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Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoir

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  336 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Nuanced and poignant, heartrending 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, Michelle Theall still waits for the one blessin
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Gallery Books (first published August 13th 2013)
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jv poore
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs

Ms. Theall bares her heart and soul honestly, yet delicately, in this magnetic memoir; and I am forever grateful to her for doing so. I won’t pretend to possess the capability to clearly articulate how reading this book made me feel; or even how just one little line has stuck with me, becoming my mantra, holding me up, allowing me to cling to hope while releasing those nagging questions that will never have satisfying answers.

My gratitude extends to Ms. Gail Storey, an accomplished author, kind
Gail Storey
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
TEACHING THE CAT TO SIT is one of those rare memoirs that works as a page-turner of a story and vivid account of intense personal transformation. With profound emotional intelligence, Michelle Theall navigates her conflicted relationships with her mother and the Catholic Church, while bringing her insight to bear on her love for her life-partner, Jill, and their adopted son, Connor. She writes with an adventurous style and humor, even about her struggle with MS, as when she says "And then I did ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this memoir, Michelle Theall examines her relationship with God, the Catholic Church, and her mother in light of her homosexuality. As a 43 year old mother of a 4 year old boy in a committed relationship she struggles to balance the life she has built for herself with the Catholic Church that she loves but who doesn't seem to want her or her family to be part of it as well as still trying to live up to the expectations of her overbearing mother. The chapters alternate between her childhood an ...more
Paul Pessolano
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
“Teaching the Cat to Sit” by Michelle Theall, published by Gallery Books.

Category – Memoir Publication Date – February 25, 2014

Michelle Theall knew from an early age that there was something different about her. She did not know at the time the life wrenching and life changes that this “different” would cause her.

Michelle grew up in the Texas Bible Belt the daughter of a strict Roman Catholic mother. She was brought up with a strong belief in the Catholic Church and its teachings. Throughout the
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, lesbian
Michelle Theall makes a frustrating protagonist of her memoir. Plagued by her mother's cruelty and lack of acceptance her entire life, she devotes herself to being the perfect Catholic daughter to pay penance for being a lesbian. It's difficult to see how she drags her partner, Jill, and their adopted son, Connor, through uncomfortable situation after situation, whether it's ongoing battles with the Church to have Connor baptized despite the priest's clear homophobia, or brushing off Jill's comp ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for most memoirs that are written by not-terribly-important people who have an honest and interesting story to tell. This is one of those stories.

I was drawn to the book from the title, though I'm sure I found a recommendation for it in another source.

Who teaches a cat to sit, anyway?

(Michelle did.)

I'm always fascinated by people who grew up strongly Catholic. I have no idea how it feels to be under the sway of a family with such an immense connection to being Catholic. I was very
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: auto-bio-memoirs
I absolutely loved spending my time with this book. I feel like I know Michelle personally after reading her memoir. She writes beautifully, and bravely, as she shares her deep and emotional personal story. I'm very glad I stumbled onto this book. ...more
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
There I was; at the library; browsing the nonfiction/memoirs section. I didn't know what I was looking for, but I knew I was looking for something. Then I came across this quirky little title. Combined with the cover, I knew that I was going to be checking this book out. (Yes, I judge books by their covers and titles, so sue me. I will actually be touching on this subject in an upcoming Musings Monday.) I've been trying to get myself in the swing of reading more nonfiction, especially since I no ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This memoir is unsettling, riveting and very heartwarming and hopeful all at the same time. Theall is very honest in her exploration of her relationship with her family, the one into which she was born and the one she created and how Catholicism affected many aspects of her life growing up, her relationship with her mother and her adulthood living life as a gay woman with a life partner and a son they want baptized. Growing up in the conservative Bible Best of Texas was not easy for a tomboy; a ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
“Teaching The Cat To Sit” is not a book about animal training. However, the title does invoke an act that does not come normally to a cat. Suppose everyone thought that cats ought to sit, and you were that cat. This is the dilemma faced by Michelle, a gay woman facing expectations from her parents and society as strange to her as the cat taking the sitting lesson. Michelle also explains the title in one chapter of the book, however I interpreted it as a double meaning.

Teaching The Cat To Sit is
Gordon Nore
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Michelle Theall's, Teaching The Cat To Sit, is a memoir of being both a devout Catholic and lesbian in the Bible Belt. Theall's narrative begins with her and her partner's battle to have their child baptized in their Roman Catholic Church. They discover that a seemingly innocuous last-minute rescheduling of the event was engineered by the parish priest to ensure the sacrament would not coincide with regular church services, and thus Theall finds herself experiencing the gay equivalent of Jim Cro ...more
Lorraine Martin
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“This book is especially for anyone who has struggled or is struggling with growing up Catholic, is gay, has experienced sexual assault and wants nothing more than real love and human connection with their parents.
As one such person, I could not put this book down once I started reading it. It is boldly and beautifully written with honesty, sensitivity, depth, compassion, humor and insight that I have not found in other books on this subject. You owe it to yourself to read this book for deeper i
Lisa Pool
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
No, the book is not about teaching your cat to sit, instead it's about learning to be your authentic self. Cats don't sit on command, it's not who they are, and Michelle Theall is the cat who tries so hard to be a dog in a doggie world. Those of us who are not gay are still able to relate to her story of guilt, betrayal, low-self esteem, and finally a bit of acceptance. I made it through this very readable book in 2 days. ...more
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
At first, the title and the cover made me pick up the book, then the way it was written justified my selection. It's an wonderful book whether you are straight or not. It is about someone finding an identity through many struggles, disappointments and finally proving that it only makes them stronger. In the end, I was really happy for the author. ...more
Andrea Chairez
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reader
I will start out by saying I got this book as first reader. I really enjoyed reading it. There were times I actually teared up.
I felt Michelle did a great job telling her story.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Apr 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
0.5 Stars

(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review).

"Nuanced and poignant, heartrending 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, Michelle Theall still waits for the one blessing that has always mattered to her the most: her
Jenni Frencham
Theall, Michelle. Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoir. Gallery Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-4516-9729-2. Harcover. 288 pp. $24.99

In alternating chapters, Theall tells the story of growing up in a very religious Catholic family and realizing that she is a lesbian while also telling the story of her son, Connor, and the choice she and her partner made to remove him from his Catholic preschool. Throughout her memoir, the theme of what makes a family - whether it be our family of origin or our family of c
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this book as part of Good Reads First Reads give away.

I didn't enjoy reading this book but I'm glad I read it. I found it to be engaging and interesting.

It's Ms Theall's story of how she decided she had to live the life she chose instead of trying to fit into her mother's mold. At an early age Ms Theall clashed with her mother (kind of a tom boy and girly girl thing) and the relationship always remained rocky especially when Ms Theall chose to live publicly as a lesbian.

Like I said, I
Josie Cook M.A.
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think this is a well thought out memoir about a girl that knew for a long time that she was different, and she wanted more out life.
Dealing with struggles in life like having MS, views in the church, and having her own family judge her lifestyle, she kept going on and writing about it.

There were childhood dreams that didn't work out like being a track star. However, she did become a successful writer.

She did confront most of her fears by the end of her book.

Her parents had problems with her.
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wonderful story that I read pretty much straight through because I wanted to see how it ended. Great cover as well -- I could see buyers/readers picking the book up just for that reason. Very engaging and generally very well-written.

The four (instead of five) star rating is due to what seemed to be poor editing. Not typos or grammar, but too many (for my taste) of these types of sentences -- "and that was the last I saw/heard of... (fill in the blank)." After the third instance of ending a chap
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Teaching the Cat to Sit is a very powerful and inspiring memoir that will no doubt open eyes and hearts. It’s about Michelle Theall’s experience growing up Catholic and coming out gay to her parents.

Michelle is an amazing woman whose accomplishments are very impressive. The story is extremely interesting and kept me glued to the book to find out what would happen next.

I would have given the book four and a half stars. My only reason for withholding the “half star” was a feeling in the end that
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a woman who has struggled with her own personal issues, with her childhood abuse, her overbearing religious mother, and her sexuality. Through the story she comes to terms with many of her struggles, and decides that she needs to take a stand for what she thinks is right. This book will hit home to many people. You don't need to be gay or Catholic to appreciate this book. The author tries to please everyone, and in the end, pleases no one, including herself. She finally real ...more
I won this book through Goodreads First Reads Program.

Frankly I'm sad that it took me so long to pick it up. This book is incredibly well written, cycling between Michelle's conservative past and the present with her partner and son. The rawness and roughness of her childhood are painfully apparent and having them parallel the way she navigates caring for her own son makes it even more tragic and beautiful.

The story comes full circle and experiencing this growth from beginning to end with this
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Boy am I glad I did. I really enjoyed this book. I usually don't like books with chapters that alternate between timeframes. This is the first one I have read that it was so seamless. It was very easy to follow and all came together at the end.

I hope this author is doing well with her disease. She has a long road to travel. But she has a lot to make her happy.

Thank you for allowing me to read this. I highly recommend it to anyone who may think their life is s
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED IT! This book is so good, I have to rave!
I didn't want to put it down, and when forced to - to sleep or drive or for something silly like that - I found myself ancy for my next free minute. I can't count how many red lights I prayed for over the last 24 hours.
Seriously, this book is wonderful. It's written with an "edge of your seat" cadence, and an ease of storytelling that's completely captivating. The author's transparency, vulnerability, bravery and humor fill each page, and I would re
Kristy McCaffrey
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This candid memoir of growing up gay and Catholic, while certainly addressing hot-button issues of sexuality and religion, is really a coming-of-age tale. Michelle lives in the Bible belt of Texas, with an older sister and loving parents. But her mother's strong devotion to her faith is tested when Michelle finally reveals, years later, that she is gay. The story alternates between Michelle's childhood and her adult life raising an adopted son with her partner. They find resistance at every turn ...more
Kate Rau
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Honest and well written, but I struggled so much with the idea that a gay woman would choose to not only stay an active member of a church that shunned her, but to want to baptize and raise her child among such hypocrisy. I found myself begging the author to have some self respect. I came very close to putting this book down out of frustration/disgust, but the last third of her story really redeemed itself. Overall a great memoir.
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book reads like a memoir, thrilled, mystery, drama, comedy. There are so many aspects to the book that I wanted to know what was around the corner all of the time. I think having alternating chapters--now and then, was a very good construct and didn't spoil the reader's sense of intrigue. More than anything, I appreciated Michelle's open-eyed honesty about herself, her life, society, organized religion, and unconditional and sometimes turbulent love. ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm fascinated by this book. Brutally honest, in my opinion, but I think that's the reason why it worked that well for me. It is always interesting to see how people dealt with issues we see now back then ( for those of us who were not even born when she was). It's not always easy to accept certain things in life but this book remained me one more time how important God and family are in our lives and the people we meet along they way as well. ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, heartfelt, clear-eyed look at all the blessings and curses of mother-daughter relationships through the eyes of a woman discovering her sexual identity.

Theall adds another great memoir to the canon of literature that gives hope to any LGBT young person who is feeling the clash of family, faith, and self-discovery.
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Mansfield Public ...: The "Teaching the Cat to Sit" review by Sharon Wapen 1 5 Jun 30, 2014 12:52PM  

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