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I Felt the End Before It Came: Memoirs of a Queer ex-Jehovah's Witness

 

“I spent eighteen years in a group that taught me to hate myself. You cannot be queer and a Jehovah’s Witness—it’s one or the other.”

 

Daniel Allen Cox grew up with firm lines around what his religion considered unacceptable: celebrating birthdays and holidays; voting in elections, pursuing higher education, and other forays into independent thought. Their opposition to blood transfusions would have consequences for his mother, just as their stance on homosexuality would for him.

 

But even years after whispers of his sexual orientation reached his congregation’s presiding elder, catalyzing his disassociation, the distinction between “in” and “out” isn’t always clear. Still in the midst of a lifelong disentanglement, Cox grapples with the group’s cultish tactics—from gaslighting to shunning—and their resulting harms—from simmering anger to substance abuse—all while redefining its concepts through a queer lens. Can Paradise be a bathhouse, a concert hall, or a room full of books?

 

With great candour and disarming self-awareness, Cox takes readers on a journey from his early days as a solicitous door-to-door preacher in Montreal to a stint in New York City, where he’s swept up in a scene of photographers and hustlers blurring the line between art and pornography. The culmination of years spent both processing and avoiding a complicated past, I Felt the End Before It Came reckons with memory and language just as it provides a blueprint to surviving a litany of Armageddons.

Des exemplaires signés sont disponibles auprès The Strand Book Store.

Signed copies are available from The Strand Book Store.

"This is ultimately a story about the struggle to build a life out of ashes with little to no support — about unlearning familial inheritances and forgiving ourselves for our own trespasses. Most of all, it is about learning how to carry on after leaving a community obsessed with finality... I Felt the End Before It Came is Cox’s way of putting his chaotic life experiences into words. In so doing, he has offered up a language for others who might still be searching for the right thing to say."

Courtney Tenz, The Washington Post (Book World)

"Elegant essays... The author approaches his subject with emotional nuance, and writes with a mix of self-aware humor and deep insight that sets his project apart from other former believer memoirs. This thoughtful rendering will captivate those with ties to the religious group and literary memoir fans alike."

Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"At the start of his memoir-in-essays, Cox abandons his childhood faith with a “breakup letter to Jehovah”—and the rest proves no less odd and fascinating, as he negotiates his queer identity in New York, witnesses a world swept up in Y2K hysteria, and wrestles fears about becoming a writer given the anti-intellectualism of his religious upbringing. This is sometimes bizarre, sometimes lyrical, and always mesmerizing."

—Miriam Grossman, Publishers Weekly, Top 10 Summer Reads 2023

"Cox colours outside the lines of the memoir formula, jumping around chronologically and from tenet to tenet, but his off-roading works, mining rich rewards."

—James K. Moran, Plenitude

"A captivating, richly layered text that dismantles any reductive ideas readers may hold about indoctrination, departures, comings-out, and the practice of memoir-writing itself."

—H Felix Chau Bradley, Montreal Review of Books

"Cox has turned his gaze outward back onto us after his time out on the avenues, welcoming us to follow his map of how to build a new life when the ones we were born into become too small to contain us."

—Richard Scott Larson, Chicago Review of Books

"A deeply vulnerable and often staggeringly insightful collection of essays."

—Peter Knegt, Queeries (CBC Arts)

“In his tenacious and sharply written memoir-in-essays… Cox ruminates with wit and insight on the universal themes of shame, identity, censorship, control, and emotional manipulation, while telling the story of his ongoing attempt to define his life outside of the church’s dogmatism. His meticulous approach to dismantling and overcoming methods of control and manipulation will feel cathartic to many readers.”

Spencer Reynolds, The Florida Review

"Daniel Allen Cox opens his heart and his history being brought up in a Jehovah's Witness family in this searingly candid memoir... Throughout the book, Cox remains an emotional resonant presence, never apologizing for his choices and always adept at discovering new and beautiful facets of himself." 

—Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter

Once in a while, a hand in the form of a book outstretches itself to me, and pulls me back into the safest place I know: between the pages. I Felt the End Before It Came pulled me in, and kept me close from start to finish... A vital and compelling story aside, this book blew me away at a craft level: Cox has the uncanny ability of imbuing his writing with urgency in a way that still allows for tenderness, almost as though his sentences are brought to a boil, then reduced to a simmer. Sorrow and rage bubble to the surface, and what wafts from the page is a powerful reckoning."

—Greg Mania, SOS (Save Our Serotonin)

"The collection of essays in author Daniel Cox’s I Felt the End Before it Came are at once fanciful and pragmatic, heartfelt and heartbreaking. In a style reminiscent of David Sedaris, Cox winds his narratives through personal history with intent, if not always ease."

—Cat Shattuck, The Mining Journal

​"A genuinely life-affirming collection, brimming with joy, humour, and empathy, I Felt the End Before it Came reminds us of the power in documenting the personal, and the necessary salve of a shared narrative."

—Stacey May Fowles, Open Book

"With I Felt the End Before It Came, Cox moves his eye for meticulous atmospheric detail to his own life, opening up a refreshing vulnerability." 

—Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Xtra

"Most writers are obsessed with their origin story, but it’s endings that preoccupy Daniel Allen Cox in his kaleidoscopic and deeply felt memoir."

—Greg Marshall, The Brooklyn Rail

“Daniel knew he was being lied to and lied about. He wanted to listen to his true self, but in order to do so he had to build a self. He did it by loving, by reading, traveling, listening, making art, making love, and learning what a friend is. He decided to live with contradiction, ambiguity, and change. He has been shunned by those posing as perfection and so he discarded the facade of perfection. And because he is a true writer who can convey this complexity with grace, his story inspires us to want to know our own contradictions, to see them as riches instead of shame. In this way our lives become enhanced by both his vulnerability and his gifts.”

—Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show

 

"I Felt the End Before It Came is about a lot of things, but I know of no better exploration of the psychic costs of gaslighting and shunning, especially on the lives of LGBTQ people. This is a book about defying injustice when it presents itself in the form of good, and as in all great books, it offers more questions than answers, not to mention its big courageous heart, part tender, part outrageous, part buoyant.”

—Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World 

 

“A hugely entertaining, open-hearted, and insightful memoir. Daniel Allen Cox sheds light on what it means to grow up as a Jehovah’s Witness coming to terms with queerness, and how families survive and love one another after being fragmented by a divergence of faith, all while offering a delightful romp through the late 90s gay scene in Montreal and New York. Filled with great humour and moments of tender grace, I Felt the End Before It Came is a joy to read from start to finish.”

 

—Heather O’Neill, author of When We Lost Our Heads

 

“I Felt the End Before It Came is a candid and beautiful exploration of learning to save yourself from a fundamentalist childhood and the complications that come from the dizzying freedom after you leave its confines. A vital and unique addition to the queer coming-of-age genre.”

 

—Zoe Whittall, author of The Fake

 

In this breathtaking spiritual, sexual, and artistic coming-of-age, Daniel Allen Cox troubles and subverts what it means to seek salvation. Deconstructing the paradigms that govern his sense of self, he takes us on a probing and candid journey to find a new language to think with, and into a new definition of paradise.”

 

—Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State

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Finaliste, Grand Prix du livre de Montréal 2023

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2023

 

Audible Canada Best Book of the Year

Publishers Weekly Top 10 Summer Reads

 

Globe and Mail 39 Fiction and Non-Fiction Books to Read This Spring

 

Quill & Quire Spring Nonfiction Preview

 

49th Shelf Most Anticipated Nonfiction, Spring 2023

 

49th Shelf Memoirs to Read in Summer 2023

 

Kobo, Books We Can't Wait To Get Our Hands On

 

Zoomer Magazine, 21 LGBTQ+ Books for Pride Month

 

CBC Books 70 works of Canadian nonfiction to check out in spring 2023

Audible's The Best Audiobooks of 2023 (So Far)

 

CBC Books 20 Great Memoirs to Read Now

Interview with Quebec Writers' Federation

 

Interview on Mainstreet on CBC Radio with Jeff Douglas

 

Interview in Cult Hackers, Part One and Part Two

 

Interview with Greg Marshall in The Brooklyn Rail

 

Interview with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore in Xtra

 

Interview with Peter Knegt in Queeries (CBC Arts)

 

Interview with Pete Riehl on the Chills at Will podcast

 

Interview with H Felix Chau Bradley in Montreal Review of Books

 

Interview in Plenitude

Interview on This Is Your Strange and Beautiful Life (Spotify)

Interview on Bayshore Broadcasting

Interview on Blackburn Media

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