My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir
How do you tell the real story of someone misremembered--an icon and idol--alongside your own? Jenn Shapland's celebrated debut is both question and answer: an immersive, surprising exploration of one of America's most beloved writers, alongside a genre-defying examination of identity, queerness, memory, obsession, and love.
Shapland is a graduate student when she first uncovers letters written to Carson McCullers by a woman named Annemarie. Though Shapland recognizes herself in the letters, which are intimate and unabashed in their feelings, she does not see McCullers as history has portrayed her. Her curiosity gives way to fixation, not just with this newly discovered side of McCullers's life, but with how we tell queer love stories. Why, Shapland asks, are the stories of women paved over by others' narratives? What happens when constant revision is required of queer women trying to navigate and self-actualize in straight spaces? And what might the tracing of McCullers's life--her history, her secrets, her legacy--reveal to Shapland about herself?
In smart, illuminating prose, Shapland interweaves her own story with McCullers's to create a vital new portrait of one of our nation's greatest literary treasures, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.
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About the Author
I felt so seen and moved and completed by this book that I haven't been able to shut up about it for weeks.
This is a work of lesbian recovery, of literary biography and of breathtaking queer autobiography by an exceptional debut author.
Shapland's account is part memoir and part history, but it's also a pointed critique of the rampant LGBTQ+ erasure in so much of history, and a powerful attempt to reclaim McCullers' true identity.
In lucid, distilled, honest prose, Jenn Shapland teaches us about McCullers, the desire for recognition, loneliness, the complexities of queer history, the seductions and resistances of the archive, and, all throughout, love.--Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
You don't have to be a Carson McCullers fan to admire this remarkable book. It's a biography that's also a memoir, a story of obsession and longing. Captivating and trenchant and moving, Shapland's genre-mixing debut will stay with me a long time.--R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
Following along with Shapland-as-detective is a delight, and the mystery she sets out to solve is one of those wicked unsolvables: how do we account for the apertures in language, history, and identity?
Shapland interweaves candid self-questioning and revealing personal stories with a nuanced portrait of a writer who confessed her loves were 'untouchable' and her feelings 'inarticulable.' A sensitive chronicle of a biographer's search for truth.
This book will change the way you think about the truth. ... Shapland possesses the perfect storm of talents to push McCullers's love life, and beautiful writing, into the light of this century during a moment when we need all the queer heroes we can get.--Kate Gorton
This is a gorgeous, brilliant book that is all but guaranteed to resonate with queer folks, word nerds, and readers everywhere.
A fine narrative of how the best writers express the deepest secrets of the heart.
A hard-won inquiry into how we seek out the truth of ourselves and others in ways that often, by necessity, aren't straightforward, that arrive in our lives in glimmering bits and shards. . . . Shapland's book is the kind of state-of-the-form reckoning that makes one wish there were more like it.
This book uncovers ways women's queer history has been ignored. It's a personal, powerful, genre-bending account of literary discovery.