Brest, Anne Lapedus. “Catastrophe: Oy Vey, My Child Is Gay (and an Addict)”, Jacana Media, 2014.
Here is the story of a Jewish mother who learns that her daughter, Angela, who she thought was well-grounded, talented and well-educated is not only gay but also a down-and-out drug addict, hopelessly hooked on highly addictive Cat, a synthetic amphetamine containing the substance methcathinone. The family was close enjoying Shabbat meals together, shopping together, etc. but this news threw them into a dark world that they were to learn was full of lies and deceit and desperation. They discovered forged checks and visits to pawn shops and felt terror and shame. There were also the finances to be considered as well as the degradation that was to come and there was also the challenge of unconditional love.
While this book deal with South Africa where one in every people is addicted to something, it could have been set anywhere—geography really has to do with it. This is a call out to parents to learn about the signs of addiction and it gives practical help and insights to the loved ones of addicts to help navigate their way through it.
Overriding everything else in this book is a mother’s love for her child. This is an eye-opening account of how a South African Jewish mother faces the ordeal of helping her much-loved daughter, Angela, through years of drug addiction. It is written candidly and honestly. We read of the heartache and pain that a mother feels as she watches her daughter fall to drug addiction. The topic is sensitive yet there are no graphic details or explicit descriptions. We see how drugs have an effect on both the user and the family of the user.
But all is not dark here. There is humor when we read about the Irish-Jewish family background and also family life in Johannesburg. I believe that the most compelling thing we read here is the overwhelming will, support, belief and love that the mother has for her beautiful daughter—they share an unshakeable solidarity.
I have read so many books and heard so many stories about gay men and drug addition that I thought I was numb to it and then I read this and I wept with the family. That probably is because it is written as if I were part of the family and the conversation. Even though I already knew how important a family is to its members, we sometimes forget that we should be an integral part of each other’s lives and as we get older we realize that even more.