Authors: Alex Cooper with Joanna Brooks
Narrator: Luci Christian Bell
Produced by HarperAudio
Length: 8 hours, 48 minutes
“You can be here three months or three years…” Johnny emphasized upon Alex’s arrival at the unlicensed residential treatment center. She would hear this same speech reiterated many times over the course of the next eight months. And so began her harrowing experience…
Saving Alex is the powerful memoir of Alex Cooper, a young woman who endured conversion therapy in St. George, Utah. Alex grew up in a devout Mormon family in Southern California. Although she had anticipated a less than warm reception when she came out as a lesbian to her parents at the age of 15, she was shocked when her parents demanded she leave immediately. After a few weeks in exile at the home of the local Mormon congregation’s bishop, she is whisked away to St. George, Utah, to stay with her grandparents. Instead, her parents deposited her at an unlicensed “residential treatment program”, led by Johnny and Tiana Siale, a married couple in the local Mormon community. It is here that she spent eight arduous months struggling to retain her identity and sanity in the face of aggressive homophobia. Her journey led her to challenge (and win) the courts for the right to protection under Utah law as an openly gay teenager.
Alex also invites the reader/listener to know her as a complete person, rather than hide a trait that may paint her as less than perfect. As a child and a teenager, she recalled feeling restless and how she sometimes clashed with her parents. Just as she acknowledged the parts that make her whole, so did she look (and continues to look) for the humanity in her parents and the community that refused to see her or hear her.
Luci Christian Bell narrates this intimate, moving account with sensitivity and respect. Her youthful voice transports the listener inside the account, revealing Alex’s uncertainty, pain, and loneliness, as well as highlighting moments of hope and joy. She delivers a nuanced performance as the stand-in narrator for Alex Cooper’s memoir.
It’s hard not to feel your blood boil as you hear Luci give voice to the demeaning treatment that the couple subjected Alex to in an attempt to break her down and “cure her”. Tiana’s behavior seemed more insidious and complex as she vacillated between comforter and victimizer: hatching new punishments, such as demanding that Alex face a wall for weeks with a backpack full of rocks on her back, and calling Alex by the sugary nickname “Alexi” and confiding her fears about her husband’s violent temper.
I cringed every time that Luci, speaking as Tiana and Johnny, called Alex by a cutesy nickname. Luci’s delivery of their manipulative affection made my skin crawl. The couple seemed to believe that they acted in Alex’s best interest. This is especially evident at the end of the book when they are angered by Alex and her legal defense. Luci’s voice seamlessly transitions from affectionate and chiding to explosive and combative.
I highly recommend this audiobook. The production quality is fantastic and Luci excels at the helm. The only times I pressed pause was to go to work and sleep. For a woman who once felt like her voice fell upon deaf ears, Alex now has the opportunity to be heard by countless ears. I hope that by sharing her experiences more laws will pass outlawing “conversion therapy”.
Human Rights Commission: Policy and Position Statements on Conversion Therapy
Read the White House’s response to the We the People petition to ban conversion therapy in all 50 States. https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/04/08/petition-response-conversion-therapy