Carol Curoe and Robert Curoe, Are There Closets in Heaven? A Catholic Father and a Lesbian Daughter Share Their Story (Minneapolis: Syren Book Company, 2007), 178pp.
When Robert Curoe was sixty-five, he came home for lunch one day to a most unwelcome surprise. His wife Joyce was in tears and handed him a letter from their daughter Carol: "Mom and Dad," she wrote, "I'm gay." Curoe was an Irish-Catholic farmer from Iowa. Catholic to the core, he didn't even know any non-Catholics, he sent all his children to parochial schools, he had sisters who were nuns, and in his mind homosexuality was a grievous sin. To say that he was shocked, he says, would have been a gross understatement. Confusion, dread, and fear filled their lives. Four years later this initial shock was "eclipsed" by Carol's announcement that she and her partner Susan were expecting a child by artificial insemination. The latter announcement forced their family to come out among their deeply conservative farming community.
Curoe was a loving father who wrote all six of his children a letter every week when they were in college. He sent his daughters roses for Valentine's Day. Somehow, we're not surprised that by the end of the story he's become a staunch advocate of Carol and Susan, and of the greater gay cause. Father and daughter take turns writing alternate chapters in this memoir, beginning with early years on their Iowa farm. Each chapter rehearses the same experiences from their own perspectives. The story they tell operates at four overlapping levels — their extended family, their culturally conservative farm community, the greater arena of legal parity (health insurance, finances, housing, employment, etc.), and, of course, their religious perspectives as deeply committed Catholics. The memoir doesn't candy-coat the anguish and tears that their family experienced, and father Curoe is forthright about his regrets, failures, and baseless stereotypes in the early going. But many families with a similar story are not so lucky. They might improve their chances for a similar healing journey by reading this book. The book concludes with a list of ten resources for gay families, and a list of ten questions for group discussion.