Lara Lillibridge, Skyhorse Publishing (APRIL) Hardcover $25.99 (364pp), 978-1-5107-2391-7
Stark, moving, and filled with rays of light, Lara Lillibridge’s memoir takes readers far beyond names and labels into the heart of what it means to be “family.”
Written as though she is standing outside of the girl she had been, referring to herself only as “Girl” throughout, Lillibridge reveals that growing up straight in a lesbian home was the least of her problems.
Girl doesn’t mind that her mother is gay, but she does mind that everyone else makes it a big deal. She’s concerned that her mother is so needy that she puts up with abuse rather than be alone, she’s affected by her stepmother’s mental illness, and she’s confused by her father’s serial marriages and attitudes on sex that border on perversion.
Girl struggles to fill the gaping hole in the center of her chest with dreams of marriage and children, her passport to normalcy, but she’s haunted by nightmares in which she’s transformed into a lesbian, making her even more an outcast than her unusual family, nerdiness, and less-than-cheerleader-caliber looks already have.
Acts of rebellion take center stage as she becomes aware that the adults around her harbor dark, inner stirrings. Girl’s cheering for Republican floats at parades, saying it was because they threw more candy than did the Democrats, morphed into experimenting with sex, alcohol, drugs, and running away from home into the arms of unsuitable lovers. “Girl bobbed and traveled the currents of childhood unable to steer her own course or choose her own ocean, and she understood that the surrounding sea didn’t get to choose either,” writes Lillibridge.
Written through the eyes of a girl gifted with wit, courage, and wisdom far beyond her years, this is a troubling yet hopeful story of brokenness, resilience, and love. Erin O. White’s Given Up for You, part of the Living Out gay and lesbian autobiography series from University of Wisconsin Press, explores the intersection of faith and sexuality. As a young woman, White experienced two big firsts simultaneously: conversion to Catholicism and falling in love with a woman. Incisive and discerning, White’s memoir is not about losing her faith but about letting go of systems that don’t see her as equal.
White is falling in love with belief when Chris walks into a party she’s attending and an entirely different kind of desire blooms. Soon after, White realizes There was nothing ephemeral about my desire for her. I knew that if I did not make the future I wanted happen—somehow— with her I would never know such perfect solidness again … White’s memoir documents her attempt to learn how to “weave these tangled strands of desire and belief into an orderly, harmonious, and decidedly adult sort of life.”
Reflective and self-reflexive, White considers the collusion between straight privilege and religious practice. In a bold move, she suspects and acknowledges herself on both counts. But her goal is neither self-castigation nor self-loathing. White guides her narrative with expansive generosity and complete control. Her investigation models a deep self-knowing that owns and ultimately frees her to be who she is in the world.
Given Up for You is a wonder—as poetic, spare, and declarative as the gospels themselves. An autopsy of the relationship between the world White was raised to expect and the life she finds herself living, this memoir slowly gives itself over to the knowledge that “no outsider … could remain inside a culture that didn’t see her as fully human.”
Erin O. White, University of Wisconsin Press (MARCH) Hardcover $26.95 (208pp), 978-0-299-31820-8