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The Inheritance of Shame

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  45 reviews
The Inheritance of Shame details the six years author Peter Gajdics spent in a bizarre form of conversion therapy that attempted to “cure” him of his homosexuality. Kept with other patients in a cult-like home in British Columbia, Canada, Gajdics was under the authority of a dominating, rogue psychiatrist who controlled his patients, in part, by creating and exploiting a f ...more
Published May 16th 2017 by Brown Paper Press
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Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Much has been written about “crazy therapies” the unproven, unusual, and downright strange psychological counselling and therapeutic practice’s some patients have been subjected too. “Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir “-- a debut by Canadian author Peter Gajdics. Using journals, official documents, medical records and recordings, Gajdics recalled his bizarre story in a shocking narrative, then afterwards how he reconnected with his parents and siblings, and traveled to Europe and Hungary to explore ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book moved me. Whether it be because I am a lesbian woman, or because I am human, I do not know. But I think it may be some mixture of the two.

This is another non-fiction novel that, like others I have read to space out my fiction reads, was very difficult to read. It has taken me a long time to finish. This is not because it is not written brilliantly; for it is fantastically detailed and honest, as Gajdics brings you into his world. It was difficult because the subject matter, especially
Sarah Schulman
Riveting, ghastly, painful story - how war crimes against the parents translate into intense familial homophobia that drives the author into the hands of the wrong people. Most memoirs are so boring because they focus on the event, but this one is driven- not by self justification or positioning, but be an energy to explain, reveal, understand how we give our lives to dangerous people because we come from dangerous people.
Kathleen Duffy
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Peter Gajdics' memoir is haunting and raw. Once I started reading it, I had trouble looking away. His experiences of living within a therapeutic cult in Canada for five years are bizarre and sad. His parents' memories of war and torment intertwined helped to add a key layer to the book. His descriptions of European cities was excellent as well. I visited Budapest a few months ago and his words brought me right back.

*Read via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Saw Peter read at the Vancouver Writers Festival and immediately put a library hold on this book. It's a memoir about trauma that goes through a family, but it's also a memoir about Peter's experience with conversion therapy. At an early age, he realizes he is gay, and turns to a cult like psychiatrist who doses the hell out of him with medications to make him straight.

The book is well written and unflinching. It also explores how the history of Peter's parents influenced his own life. I recomm
Derek Warren
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book angered me, made me laugh, cry and creeped me out in parts. Most people are completely clueless about ex gay therapy and how damaging it truly is. This memoir reminds us about the importance of not undermining the experiences of others, even those who act in ways that make them difficult to love. I would highly recommend reading "The Inheritance of Shame." ...more
Cheryl Klein
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, queer-books
As someone who found a kind, ethical, queer talk therapist on the first try 18 years ago and has been with him ever since, it's almost hard to wrap my head around what Gajdics went through at the hands Dr. Alfonzo, a sadistic cult leader of a "therapist." As I read about violent "primal" sessions, perpetual gay-shaming, creepily blurred boundaries, and forced drug use, I kept thinking "Get out of there and get some therapy." Which is what I wish for most people in abusive situations. But if you ...more
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Painful, heart-wrenching, and disturbing at times .. This was an excruciating read.
Philipa Coughlan
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is definitely not an easy read as every experience is intimately outlined on the page. Sex, violence and life trauma form a catalogue of inhumanity through many of the people Peter experiences.
Gajdics( pronounced 'Gay Dicks' by cruel schoolmates) was born in 1964 and possibly 'reborn' by the telling of this startling- often disturbing- memoir.
He lived with his Catholic family in Vancover, Canada. His father had emigrated after escaping Hungary, whilst his mother also escaped Yugoslavia afte
Jarret Lovell
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
"There's more than one way to kill a f[****]t..."

Indeed, and "The Inheritance of Shame" details many of the most extreme methods [pseudo] psychiatry tried. The bracketed qualifier is important here, for while psychiatry does not come away from this book with a pass, it was really a quack psychiatrist (fully credentialed though he was) who went rogue. That the psychiatric association responsible for oversight and the enforcement of professional ethics chose to excuse much of the mad doctor's beha
Van Dusen
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Masterful. This is a word which came to my mind while indulging in this book. Masterful.
With each poignant turn of phrase, every well-placed word, every nuance of thought behind the language, Mr Gajdics takes the reader on a journey as emotionally rupturing as it is nurturing.
And although this is only Mr Gajdics' first novel, it reads like the work of a seasoned master in the autumn of their talent.
And it could only take the work of a writer so proficient in their craft to relate a narrative as
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel like a jerk for giving this author's memoir anything other than 5 stars, given the horrific experiences he went though, but it was "just okay" for me. The author voluntarily (although there is a fine line here between when it was voluntary and when he became a virtual prisoner by his therapist) elected to go through an extremely bizarre form of conversion therapy to "overcome" his "gayness," brought on by a combination of early childhood sexual abuse and physically and emotionally abusive ...more
Bryan McIver
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shame is toxic. Shame is demonic. Shame can be passed on from one generation to the next. This brilliant memoir is about shame. The transference of parental shame and the shame of being "different". This is a true story. It is moving, gripping and reads like a novel. This book is hard to put down. Each page rivets you to the next. The Inheritance of Shame left me astonished and brought me to tears. It's about a young man's struggle with his sexual orientation while surrounded by self-loathing, a ...more
Producervan in Cornville, AZ from New Orleans & L.A.
What happens when primal therapy turns to conversion therapy? A socially important autobiography by a gay man who is ostracized by his family and turns to the only help he can get—a charming, disarming Canadian psychiatrist who seems to be the author’s only salvation. The doctor’s unconventional ‘cures’ become more demanding, harsh and inhumane in the cult-like setting and the author is continually subjected to egregious treatment by this off-center psychiatrist who so heavily medicates him that ...more
Heidi Mastrogiovanni
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written and deeply profound book left me speechless. Gajdics' memoir is a tribute to courage in the face of great cruelty, and to the timeless healing power of love and forgiveness. I couldn't put it down, and I basically read it in one long sitting. It is an unforgettable story. ...more
Evan Kayne
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The Inheritance of Shame" by Peter Gajdics (pron. “guy-ditch”) published 2017 is a memoir recounting the author’s experience with conversion therapy during the early 1990s - a time when LGBTQ2S rights were still being fought for across the country. Unlike other experiences at “pray away the gay” camps, Gajdics’ experience was more personal and one-on-one; it doesn’t make it any the less horrifying.

Gajdics was born of deeply religious parents who fled Europe after World War II. His parents brou
Lauren Sapala
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This might be one of the best memoirs I’ve read, ever. I don’t say that lightly. Memoir is a genre that I really enjoy, so I’ve read my fair share. Earlier this year I was blown away by Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and thought that I wouldn’t possibly find another memoir as brilliant anytime soon. And then I read Peter Gajdics’ The Inheritance of Shame and was blown away all over again.

The Inheritance of Shame is Gajdics’ personal story of undergoing conversion therapy that aimed to turn him from a gay
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An eloquently written + scorching tale of survival and understanding.

Peter Gajdics is (was?) a damaged man. His parents were deeply flawed, causing Peter to cloak whom he would inevitably become from the at times judgemental eyes of religion.

His mother escaped a post-WWII communist concentration camp—his father, an orphan, who never knew his parents. They both exiled to Vancouver where they found each other and started new lives.

Peter happens to be gay, raised in a
Benjamin Bookman
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although this was ultimately a difficult read and took me much longer to finish than I expected, I can't really say that either of those was a negative. The writing itself is clear, the material relevant and personal, and the overall cohesion very strong. If I had a complaint, it would be pacing. The time spent in therapy makes up the bulk of the text, which isn't inappropriate or problematic, but it does mean that some other time periods seem to be touched on rather lightly in comparison. After ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
The author writes of his struggles to accept his homosexuality, and who he really is. As his mental state starts to impact his physical safety due to poor decision making he seeks out the help of a psychiatrist. Unfortunately this results in a period of years of conversation therapy centred on the idea that the sexual assault resulted in a sexual preference for men that could and should be "cured." As Peter fought to accept who he truly is the "therapy" becomes more abusive. The other part of th ...more
P.W. Bridgman
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Peter Gajdics is to be greatly commended, both for his courage and his writerly talent. The Inheritance of Shame is a dark and difficult account of Mr. Gajdics' personal journey as a gay man through and past "reconversion therapy"; a journey that culminates in self-acceptance, wisdom and insight. The book is by turns horrifying, illuminating and, ultimately, inspiring. The writing is clear and clear-headed. It is also literate and lyrical; writing that through its artistry and its unsettling con ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, tormenting, evocative, infuriating. Gajdics tells the story of his life in a way that draws you into his own pain, anger, and triumph. You'll feel as if you are hiding in his pocket as he relives the years at home, going through therapy, and finally helping his parents discover and uncover their own past. You will bear the burden of shame that it took Peter decades to begin to understand and then work through. While his conversion therapy is certainly the centerpiece of the story, ther ...more
Kim L
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The memoir is one of the most captivating and heartbreaking books I have ever read. Author Peter Gajdics’ straightforward narrative of his traumatic life events is incredibly heartbreaking, not only because it is true, but because it highlights the devastating effects of conversion therapy. This memoir is a perfect example of resilience and redemption. Gajdics beautifully and thoughtfully intertwines his parents’ tormented past during World War II in Eastern Europe where his mother was captured, ...more
Louis Macko
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to write a qualitative review of a memoir because I would never want to disparage a real person's lived experience. Thankfully, I do not have to do that here because this memoir, the author's first book, was excellent. I was moved to tears by the end. In the beginning I found the narration a shade too expository, more tell less show, but by the time he reached the parts about his cult-like therapy experiences, the author had corrected this. However, when he was relaying supposedly act ...more
Natasha Dennerstein
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir" is a stunning debut by Canadian author Peter Gajdics. This is his personal story yet it is many stories: a story of coming-out as gay in a Catholic environment, a story of extreme psychiatric abuse, an immigrant story detailing the trauma of displacement, a story of resilience but most of all a cautionary tale about the futility of so-called "conversion therapy." This is a timely and necessary story in an age of religious fundamentalism and the current conservat ...more
Faye Arcand
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book on the recommendation from a friend. The book is one of gay man looking back over his life journey of sexual abuse, family dysfunction, and years in conversion therapy.
This is a nonfiction memoir and Gajdics does a great job of sharing his truth.
At one point he involves himself in therapy with a very questionable therapist. The methods used are bizarre and involved so much self loathing. The whole thing broke my heart.
I won't spoil the story and tell you what happened but wil
Keith Cunningham
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ostensibly an account of homophobia and conversion therapy, Peter Gajdics gripping story delves into the magnetism of cult existence while, at the same time, deciphering the somewhat analogous compulsion many of us have to maintain dysfunctional familial relationships.
Any story of prolonged trauma can be challenging to read but the depth of Gajdics compassion, even for his persecutors, creates an intriguing perspective on the human condition. His writing is superb and the plot of The Inheritanc
Gilion Dumas
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Peter Gajdics’ memoir documents his six-year journey through, and eventually out of, a particularly bizarre sort of therapy; the legal battle with his former psychiatrist; his complicated family history; and his attempts to reclaim his self-identity and his own story.

The story is intensely personal and written with an LGBTQ audience in mind, but Gajdics tells it with such honesty and forgiveness that its themes transcend gender and sexuality. The book could also appeal to anyone interested in f
Lucile Barker
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
66. The Inheritance of Shame: a memoir by Peter Gajdics
Gajdics was lured into a conversion from homosexuality by a very unscrupulous psychiatrist who told his patients that they would never “recover” and used them as near slaves for years while he experimented with primal scream and other discounted therapies, wasting over a decade of his life. His parents were very religious and refused to accept his sexual orientation. When Peter decided that the doctor has committed malpractice, he was in for
Lucy Bledsoe
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A deeply honest and unflinching look at the roots and sources of reparative therapy, both familial and cultural, as well as the results of this hateful and destructive practice. I particularly appreciated how this book uses the tools of lots of detail and good storytelling to lead the way out of shame and into pride. The parallel story of the author's parents deepens his own tale. Gajdics' memoir is full of heart and compassion. A most compelling read. ...more
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“I was back in the world but not of the world. That I could be out in public, shell-shocked, and not have anyone notice the hole that had been blasted through my gut proved to me I really was invisible.” 0 likes
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