GIRLISH

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight - KRIS­TINE MOR­RIS LETI­TIA MONT­GOMERY-RODGERS

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

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