhood gravitating toward performance, music, and theater--all subjects that earned him scorn from his conservative father. These painful early years also resulted in him having deep shame about his sexuality and his desire for men, which he couldn't even admit to himself. The memoir shifts between Ashton's first few years at Brigham Young University, where he began to make a name for himself as one of the most talented actors on campus, and memories of beatings from his father and of the erosion of his family, due to fear of sin. 
 
During college, he made forays into sex; once, he endured a brutal rape, which he willed himself to forget. However, at Brigham Young, he also met a strikingly good-looking young man named Harlan, who took young Ashton under his wing, and with whom Ashton fell deeply in love. He also experienced the devastating conclusion of his long relationship with Harlan. 
 
In Ashton's post-college life, he tried to break onto Broadway and come to terms with the psychological damage he endured in the LDS Church. 
 
Ashton has clearly led a long, fascinating life. The care and detail he brings to his childhood and first years in New York, feature wonderful run-ins with celebrities, such as Bette Davis and Stephen Sondheim. The memoir's structure is smart, as it allows Ashton to develop a single, riveting story about his growing love for Harlan and his battle with BYU's unrelenting moral standards. Along the way, he adds rich perspective as he alternates between the troubled child he was, and the proud, openly gay man that he eventually became. A moving coming-out story with an intriguing narrative structure!"
KIRKUS REVIEWS
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"Kerry Ashton's memoir is s story where religion (that of Mormonism) and homosexuality collide. Brought up during the 1970s in the heart of Mormon influence, Ashton tells the reader his painful yet heartening story of his journey towards accepting his homosexuality. This story begins from his childhood, where he remembers being abused; to his college life, where he was raped during one of his sexual explorations as a homosexual; and finally, to the present, where he accepts himself as he is.
 
I appreciated this book very much. It is obvious that Ashton has spared no qualms exploring the innermost parts of his psyche, baring it all for the reader. His book would be a great resource for those who are looking to learn more about the Mormon way of life. I completed the book in a single sitting. Ashton has an ability to provide the reader with an immersive experience through his writing, and he draws one in fully. Personally, I feel the need to have more literature discussing such sensitive issues, and I would recommend this book to those in the LGBT community. Nonetheless, no matter one's sexuality, this is a book that would be a great resource for those seeking to understand the intricacies of how our society views race, religion, sexuality, as well as the social hierarchy that exists in its intersections."
ONLINE BOOK CLUB EDITORIAL REVIEW
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      WHAT CRITICS HAVE SAID ABOUT KERRY ASHTON'S PREVIOUS WORK: 

"A lot of care and time have clearly been lavished on this impressively mounted" work.
Ben Brantley, THE NEW YORK TIMES
                                                           
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"Kerry Ashton has an impressive list of credits, and is clearly a talent to be encouraged!"
Byron Belt, NEWHOUSE NEWSPAPERS
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"Amusing and touching! Remarkable and superb! Ashton's style and wit are so quick as to leave us dazed. If the renaissance man has returned to our midst, his name must surely be KERRY ASHTON!"
Martin Schaeffer, NEW YORK THEATER WEEK
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"Succeeds exceptionally well! Entertainingt and moving!"
John Mahoney, LOS ANGELES TIMES
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"Truly splendid! Ashton is mesmerizing, breathtaking, and utterly magnificent!"
Jack Bradford, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
                                                            --------
"Brilliant! A triumph not to be missed! Ashton proves himself to be one of the most versatile and mutli-talented artists to emerge in the last several years!"
Sven Rye, THE HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS
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"A touching and human portrait, amusing and poignant ... a timely illustration!"
Susan Forscey, LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER

From the Author

I first had the idea to write about my coming out experience at BYU way back in the early 1980s, and I was encouraged by my literary agent at the time (Mitch Douglas of ICM), to write my story as thinly-veiled fiction. I wrote four different drafts during the early 80s and eventually my agent submitted my final draft it to a gay publishing house, and the manuscript was accepted for publication. But, being young and brash, I turned the offer down, as I wanted the book to come out with a mainstream publisher. After that, I went on to other projects. Still later, I was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating form of cancer. 

My battle with cancer suspended my career both as a professional actor and writer for nearly two decades. Once I fully recovered from my illness, I had finally found a level of self-acceptance and enough spiritual healing that I was finally ready and brave enough to tell the whole truth about my experiences as a Mormon, including telling about the rape that occurred while I was a student at BYU in the sprint of 1972--something I had never told anyone, not even myself, in over 40 years.

Essentially, it took four decades of self-healing, therapy, and a lot of inner work before I was finally ready to fully own all of the experience that I endured while at BYU in the 70s, to share my story as I had always needed to share it, not as fiction but as true memoir. I was finally read to tell the whole truth of my experiences as a Gay Mormon, letting the chips fall where they may.
 

Product details

  • File Size : 4930 KB
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B07K3LDC29
  • Publication Date : March 16, 2019
  • Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting : Not Enabled
  • X-Ray : Not Enabled
  • Print Length : 348 pages
  • Lending : Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.0 out of 5 stars 17 ratings