Diana Goetsch on How Elena Ferrante and Milan Kundera Helped Her Write a Memoir

Diana Goetsch on How Elena Ferrante and Milan Kundera Helped Her Write a Memoir

In This Body I Wore, I'd set out to write a pre -transition literary , which in my case meant capturing the lived reality of being trans and not knowing it, for fifty years. Capturing an experience is very different from explaining it. To explain it would be to impose a current understanding onto a time when there was little understanding of transness. The experience at the time was one of being displaced from experience—but how do you capture that? In a remarkable New Yorker the lifelong impact of closed adoptions, Larissa MacFarquhar concludes that being adopted is “a profoundly different way of being human.” I would say the same of being trans; it is a profoundly different way of being human, not because of your birth or your body, but rather because of a gaping hole in your developing identity—not being able to know yourself in your gender. (This is not the case for current trans children, and why it's vital to protect their right to have a childhood in their gender, which is the birthright of us all.) We might also say the same of many great works of literature, that they explore profoundly different ways of being human. The innovation in craft required for the task is a big part of what makes a book great. And maybe any great book could have helped me write my book. But four in particular did. Each, as if on schedule, helped me solve a problem I was facing in This Body I Wore. I discussed two, The Peregrine , by J.A. Baker and A Writer's Diary , by Virginia Woolf, in an article last year . In honor of the paperback edition of my memoir, I revisited the other two books that allowed me to write my book. * Elena Ferrante, The Neapolitan Quartet Elena Ferrante's four Neapolitan novels, published in a stupendous flurry between 2012 and 2015, comprise a single unified work. That opus is longer than War and Peace , and is, in its own way, monumental. It is a monument to women's experience, […]

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