Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A Memoir in Essays

by MB Caschetta

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-938126-77-2
Publisher: Engine Books

Chronicles of love, loss, and healing.

In her graceful debut memoir, award-winning fiction writer, essayist, and medical writer Caschetta gathers 11 essays that reflect on family, loneliness, and her queer identity. She grew up in an Italian American neighborhood in upstate New York, the only daughter in a culturally and politically conservative family. Her father, a physician, could be cruel and demanding; her mother, deeply invested in affirming her girliness, signed her up for cheerleader tryouts. For years, she became the pompom waving enthusiast that her mother wanted. “Soon enough,” writes the author, “everything my mother dislikes about me disappears under a dirt mound in the backyard, patted into the shape of a little girl who has disappeared.” Caschetta’s closest friend was a neighbor whose father “once tried to drown his own gay son in the toilet.” That friendship, she writes, was “based on what we have in common: a place we will both have to leave to become who we are.” The author’s escape, aside from her “secret backup plan” to become a nun, was Vassar College, where she found a community and “an entirely new vocabulary” to describe herself: “feminist, queer, depressed, trauma survivor.” In New York City in the 1980s, she became an activist, joining ACT UP, Queer Nation, and the Lesbian Avengers. She found work as a medical editor for an AIDS newsletter called Treatment Issues, a job that led to her becoming a medical writer. Caschetta recounts her search for love, including a wry piece about her bumbling efforts at water skiing and snowboarding to impress a girlfriend; her abiding need to make sense “of why we live and how we die, or how we live and why we die”; and her desire to rewrite the “troubling narrative” of her life: “bad choices, difficult women, anxiety, despair.” Happily settled and married, that narrative is once again troubled, this time by the ravages of long Covid.

Candid, affecting essays cohere into a moving memoir.