Teaching the Cat to Sit

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“At once powerful and touching, Theall’s moving memoir captures the meaning of family—the families we inherit and the ones we make.”

Piper Kerman, New York Times bestselling author of Orange is the New Black


Teaching the Cat to Sit

Release Date: Febrary 25, 2014


Nuanced and poignant, heart-rending and funny, Michelle Theall’s thoughtful memoir is a universal story about our quest for unconditional love from our parents, our children, and most important, from ourselves.

Even when society, friends, the legal system, and the Pope himself swing toward acceptance of the once unacceptable, author Michelle Theall still waits for the one person’s blessing that has always mattered to her the most: her mother’s.

Michelle grew up in the conservative Texas bible belt, bullied by her classmates and abandoned by her evangelical best friend before she’d ever even held a girl’s hand. She was often at odds with her volatile, overly-dramatic, and depressed mother, who had strict ideas about how girls should act. Yet they both clung tightly to their devout Catholic faith—the unifying grace that all but shattered their relationship when Michelle finally admitted she was gay.

Years later at forty-two years old, Michelle makes delicate peace with her mother and is living her life openly with her partner of ten years and their adopted son in the liberal haven of Boulder, Colorado. But when her four-year-old son’s Catholic school decides to expel all children of gay parents, Michelle tiptoes into a controversy that exposes her to long-buried shame, which leads to a public battle with the Church and a private one with her parents. In the end she realizes that in order to be a good mother, she may have to be a bad daughter.

Michelle writes with wry wit and bald honesty about her life, seamlessly weaving her past and her present into a touching commentary on all the love, pain, and redemption that families inspire. Teaching the Cat to Sit makes us each reflect on our sense of humanity, our connection to religion, and our struggles to accept ourselves—and each other—as we are.

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“A clear-eyed, brave-hearted and utterly unforgettable memoir.”
SARA CORBETT, co-author of the New York Times bestseller A House in the Sky

“Packed with big issues and told with real mastery.”
—KELLY CORRIGAN, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place, Lift, and Glitter and Glue

“Powerful down to the last page.”
—JULIA SCHEERES, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Land

“Genuinely moving, compelling, and at times, hilarious.”
—WENDY LAWLESS, New York Times bestselling author of Chanel Bonfire

“Life under the microscope…an emotional ride.”
—JENNIFER WILSON, Parents magazine contributor and author of Running Away to Home

“A powerful reminder of the ways that discrimination and cruelty still flourish.”
—CRIS BEAM, author of To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care, New York Times selection for Notable Non-Fiction 2013

Teaching the Cat to Sit is about the most important thing of all: Unconditional love.”
BUZZY JACKSON, Boston Globe Contributor and author of Shaking the Family Tree

“Warm, courageous, deeply honest, heartbreaking, heart-mending.”
—PAM HOUSTON, author of Contents May Have Shifted

“All heart—painfully and beautifully so.”
—LORI DURON, author of Raising My Rainbow

“A powerful testimony to the healing power of language.”
—Publishers Weekly