Tapestry Boots

I can’t get enough of floral print. It’s the unashamed girly-girl in me who positively squeals over a good floral print on virtually anything, but mostly on shoes. A while ago I saw these on the Internet:

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by Jeffrey Campbell at Solestruck.

but they were sold out. Now I would revisit these beauties from time to time and sigh in exasperation and feel the pangs of unfulfilled love and know that there was a shoe-shaped hole in my heart (actually, two holes) that would never be filled. But then I remembered: I like DIY, and I never let anything go. 

So I decided to make them myself, yet again. (This is the fourth time I’ve done this.)

The charm of these boots is the shape of the heel and the height of the shaft. I scurried around the Internet for a while and found these on 6PM.com. I got the $79 shoes in Cognac for a measly $29 due to a serendipitous sale and an additional 10% off coupon.

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For the fabric, I found a floral tapestry with a black backdrop that I may like even better than the blue/cream combination pictured above, because the dark color will work well in winter paired with dark tights. The original pair is more of a spring boot, but it’s winter now and my feet are cold (and thoroughly un-floral).

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I can’t wait to put them together. Pictures of the process to come.

And yes, I am obsessed. Let’s move on.

Fairy Tales Retold: Robin McKinley’s “Beauty” and Feminism

Beauty will forever be immortalized in my memory as the first book I ever ordered on Amazon (the first of many). I was thirteen years old and I’d found Beauty on a shelf in the Children’s Section of Barnes & Noble but the edition was paperback, and I vowed to have a hardcover. Robin McKinley, I know now, was the winner of the Newbery Medal for her novel The Hero and the Crown, but back then, all I knew about McKinley’s first novel was that it was a retelling of a fairy tale. I bought it because it reminded me of my favorite book at the time, Ella Enchanted, a retelling of Cinderella, of course.

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Why I Loved It:

Beauty does what every good “remake” or retelling of a classic story should do: it elevates the story by fleshing out the characters, interpreting the events for a contemporary audience, and all the while retaining the spirit and atmosphere of the original story. I’d even argue that Beauty goes a step further. Given that it is a fairy tale, Beauty offers readers an updated view of femininity, love, and gender identity that the original, by nature, inherently lacks. Beauty is not your typical princess, and neither is Beast your typical monster.

Beauty is written in the first person by the youngest of three sisters, whose names are Grace, Hope, and Honour. Honour, a cheeky child, harrumphs at her name when she learns the meaning of the word and states that she “would rather be Beauty.” (3-4) The nickname sticks, and our heroine has an unconventional name that belies her intelligence, talent, and independence. The name also, as Beauty laments, is inaccurate in the narrator’s opinion. She’s a plain girl with sallow skin and flat, dun-colored hair. Compared to her beautiful, light-eyed sisters, Beauty feels visually inadequate and as an adolescent, devotes herself to her studies in order to compensate. She describes her evenings spent alone “translating Sophocles” and how she grew to hate her nickname because it called attention to the fact that she was not beautiful at all. (9)

Beauty’s voice is strong and self-aware. Here is a heroine immediately relatable because of her insecurities and strength. Though her sisters Grace and Hope are both well-rounded characters with autonomy and considerable brainpower, they both pursue love and marriage and “happily ever afters” like traditional “princesses,” while Beauty defies gender expectations by performing much of the manual labor on her farm and leading an intellectual life. She has little interest in men and even rejects the advances of a well-intentioned man because she’d rather enjoy her freedom. It’s interesting that Beauty expresses the opinion that physical beauty is more of a hindrance than an asset. She grows to appreciate her plainness because it unencumbers her from the male gaze.

Reading this story through Beauty’s eyes is a pleasure. She’s feisty and smart and just a touch self-deprecating. She’s also selfless and not in the tiring, feminine-ideal kind of way. When her father delivers the devastating news that a beast has demanded one of his daughters, Beauty volunteers herself, not only to save her father’s life and the lives of her sisters and nieces, but also to prove her worth apart from her family and away from societal expectations. She asks herself, “Why was I so determined? I believed that my decision was correct, that I and no other should fulfill the obligation; but a sense of responsibility, if that was what it was, did not explain the intensity of my determination.” (81) She’s a believable mix of ego and insecurity, selfishness and selflessness that is highly relatable.

Beast, too, is a surprise. Born and bred to Disney movies, readers may be expecting the gruff, impatient, even violent Beast of the animated film, but this Beast is rarely any of these things, and never violent. Beast comes across as weary, lonely, and polite, albeit a bit brusque. He also displays marked kindness toward Beauty. He repeatedly tells her she “has nothing to fear” and immediately distances himself when she is uncomfortable or frightened of him. (116) Though Beast loves Beauty quickly, the romance between them blossoms slowly and naturally, built on mutual respect and patience. Beauty gains confidence in her abilities and her appearance while away from her family while Beast becomes more human in her presence and less, well, like a beast. It’s a thin allegory for a successful romantic relationship meant to last. And it’s entrancing with the added magical atmosphere.

Instead of dancing spoons and talking candelabra, the enchanted castle manifests its brand of magic in the form of disembodied voices late at night, anthropomorphized breezes, lush, overgrown gardens, and a castle that rearranges itself to accommodate Beauty’s roaming. For example, whenever she finds herself lost, her bedroom is no further away than down a hallway and around the corner. The magical is subtle and effective, even realistic. Moreover, there is no obvious time period or setting in the novel. It may be Western Europe but it also feels British and also somehow pagan. The effect is a deliberate ambiguity that lends a sense of timelessness to the narrative.

Why You Should Read It: Read it for the feminist take on Beauty and the Beast, which I do believe is similar to Ella Enchanted’s feminist reinterpretation of Cinderella. Read it because it is a sophisticated fairy tale that nevertheless has you rooting for a happy ending, and even, dare I say, a happily ever after.

References

McKinley, R. (1978) Beauty. New York, NY: HarperCollins

British Library Exhibition: All the Pretty Books

Warning: book love overload up ahead. Last year in London I attended this exhibition at the British Library called “Writing Britain: From Wastelands to Wonderlands.” The exhibition displayed the handwritten notebooks, annotated books, and first editions of a wide array of British writers and novelists stretching back to Shakespeare. Needless to say, it was one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. The exhibition encompassed authors and writers as varied as Tolkien, Thomas Hardy, Wordsworth, Austen, Rowling, even John Lennon.

My head was spinning. Every part of the exhibit left me in awe.

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Shakespeare’s As You Like It

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Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd above and below

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Charlotte Bronte

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William Wordsworth

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George Eliot

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Wordsworth, again

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John Keats!

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JOHN LENNON

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Emily Bronte

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JK Rowling

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Jane Austen, Persuasion

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles

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Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

It was amazing.

 

My Ideal Bookshelf

I recently read this great blog post and decided to compile ten of my favorite books of all time. The original post didn’t give a limit but I liked the idea of a “Top 10 Favorite Books” category and the exercise really made me stop and think about the books I’d read both recently and in the past that have influenced me and changed my life. In no particular order:

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the book I read again and again: This novel is my favorite of JK Rowling’s magical oeuvre, and I read it so often that my copy is well-worn by now. It still reminds me of being eleven years old and making my mother drive me to Waldenbooks first thing in the morning so I could pick up the book on the release date. It also conjures memories of growing up with Harry Potter and how the novels instilled in me not just a love of reading, but also the desire to become a writer.

Pride and Prejudice, the one I love the most: This one is a no-brainer. I love everything about it, from the sarcastic way Lizzy’s father treats the women in his family, to the absolutely abhorrent Mr Collins and how much I love laughing at him, to the perfect story arcs of Elizabeth and Darcy. So many people adore the love story but this book is about so much more. Not only does Austen indict the social strata that make Elizabeth and Darcy’s ultimate union difficult, but she also weaves into the narrative arguments about the tension between conservative and liberal politics and allows the reader to form an opinion without even realizing they’ve done it. Austen takes a normal subject—love—and manipulates the story in such many layered ways that there is something new to learn each time.

Wuthering Heights, my favorite book: This book gets me every time. Love the characters or hate the characters, no one can deny the charisma of Heathcliff, the beauty of the moors, the overwhelming atmosphere of mystery and danger, the way you kind of want to shake Catherine and tell her to stop screaming but you root for her anyway, and the way you kind of hate the Lintons for no reason. The love of Catherine and Heathcliff forms the basis of every obsessive love story ever told and ever hated, but this love isn’t supposed to be healthy: it’s supposed to consume, overpower, even poison you. Wuthering Heights is the ultimate catharsis and it’s always a pleasure.

Angel, the book that changed my life: This novel is a forgotten little gem by the less famous Elizabeth Taylor. It tells the story of a young romance writer in the early 1900s, Angel Deverell, whose arrogance and dissociation from reality result in her ruin and isolation. The character of Angel is meant to be an allegory for those authors of Taylor’s time whose florid prose and shallow plotlines made instant bestsellers but whose books were vacuous and insipid. Angel thinks she’s the best writer to have ever lived and is completely blind to criticism, insisting all others are jealous of her wit and brilliance. Taylor is fierce and unapologetic in her harsh treatment of Angel, and the book reads like a sharp and insightful social commentary. I’d say Elizabeth Taylor read a lot of Austen and took good notes.

The Crimson Petal and the White, the best book I’ve ever read: I’ve mentioned before how much I love this book. I love Faber’s direct address to the reader, his bold and brave descriptions of prostitutes and dirt and death, his four-dimensional depiction of late Victorian London, and most of all, his unbelievable, believable characters. Sugar, a fiercely intelligent young prostitute with a reputation for granting any wish or desire, is one of the most indomitable characters I’ve ever met, and one of the most emotionally complex. William Rackham, an easily cowed man with unearned pride, is at times both pitiful and fearsome. Agnes, Rackham’s wife, will make you want to go back in time and give every Victorian woman some feminist literature. There are so many more characters who make this book live and breathe every time I crack open the cover.

East, the book that made me who I am: East isn’t your typical YA novel. Based on the story East of the Sun and West of the Moon, East also borrows from Beauty and the Beast: it tells the story of a Norwegian girl whose faith in her family fails after she learns her superstitious mother has lied to her all her life about her “birth direction.” Birth direction is a spiritual belief that the direction in which one is facing at birth determines his or her fate. Furious with her family, Rose takes the opportunity to leave when an enchanted bear offers her family riches in return for kidnapping Rose. The character of Rose and the northern setting instilled in me a love of the North that has not abated since my early teen years. It has also inspired me to learn about Norse mythology, which has indelibly affected my writing and my interests.

Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke: Rilke is my favorite poet, save perhaps for Tennyson. This collection houses all of his major works, from The Duino Elegies to selections from his novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. This book has so many tabs sticking out of it from my years of reading and marking my favorite passages and lines that nearly every page is marked by now, and as an added bonus, this is the best translation of his work I’ve ever read.

I Capture the Castle, the book that makes me cry every time: Dodie Smith also must have read Austen. The plot mirrors Pride and Prejudice in subtle ways but with deliberate differences: two sisters meet two brothers (whereas P&P features close friends) and the ensuing love triangles and unrequited loves form the backdrop of a larger narrative of one girl’s coming-of-age. Cassandra Mortmain, the protagonist, is the younger sister of a close-knit, eccentric British family living in an old castle in the late 1940s. Cassandra is a charming and naïve narrator, yet she shows a strength and courage that are inspiring. During the novel, she grows in ways that are familiar to any woman who has experienced the joy and despair of falling in love for the first time.

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The nearly definitive Anne Boleyn Bible. Eric Ives is a meticulous biographer and holds no [discernible] bias for or against Anne, but lets the facts speak for themselves. From his book, not only do I have an in-depth account of Anne’s major life events and a rough sketch of her complicated personality, but I also know exactly how much she spent on clothing, what the toddler Elizabeth I wore, and what her wardrobe expenditures would have totalled had she reigned for a lifetime rather than for her three short years. This book is a testament to the strong, intellectual force Anne truly was and does the best job in dispelling the “femme fatale” persona that Anne Boleyn has fallen victim to repeatedly.

A Room With A View, my favorite book: My favorite books seem to be populated with strong female characters, albeit the character of Lucy was not always so in my favorite Forster novel. Really, this book is a romp. The British Lucy Honeychurch and her stodgy old chaperone visit Italy intending to enjoy a prim, proper, tour-guided vacation and instead stumble upon a thoroughly uncouth George Emerson and his absolutely appalling father. George falls in love with Lucy and kisses her most inappropriately; Lucy, upon her return to England, finds it impossible to forget the dashing yet shy George Emerson and finds that Emerson has kindled desire within her. Just thinking about this book is enough to make me sound like the author of a comedy of manners, but that’s what this book is. It’s a book about stodgy old England and how Italy makes us lustful. And it’s a novel about defying societal expectations and following your heart.

Runners-up: Ella Enchantedwhich I read when I was nine years old; Inkheart, also a YA I read as a teen with a great protagonist and a lot of bookpornThe Virgin Suicides, which still haunts me every day; and Lolita, enough said.

So what’s your ideal bookshelf? Give it a try, and you can post a link to your own ideal bookshelf below.

The Circus of Dreams: My Review of "The Night Circus"

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Maybe I’m just a sentimental sucker. I’ve heard every criticism of this novel since I’ve read it and despite the logic of the novel’s detractors, I can’t help but love it. From the first line of the novel, nay, since I first cracked open the cover and saw the hypnotizing striped pattern of the endpapers, I was hooked.

What I initially loved about this book was the lack of explanation. I’ve reviewed another circus novel set in an historical setting in which every single detail of circus life was explained as if it were a dictionary, and the result was a complete lack of ambiance. The Night Circus has ambiance in spades. The reader feels as if he is sneakily looking through a window and witnessing events he doesn’t understand, but he can’t help but be entranced. You want to figure out what these strange men are talking about, and why is that horrible thing happening to the little girl? But let me take a step back and explain.

The Night Circus tells the story of two aging magicians and their lifelong obsession with outdoing each other. One day, Prospero the Enchanter meets his hitherto unknown five-year-old daughter and discovers her latent and hereditary magical ability. Elated by the chance of finally triumphing over his rival, Alexander, “Prospero,” whose real name is Hector Bowen, initiates a competition between his daughter and an apprentice of Alexander’s choosing who will engage in an ancient magicians’ contest, essentially a magical fight to the death. Celia and her rival, the orphan Marco are bound to each other as children and against their wills, must win the competition or die.

Then comes Le Cirque des Reves, the brainchild of eccentric artist Chandresh Christophe Lefevre, and full to the brim with enchantments and wonders. The Circus, as described in the first line, “arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements.”(3) It is precisely these amazements that form the battleground between Celia and Marco and which will ultimately decide the victor of their competition.

Laced within this larger narrative is an ensemble cast of exceptional characters: an enigmatic clockmaker, enchanting sisters, magical twins, a lonely little boy, and the magicians that are behind the scenes, pulling the strings. The entire book is as enchanting and intricate as the endpapers, perhaps a little too much spectacle and not enough substance, but ultimately mesmerizing.

So let’s address some criticism. In the way of characterization, Celia and Marco fall a bit flat. Though Celia displays a strong sense of self and exceptional courage, there is little about her that is interesting apart from her magical abilities and her independence in a Victorian world. Marco is somewhat more interesting, what with his humble beginnings as an orphan and his devotion to his studies and to his master, but his character falls into “cad” stereotypes when he jilts his lover of many years when he and Celia’s eyes meet across a crowded room.

Yes, the stereotypical, supernatural-YA-novel–esque love story is a bit of a disappointment, but the romantic in me looked the other way. Celia and Marco quickly and inexplicably fall in love, but their love is sweet and it drives the plot toward a satisfying build-up and conclusion. This novel could definitely have benefited from a more psychological approach to characterization rather than its heavy reliance on setting and imagery to form its characters. Celia and Marco are magicians. They’re talented, they’re scared of their futures and of their masters, they fall in love immediately. If I knew more about them, this would have been a five-star novel. As it is, their love seems metaphorical. But I can accept that.

The third-person, present tense point of view lends an uncommon atmospheric quality to the novel; it makes you feel like everything is happening right in front of you, albeit in a hypnotizing slow-motion. But the point of view also has the tendency to make the action feel distant and it somewhat disconnects the characters from the reader. However, the novel would not have been so successful on imagery and atmosphere if not for this somewhat unusual writing style. What the novel lacks in characterization it makes up for in setting. The overall descriptions of Le Cirque des Reves are exquisite. As I have said before, the descriptions engage every sense and make the reader ache to be able to attend the circus.

Read this book for the atmosphere, for the sense of magic, for the pleasure of sinking into the world the author has built. Don’t read it for the love story, for the love arc between the two main characters has more to do with contriving a cathartic ending than portraying an uncommon love. They fall in love because the author had written it that way, yes, but if taken at face value, the rest of the book becomes more enjoyable.

At its heart, this novel is an indulgence. It’s why I fell in love with reading as a young child; it just comforts you. The fantasy elements, the swoon-inducing love story, the inexplicable Victorian setting, the magic. It’s why many of us fell in love with stories. It’s transporting. It lets you descend into another world, slightly familiar, but ultimately surreal. It’s what a turn-of-the-century circus would be like on acid.

References

Morgenstern, E. (2011) The Night Circus. New York, NY: Random House.

Bookstore Hopping aka BookPorn [SFW]

Today, I thrifted. Hard. For the last year or so I have nary touched a new book. Because I’m such an eyes-are-bigger-than-stomach kind of reader (which should read as “eyes are bigger than eyes” but that makes no sense) I have the tendency to buy books in bulk, let the volumes languish on my shelves, and then re-read like a fiend while the new books sit and stew and get jealous of the older ones. So I’d been making a conscious effort to read all the books I already own before buying any new ones.

That ended today. In a big way.

I blame the Westsider. My favorite bookstore in New York is literally a hole in the wall, two floors, and what seems like a million distinct titles jammed together so tight if you take one book out the others exhale and leave no room for you to replace it. But that’s okay, because you can always buy that book and give it a nice home, aka your already overstuffed shelves.

Books follow me home like sad puppies. And I fall for it every time.

First I hit the Strand because I had some old (read: terrible) books to sell and with the credit I received, I bought the most expensive book I could afford: a $15 copy of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. The only other Murakami I’ve read is Norwegian Wood, which I’ll review in due time. I thought it time to dive into his repertoire. Since I hardly ever read by-author (I tend to read by-interest, if that makes sense), and since I successfully just read a block of books by Eugenides and liked the experience of focusing on one author for a good amount of time, I figured this was a good place to start.

So I bought Michel Faber’s novels, novellas, and short stories because I am a Crimson Petal and the White fangirl. And then I bought a new translation of Madame Bovary, partly because of the pretty, pretty girl on the cover. And then I treated myself to one guilty pleasure: a 1968 edition of one of my favorite novels, A Room With A View. It’s green and it’s got gold lettering on the cover. And it was $7.

Then I left before I could look at the new arrivals section. They gave me a free tote bag as well, because those masterminds at the Strand know I’m a sucker for hipsteresque canvas. I’d call them evil if I didn’t love their prices so much.

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After a brief sojourn into a Housing Works, I headed uptown to my happy place, Westsider Books. This place is so quiet and so cramped; there are books piled floor-to-ceiling, two deep on the shelves and alphabetized only lazily, so you really have to search to find something. This place is less “I’m looking for this” and more “Wow, I can’t believe I found this.” Come with no expectations, no book list, and you’ll invariably leave with gold. It’s every book lover’s dream.

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I allowed myself five new books, each representing an author I’d like to explore deeper: McEwan, Garcia Marquez, Coelho, Parker, and as a treat, Andrea Levy’s Small Island (it was required reading for a study abroad class and sadly I left it in London when my suitcase became too packed with stolen pint glasses).

Here’s my whole haul:

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At least it’s out of my system. I can stop whenever I want.

What "Middlesex" Taught Me About Gender Identity

Last week, I found myself re-reading that modern classic and Pulitzer-darling, Middlesex, and ruminating again on how much influence the novel had on my own gender identity. In this unforgettable novel, Eugenides weaves a complex, harrowing story of how a young girl, Calliope Stephanides, ended up with an intersex condition known as 5-alpha reductase deficiency. As a teenager in the 70s, Callie struggles immensely with both her sexuality and how she defines her gender. However, eleven years after the novel was first published, the last decade sheds more light on Callie’s story, and has served as a guidepost for the expression of my own gender identity.

At the end of the novel, when Callie has chosen to identify as Cal, he expresses a tempered joy that his father died before “missile shields and global warming and September 11 and the second president with only one vowel in his name.” (512) Yet now, eleven years after Middlesex was first published, we have had our first biracial president. We’ve had more terror scares, more threats of attack. And then there are the cultural aspects of contemporary American life: gay marriage is legal in fourteen states and is quickly gaining political supporters across America; rape culture is addressed and condemned with more virulence than ever before; and personal technology has changed the way people relate to each other and to themselves.

Technology has progressed to the point where nearly everyone has a smartphone and multiple social media accounts, and thus are quickly searchable, their identities outlined by Instagram photos of nights out, lunch preferences, and time lounging on the couch with a pet. Twitter feeds are the way we get to know people now. Blogs allow each person an audience and a forum to express him- or herself with few or no boundaries. So, keeping in mind this social atmosphere, where is Cal now? How would he have responded to this world? And more importantly, what would Eugenides have written had he published Middlesex in this decade instead of the last?

In my mind, I see Cal as a fiftysomething apolitical yet optimistic and outgoing man. Not an activist or a demonstrator, but perhaps he would have written an article or two for the Huffington Post. I like to think that in contemporary America, Cal would have been met with acceptance and understanding, rather than the inhibiting fear of rejection he exhibits with romantic (and to some extent, platonic) relationships in the novel. Rediscovering Middlesex has allowed me to ponder and plumb these questions about how the American social landscape has changed in the last ten years, and how the complexities of gender identity have permeated the consciousness of more people than ever before.

How? Gender dysphoria is no longer classified as a “disorder” by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as of May 22, 2013. Previously known as “gender identity disorder,” the newly rechristening of GID represents a shift in the way we relate to and understand gender identity. Rather than as a dichotomy of male versus female, gender identity has evolved into a broader spectrum. Transgender individuals are seen less as anomalies and their experiences are more widely shared and understood. The complexities of gender identity affects us all; as Cal states, “We hermaphrodites are people like everybody else.” (106)

The most poignant part of the book, in my reading experience, was the point at which Cal[lie] decides he does not wish to undergo any kind of operation to become either anatomically male or female. His decision echoes an earlier statement made in the narrative by the forty-one year old Cal: “hermaphroditic genitals are not diseased.” (106) Cal does not wish to join either “team,” so to speak. He admits to not feeling fully integrated into the community of men (he doesn’t like them that much) and also states that he never felt out of place as a girl. Cal, apolitical throughout, admits that his decision to be a man hinged on his sexual preferences, not on a feeling of belonging to a preordained gender identity. He is, allow me the indulgence, a middlesex.

Whenever I read Middlesex, I identify so closely with Cal/lie. I don’t mean that as a cisgender female I know what it is like to be intersex; simply that the description of gender in the book got me thinking. It got me thinking about myself as a twenty-two year old female, somewhere between girlhood and womanhood, and all the ways in which I express gender identity internally and externally. I thought about my speech habits, the way I behave on dates, how I address men, how I carry on conversations, my wardrobe choices, my choice of friends, of jobs, even of bars. I realized how subtly my decisions were influenced by the female gender identity to which I belong, and it also allowed me to realize the many freedoms contemporary women enjoy, more than they ever did in Callie’s 1974.

As a fourteen-year-old patient to the sexologist Dr. Luce, Callie describes being interviewed by the doctor: “He watched my facial expressions; he noted my style of argument. Females tend to smile at their interlocutors more than males do. Females pause and look for signs of agreement before continuing. Males just look into the middle distance and hold forth. Women prefer the anecdotal, men the deductive.” Cal recognizes these as stereotypes, “limited but useful.” (417) Back in 1974, gender lines were much more distinctly drawn. These lines, though very much still intact, have grown fuzzier in the intervening decades between Callie’s adolescence and my own.

For example, I can pay the check on a first date, and happily. I can confidently express opinions without pausing to smile winningly, eager for acceptance. I can respond to an older man’s “honey”s or “sweetie”s or “gimme a smile, beauty”s with as much hostility as I deem appropriate. I don’t find it necessary to defer to a man’s perceived power, or allow my behavior to fall in line with a preconceived notion of femininity. I feel free to reject gender norms and, as much as possible, live with the knowledge of their influence and try to combat it.

Yes, there are still many obstacles to living free of the gender dichotomy, but, perhaps like Cal would have felt these days, I feel more optimistic about social change. Neither an activist or a demonstrator, I am, like Cal, a person, and a writer. Maybe we’re all a bit of a middlesex if we allow ourselves the freedom to choose neither, or both, to live as a person without succumbing to gendered expectations.

References

Eugenides, J. (2002). Middlesex. New York, NY: Picador.