Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
In her sensitive and poignant memoir, You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties, Carol E. Anderson bares her heart and soul to readers so beautifully and intelligently that even if you aren’t gay and weren’t born into a Fundamentalist Christian family in the sixties, you will be deeply moved. The reason you will be moved is because of the basic truths Anderson explores about the social, cultural and religious issues faced by so many of us, regardless of where we live or how we were raised.
What human being, regardless of what struggle with their faith they may have been facing, who has dared to question the teachings of their family’s religion, hasn’t at some point felt, as Anderson did when she recognized her gayness, that “To agree with the church was to defy my soul. To trust myself was to let go of the only God I knew. Either choice was a bad one.” In trying to be what her family and church deemed acceptable i.e. a “normal” female who would love and marry a male, she felt she was fighting a battle she couldn’t win: “The Church was Goliath, and I had no David within me." Anderson tried more than once to have a regular, loving relationship with men, even coming close to marriage. But she could never feel with a man what she felt with a woman i.e. an “emotional intimacy”. After finally finding and identifying with a group of women who weren’t raised in a similarly strict, religious environment, she began to accept that what she felt wasn’t so abnormal or unusual after all. But still, it took years to share how she felt with her family. Sadly, by the time she did, her wonderful father had passed away, but fortunately for Anderson, her mother, who had always been a pillar of strength, took the news surprisingly well and by doing so showed Carol a love that money can’t buy.
Readers will find themselves identifying with the author on various levels, not just that of religion or sexual orientation. When Anderson tells us how much her father loved her and appreciated her “kindness, compassion and determination”, she speaks for every person when she states: "I want you to love me for who I really am, not for who you want me to be.” Is this not what human beings all over would want from their family, friends and associates? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all loved each other for who we are and not for who others want us to be? How much easier it would be to get along, communicate with and love each other. Sadly, that isn’t how human beings, conditioned by generations of religious, cultural and social teachings and expectations, interact. And hence, as Anderson rightly concludes: “Rather than listening to the voice within, people courted the voices outside of themselves, and in doing so lost touch with what most families claimed to be the most important thing: a sense of love and belonging.” You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties by Carol E. Anderson is a brilliant book that deserves your attention. Readers will be enriched by reading it.