Review: “How We Sleep at Night” by Sara Cunningham 

Sara Cunningham "How We Sleep at Night"

How We Sleep At Night: A Mother’s Memoir

by Sara Cunningham
CreateSpace Independent Publishing, Oct 2014
144 pages

I came out to my mom a few years ago. She appeared pretty stoic when I broke the news to her, and thankfully she accepted me just as I am. Occasionally I can’t help but wonder what might have gone through her mind. Was she just as calm inside as she appeared outside? Or were there a million questions flying through it?

One thing I especially love doing is reading about peoples’ life experiences. When I was offered a chance to review How We Sleep at Night, I jumped at it. This book is a memoir by Sara Cunningham, a retelling of her personal journey of how she reconciled her faith with her son’s orientation.  This is a very personal book, one can tell from the real and raw language used.

Sara was an active member of a small Baptist church in Oklahoma for over 20 years. She was very involved in the various activities in and around the church, and it goes without saying that she made many friends there. But when her son Parker came out and she tried confiding in them, these people started drifting out of her life.

Sometimes a mother just knows that her son is gay. Some stay in denial for a while. Sara recounts how a 5 year old Parker twirled around in her heels and flowery dress.  And when he came out to her at 17, she yelled at him and told him that he shouldn’t be thinking of this stuff.

A period of turmoil ensued. Her spiritual confidence was shaken. She thought of kicking him out of the house. She tried to look for gay intervention programs. She tried looking for books, all while wondering what had she done wrong.

Soon enough, Sara had to face up with her biggest fear. Parker had met the love of his life, Kohl. Kohl was welcomed in the family home, but she had no idea how to ‘love the sinner, not the sin’. It was an honest struggle for her to reconcile this, and it certainly wasn’t an easy journey. Eventually she does, and she shares how she came to that place of love, empathy and acceptance.

I am grateful for parents like mine and Parker’s who decided to choose love instead of subjecting their LGBT children to ridicule and rejection, something we hear about all too often in our Christian communities, despite Jesus telling us to love one another.

I’d just like to add here that there are song lyrics and Internet links to song audio in between each chapter. These songs were written and performed by Parker himself. I really enjoyed listening to them. He is a talented singer and songwriter indeed.

How We Sleep at Night was a quick and easy read, but that was enough for me to empathise with Sara’s journey. The emotions are real. The journey is real. I would recommend this book to parents of LGBT kids and anybody who is curious about what these parents go through. Like Sara says, “When a gay child comes out of the closet, the parents go into theirs.”

I’ll definitely be passing my copy to my mom.

Sara’s book is available on in paperback and Kindle format.


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Rayan-Chris150CHRIS RAYAN is from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is Associate Editor at IMPACT Magazine. He is also part of the microstock industry. When not staring at pixels, he travels and takes more photographs. Sometimes he daydreams about finding Mr. Right.

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