In My Father's Arms: A True Story of Incest.
"Tragic as a Greek drama and as engrossing as a Victorian novel..."
"In an age where such tales have become so commonplace that they have lost some of their ability to shock, the raw power of deMilly's writing ensures that readers will long remember his disturbing story."
"One of the Most Underrated Southern Books of All Time”
Oxford American Magazine September 2009
About my Memoir
While this is often referred to as a "gay" memoir it is from a larger perspective a cautionary tale about betrayal and the unanticipated defects of the social contract: misplaced loyalty, duty, and trust. All of these encourage some degree of silence. When one is silent, questions can't be asked. Oscar Wilde said that the supreme vice is shallowness. And what is shallowness but the refusal to think, to question, to challenge a traditional view? If I have any advice today, it is to think for yourself. If you don't, the consequences can be ruinous.
Animals survive by their instincts. If they sense danger they'll either attack or flee. But civilized society is organized in such as way so that some dangers are subsumed in secrecy, trapping the innocent in a world which will not help them. Offenders thrive in elaborate mansions built of nothing but magic. And it works. Eyes which should look to the innocent turn instead to magicians and their shows.
This institutionalized enforcement of shallow thinking has allowed centuries of priests to molest centuries of children. One can imagine, at a time when heretics were burned at the stake, what a boy must have thought might happen to him and his family if he "told" what he knew. That fear of punishment is what keeps betrayal alive. How dare a civilian accuse a holy man of evil!
That tension, between silence and evil is the central theme of In My Father's Arms. I examine two human psyches in my memoir: my father's and my own. I have done my best to understand him, from what circumstances I know of his own childhood, to his place as an old man, living at once in private hell and self-soothing denial. Was he a sociopath? No. He had a conscience, albeit diminished by his disease. And he acted on his pedophilic fantasies. He planned his acts, and the risks didn't matter. He was confident because he had his own kind of insurance: good deeds, a fine reputation, a respected place in business and in the church.
One often fears, "like father, like son." Thankfully I am not a pedophile. But I was not excused from mythical forces. They swept up both of us. My father, in his mid-seventies, was caught molesting a five year-old boy. Following private family conferences and meetings with psychiatrists and doctors, we decided that the best course of action was to have him surgically castrated. The procedure took place in another town, where no one would recognize him.
It was a prelude to a walking death, unsuitable for a man whom many had admired for his beautiful and beneficent nature. But it was necessary, we were told, to keep him from molesting other children. In retrospect, I'm not sure it was the best, or only treatment.
What I do know for sure is that it did not heal me. Most boys develop an introject of their fathers... a sense of identification. I was no exception. While thankfully I did not absorb the identity and impulses of a pedophile, the procedure did leave me feeling castrated, rendered powerless, ashamed, exiled.
It was only after this episode that I began to reject the world. Comfortless and drunk with imagination, I abandoned my home and moved away to live the endless summer in Key West.
Here I began to heal, and to write. When I began, I was not well enough, emotionally or intellectually, to tell the story. But by the time the book was finished, I had learned what I needed to. And that is, I will never stop learning, that there will never be an endless summer, but instead times of pain and contentment and boredom and wonder.
Who This Book is For
This book will be most helpful for men who were molested as boys, especially if the abuser was a relative or authority figure such as a priest, teacher, or coach.
It is also helpful reading for loved ones attempting to understand a boy or man who was molested in childhood. I've heard also from psychologists and undergraduate professors that the book is useful reading.
Additionally, anyone who wishes to understand the social complexities of father son incest, male sexual abuse, sexual trauma, and recovery, may find some use in the book. I would also suggest that it's helpful reading for sexual offenders, priests and other clergy.
For anyone interested in understanding psychological trauma, dissociation, DID, or PTSD, this story describes these phenomena in a narrative context.
Finally, this book addresses the difficult question of surgical castration for sex offenders.
Last Updated (Friday, 15 March 2013 23:52)