One of the country’s most gifted transgressive writers pens a love letter to her fellow misfits.
By all accounts, not least her own, Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan, 2017, etc.) has lived a difficult life. After a stillborn daughter, a suicide attempt, heroin addiction, three marriages, a DUI arrest, and a bout of homelessness, one would forgive the author for not sharing. But unlike her devastating memoir (The Chronology of Water, 2011), here she offers up her mistakes couched in a message of hope. Based on her 2016 TED Talk, “The Beauty of Being a Misfit,” it offers a bold, clear statement about the character of artists and an individual’s right to nonconformity. Early on, Yuknavitch delivers an insightful mantra: “If there’s one phrase that I should probably tattoo on my forehead it is this: I’m not the story you made of me.” The opening to the third chapter, “The Myth that Suffering Makes You Stronger,” is, “What a crock of shit.” You have to give it to the author for telling it like it is, at least for her. Along the way, she chronicles her interviews with other writers, artists, friends, and nonconformists, offering a more global portrait of what it’s like to live outside traditional social frameworks. In “The Misfit’s Journey, or, Why the Hero’s Journey Bites,” she offers a searing prosecution of an old archetypal chestnut: “Here’s another secret: a lot of us are also secretly empathizing with the so-called villain. I’ve been arrested. I’ve gone to jail and rehab. I’m no hero. But every fall I’ve taken has shown me how to be a better person. Profoundly.” Far from being an advice manual, the book is more of an enlightened lesson in forgiving one’s self and moving forward: “News flash! I might fuck up again. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain I will. But it will not mean I’m nothing.”
A beautifully written field guide to being weird.