A sharp memoir that explores gender, identity, and other complex, timely matters.
Even before considering the idea of binary gender identity as an illusion, this book would be difficult to categorize; it is an intriguing mixture of memoir, manifesto, arts criticism, and prose poem. The settings include Manhattan, Chicago, Tennessee, Seattle, and Berlin, with Iceland and Greenland on the horizon. Fleischmann (Syzygy, Beauty, 2012) offers different perspectives on one relationship that provides a focus, one that is “joined somewhere between the platonic and the erotic.” Even there—maybe especially there—distinctions, categories, and motivations prove difficult. “I was born in 1983,” writes Fleischmann, “and heard for the first decade of my life no mention of queerness outside of the context of hate and epidemic. As media representation and legal protections grew in the following years, so too did a queer cultural anxiety around political collapse, and a gnawing awareness that those protections were flimsy, insufficient at best….it seemed urgent that I resist the mainstreaming of queerness and sustain a more radical tradition, assimilation being a form of death.” As a teenager, the author recounts experiencing the feeling, “I’m hideous and I’m gay,” and how they made pilgrimages to New York and Chicago to explore the limitless possibilities of identity, subsequently discovering that there “are actually rural pockets…all over the country, of weird people…doing all sorts of odd things in places you wouldn’t expect.” Throughout the book, identity remains as fluid as gender, as the author investigates both in interesting ways. Providing a reference point across the text is the work of gay artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, whose art has inspired the author to interpret personal experience and response through the lens of queer relationships.
Both provocatively and evocatively written, the book illuminates the process of becoming.