Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book Review: Redefining Realness

Janet Mock's debut book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More is the memoir to read this year. I would almost hesitate to call this book a coming-of-age story because the former lumps Mock's words in with contrived messages and the latter doesn't convey the significance; it is not a story, it is Mock's truth, exquisitely written.

Mock opens the book with an eloquent introduction, where she states:

"I was reluctant to open up to the world for the same reasons I had been afraid to reveal myself as Janet to my mother and siblings at thirteen, to wear a dress through the halls of my high school, to tell the man I loved my truth: I didn't want to be 'othered,' reduced to just being trans."

But she realizes that given the harsh stigma, discrimination and violence that the trans community faces, "the reality was that I was one of these women" and
                   "we need stories of hope and possibility, stories that reflect the reality of our lived experiences...trans women, specifically those of color and those from low-income communities, who aim to reach  the not-so-extraordinary things I have grasped: living freely and without threat or notice as I am, making a safe, healthy living, and finding love. These things should not be out of reach."

As a reader you end up cheering for her, as she crosses Hawaii, California, Texas and finally to New York, meeting treasured friends along the way. Her family, while not always being the most supportive or understanding, never stops loving Mock and makes the journey, albeit a different one than Mock, with her.

Her journey is not to a perfect or idealized self; it is to her true self. One of the doctors she encounters tells her that it is a "blessing that I get to make people like you more happy." The scene is very touching as Mock realizes how true the statement is, that she has a very wonderful life, but knows that the appointment will help her "to more fully inhabit my most authentic self."

To call this book brave falls short. In fact, most words like courageous and strong, all fall short to fully describe this memoir. Mock lays everything on the table, including past sexual abuse, violence, family drug abuse, and her time in the sex work industry. Her determination is clearly shown on every single page of this book and it's a beautiful thing to witness.

(Photo Credit: janetmock.com)

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