Coming Out of My Orthodox Childhood

By: Lonnie Mann

Art By: Lonnie Mann & Ryan Gatts

A coming-of-age graphic novel memoir about a young man who, growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community, realizes he's gay and struggles to reconcile his faith with who he is.

Lonnie's Orthodox Jewish community has always been clear: it's not okay to be gay. Growing up in a devout family and going to school at a yeshiva, he's told by his parents, his teachers, and his friends that being gay is a sin and an abomination. But as he gets older, he realizes that he likes boys, and wonders what kind of life he will be able to live. As Lonnie expands his world beyond the yeshiva to theater camp, college classes, and movie nights, he sees that the life he wants isn't compatible with the life of his parents — and his whole religious community.

This emotional graphic novel explores the fissures between identity and religion and charts Lonnie's journey from a kid who loved the rules of the Orthodox Jewish tradition to becoming increasingly independent and defiant, embracing his gay identity and developing his own chosen family.

❝ The animated evolution of a queer boy from his strict religious upbringing to a liberated adolescence. . . Tokyo-based couple Mann and Gatts integrate their illustrative and authorial talents in this debut graphic memoir vividly detailing Mann's coming-of-age while cloaking his burgeoning homosexual feelings. ❞

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❝ . . . an emotionally fraught graphic memoir of coming out in his "insular, strictly regulated" Orthodox Jewish household in 1990s Long Island. . . The art is gentle and naturalistic, with crisp lines and often gradient, color wash backgrounds that soften even the starkest moments. Younger adults navigating their own coming out within religious communities will find resonance. ❞

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❝ . . . The simple, curvy blue/sepia art from Mann and his animator spouse Gatts conveys the helplessness of a young person facing thorny contradictions he doesn’t understand. . . . Verdict: Excellent for readers seeking to understand challenges facing devout LGBTQIA+ people and for religious queer individuals themselves. ❞

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I'm so glad this beautiful, thoughtful book exists for readers who need it; for anyone fighting their way out or searching for a clear path. I can't wait to share it with kids who need it!

Lucy Knisley

Author of Kid Gloves and Relish

I loved this book! It is for any of us who have been othered by our upbringing. This book lets you know that the journey out is worth it.

Shelby Criswell

Author of Queer As All Get Out

While the circumstances of growing up in a strict orthodox household are highly individual, the feelings of loneliness and confusion mixed with hope are universal. Read it and remember.

Rob Kirby

Author of Marry Me A Little

This tenderly-drawn journey of self-definition gave me a peek into a very different world. I loved it.

Hazel Newlevant

Author of No Ivy League

About the creators

Illustration of Lonnie Mann

Lonnie Mann

Grew up in Long Island, New York, and has been reading comics and drawing his whole life. He studied illustration and cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York. And he has published comics in various anthologies. Lonnie currently lives with his spouse Ryan Gatts in Tokyo Japan. This is his debut graphic novel.

Illustration of Ryan Gatts

Ryan Gatts

Ryan Gatts grew up in North Carolina. They studied animation at the Savannah College of Art & Design and later worked as a videogame technical artist in Seattle. Ryan worked with their husband Lonnie Mann to create the art for Lonnie's graphic memoir. Ryan and Lonnie live together with their pet rabbit Kinako in Tokyo, Japan.

Read the prologue

Order your copy

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