In their new memoir, Daddy Boy (McSweeney’s, 2023), Emerson Whitney chronicles his time on a storm-chasing tour through Tornado Alley as they think through familial relationships, weather, transness, and questions of control and submission. In conversation with World Voices Festival Associate Director Sabir Sultan for this week’s PEN Ten , Emerson spoke about surrendering understanding, his writing process, grief, and disability. ( Amazon , Bookshop ). Photo by Char Bataille 1. Your memoir Daddy Boy follows you, at the end of a 10 year relationship, as you embark on a storm-chasing tour. From your earliest correspondence with the leader of the tour you positioned yourself as a writer who would document the trip. Did you always know that the trip would become a book? As cheesy as this might sound, I have a tendency to feel like everything that’s happening is a book. I have always been dedicated to writing and recording what I’m seeing and experiencing. As long as I can remember, I’ve done this. My grandma tells everyone who will listen that from the time I could pick up a pencil, I was crawling around writing about everyone in the house. I see life through the lens of writing to the extent that I’m not exactly sure what life is if not a book? In this way, I went on the storm chasing tour totally knowing it was a “writing tour,” with different things to record than the ones I would be writing through if I was in my house, for example. At this point in time, I’d finished my book, Heaven , which was very much a recording of inner processes. Daddy Boy was a break from excavating the inward as my focus and the tour provided new scenery and new subject matter that I’d always wanted to sort of paint with. 2. The genesis of your love for weather and storms was born in your pre-adolescent years. Throughout the memoir you weave together your two week trip chasing storms in Tornado Alley with your childhood memories. Did the trip affect how you saw your childhood […]
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