Manywhere (MCD, Jan.) features stories about loss, displacement, and longing as experienced by cis and trans characters who are searching for examples for ways of being in the world.
How did Manywhere come about?
I was struggling to fit myself into the terms that we use to describe gender, and a friend told me about Frank Woodhull, who is one of the historical figures in the collection, and I found myself really drawn to their story. That affinity began a process of searching through archives for other stories both historical and contemporary. This book is a record of that journey and also a reflection on the ethics of that digging—which is to say, I’m skeptical about the ways that we take stories from other people and use them to narrate and mythologize our own lives and ourselves.
What made you want to write these stories as fiction?
I think one of the things that fiction offers is the ability to think about queer and genderqueer figures from history through the lens of an imperfect and unreliable narrator, in a way that’s not insisting on or labeling these historical figures with identities that we’re using in the contemporary queer community. So I wouldn’t feel comfortable, for instance, saying that Frank Woodhull was a trans man or that Frank Woodhull was nonbinary, but I think through the lens of fiction and by entering into Frank Woodhull’s story through a fictional character, we’re able to engage with the aspects of Frank Woodhull’s identity that are very interesting to me as a person who identifies now as genderqueer, without having to insist that Frank Woodhull fit into that anachronistic label.
Several of the characters wrestle with the limits and possibilities of their own bodies. Could you talk about what inspired that?
Each story is trying to push in some ways on our current categorizations of gender, and trying to figure out where those categories blur or fall apart. The stories try to look at and push against the way we think about gender, or even the way that we think about sex, which I think people often see as more black and white than gender. So much of it is tied to the body, and expectations of the body, and the ways that aspects of our bodies are gendered, and so I think we see many of the ways these characters are attempting to navigate their own physical bodies being ungendered and assumptions being made about their identity based on their physical embodiment.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I want people who read Manywhere to reflect on the ancestry and origin stories that have been part of their self-narratives, and possibly for folks who felt like those origin stories didn’t exist, to realize that those historical narratives are abundant. I think for all readers, I hope that Manywhere creates a space for reflection on the ways that we tell stories about ourselves and what those narratives are built upon.