Synopses & Reviews
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
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.
"Gorgeous, symphonic, tender, and brilliant." Carmen Maria Machado, author of In The Dream House
"Lucid, distilled, and honest." Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
"Remarkable... A biography that’s also a memoir, a story of obsession and longing." R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
"A moving record of love at the margins." The New Yorker
"The kind of state-of-the-form reckoning that makes one wish there were more like it." The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Jenn Shapland's work won a 2017 Pushcart Prize and fellowships/residencies at Ucross, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Yaddo, the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, and Vermont Studio Center. Her essays have been published in Tin House, THE Magazine, Pastelegram, The Lifted Brow, Electric Literature, NANOfiction, and The Millions. She teaches in the Creative Writing department at the Institute of American Indian Arts and has a PhD in English from UT Austin. She designs and makes clothing for Agnes. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.