cover image You’re Not Edith: Autobiographical Essays

You’re Not Edith: Autobiographical Essays

Allison Gruber. Braziller, $15.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8076-0005-4

In this slim collection of personal essays, Gruber shares such an intimate look at her personal struggles—from coming out as queer in her teens to being diagnosed with cancer as a young woman—that, if not for her insistent humor, it might be difficult to navigate this memorable book’s pages. Looking back to her childhood in the Chicago suburbs, in a home characterized by her parents’ bickering, Gruber recalls trips to her cousins’ house: “Iowa always felt like an escape—a place where it was perfectly acceptable to wear blue jeans to church, [and] swear in front of the children.” Some of the best selections center around Gruber’s diagnosis of breast cancer at age 34, as she experiences harrowing treatments and contrasts her status as a “youngish, single, gender-ambivalent lesbian” with a disease that’s been hyper-feminized in American culture. In “Bernie,” the strongest piece, Gruber expresses a profound sense of hope by adopting a dachshund, having learned from her surgeon she has a good chance of outliving a new pet. Her courage as she accepts her post-surgery appearance (“This is you now”) is remarkable and inspiring. These stories are especially moving for their simplicity and for Gruber’s honest, straightforward manner of storytelling. The result is a slim but powerful book. [em](Feb.) [/em]