[Book Review]: Janet Mock - Redefining Realness

I first heard about Janet Mock around the internet - probably on Tumblr, where she is famous for her gender advocacy and activism. There are some young feminists in the online community who are big fans of hers, and I'm sure it was one of their reblogs that lead me to the Marie Claire article about Janet Mock's journey to becoming a transgender woman.

After I read that article, it seemed like I kept seeing news and articles about or by Janet all over the internet. I saw some reviews of her book, and put it on my "to-read" list.

Often, the best way to reach an audience is to tell your own story. Janet does this bravely with her book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. It is an account of her life so far: her early inner conflicts about gender, identity and her place in the world; her determination to take up that space, and fully exist in it, without fear. It's a brief overview of the lessons she learned and obstacles she overcame to become herself.

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Janet's writing is a pleasure to read. She chooses her words carefully, producing paragraphs that make up a beautifully descriptive, sincere and engaging story. I could see the Hawaii of her childhood, and feel the sadness, fear, doubt, happiness, anxiety and joy the she experienced. The phrases she uses to speak about the conflict she had within herself while trying to figure out her truth, while deciding how she would reveal herself to the world, are the same phrases I have used in my own moments of introspection.
I don't remember the last time I was so caught up in a book, that I snapped my eyes closed when I could feel something bad about to happen, or cried at moment when some type of realisation or revelation took place.

I wish I could keep this back, re-read it, and highlight all the important passages. There are parts of it I don't ever want to forget.

The frank, honest retelling of some of the troubling experiences (abuse, discrimination) and missteps (misguided decisions) in her life - the ones that, though long past, will always be a part of her - is remarkable. I don't know that I could ever be brave enough to do the same.

I learned a lot. I have almost two pages of quotes from the book that I am considering putting up on my walls. That is the mark of a good book: it teaches you something, or resonates with you in some way.

Janet's memoir is a story about living life on your own terms, despite being born into a world that constantly plants doubt in you and makes you feel like you are not going to amount to much.
Janet knew that she did not want to rely on fitting in. She was determined to do what it took to feel like and fully be herself - her truest self. This meant doing the hard work of filtering through what society told her about herself - that she was "confused" about her identity, that she was not a "real woman" - and finding what she could identify as real.

Janet's story is about love (of oneself, and from others), finding contentment, and reaching a point of self-revelation. In her words, she has journeyed "from me to a closer-to-me-ness".

I really enjoyed this book.

Here is one of the quotes that will stay with me:

"Living by other people's definitions and perceptions shrinks us to shells of ourselves, rather than complex people embodying different identities"

It is that complexity and multiplicity of identity that most intrigues me. I feel I will be spending more of my time exploring and learning my own facets.


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