Andrea Myers’ funny and poignant tale of converting and coming out
Like most of us, from the moment Andrea Myers was born, her parents had certain expectations for her. They expected her to grow up with morals, decency and kindness, strength and smarts. They hoped she’d be productive, happy and live a long life. Dad might have dreamed she’d take over the family business. Mom might have wanted to teach her to ride a bike or a horse. They saw great promise in her future.
But as Myers shows in her memoir The Choosing, they had a few surprises in store.
Born in Queens and raised in Long Island, little Andrea loved to ask questions. No answer was ever thorough enough, and certain things were never discussed. Controversy was forbidden, topics of religion and sexuality among them.
Myers’ mother was a Sicilian Catholic who had been “insulted” by the church and, as a result, Myers and her siblings were raised in their father’s Lutheran faith. Theirs was a unique and boisterous family: Myers’ devout grandmother lived upstairs and fiercely loved her granddaughter; Myers’ mother steadfastly stuck up for her children, no matter what; and Myers’ father had a dubious flair for fashion.
With her inquisitive mind, there was no question about college but when it came time for Myers to apply, she felt as if there was little choice. Her boyfriend said that if she chose a local college, they might as well “talk marriage.” But what he didn’t know was that Myers had been dating girls, secretly, for several years.
She chose Brandeis University, a predominantly Jewish school, and left home. There, she found people who didn’t care that she was gay, and a religion that seemed to answer a lot of endless questions but that asked even more.
Seeking out a beloved campus rabbi, Myers told him that she wanted to convert to Judaism and become a rabbi herself. He didn’t follow tradition by turning her away three times; instead, he welcomed her, but warned her that it wouldn’t be easy. Undaunted, Myers embraced the challenge by moving to Jerusalem to study. In so many ways, it was a decision that changed her life.
Filled with wisdom, humor, and the kind of contentment that only comes when one has found his or her right place in the world, The Choosing is one of those books that leaves you feeling oddly serene. Myers writes vividly about her life — her quirky family, memorable childhood experiences, her wife and children, mentors and friends — but she also takes opportunity to educate readers on Talmudic teachings, Jewish laws and her own spirituality. There’s plenty of humor as well — you can almost hear the twinkle in Myers’ words — but at the same time, she imparts a sense of refreshment, subtly pointing out the miraculous in the everyday.
If you’re looking for inspiration, direction or a few gentle laughs, you’ll love this surprisingly charming book. Grab The Choosing and you can expect a very good read.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.