Peeling Back the Layers: Review

Peeling Back the Layers: A Story of Trauma, Grace and Triumph
by Lawayne Childrey
Outskirts Press

Reviewed by T.J. Banks

PeelingBackTheLayers_cover[dropcap]G[/dropcap]od, someone once said, comes through the wound. We need to be broken to grow spiritually, to learn compassion and understanding. Writer Elizabeth Lesser calls it “the Phoenix Process.” “When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain,” she writes, “we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth.” And the journey is never the same for any of us.

For award-winning journalist Lawayne Childrey, the long day’s journey into night began with a childhood marked by his stepfather and step-uncle’s sexual abuse and a cousin’s death in a house fire. Those things took their toll on him, resulting in a crack cocaine habit and a series of relationships with all the wrong men.

A blood test in 1992 revealed that Childrey was HIV-positive. (Around this time, he also lost his cousin and confidante, Cheryl, to AIDS.) He found strong allies in his mother; an HIV specialist who worked closely with him; and a support group that helped him deal with his drug addiction and the ghosts from his past.

He also found Jesus. “I have always heard that when you begin to walk by faith, your whole mind changes,” Childrey muses, and it did. But so did his life. Energized by his newfound faith, he “felt so free. It was like I had overcome all of life’s obstacles.” Even when he was later diagnosed with AIDS, Childrey found unexpected strength within, and “instead of going home to die, I went home to finally start living life.” For him, that meant going to college and pursuing his long-time dream of going into broadcast journalism.

Childrey is unflinchingly honest when it comes to writing about the harsh events that shaped him. He is equally honest when it comes to talking about the faith that turned his life around. This is a book that is both heartfelt and soulful and that leaves you with admiration for the writer.


T.J. Banks is the author of Sketch People, A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Houdini, and other books. Catsong was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award.