You have the right to say who you are without setting it in stone. You have the right to ask questions, to live with and in doubt, to try things on for size. Your life is your experiment. You can try to catch mist. When you learn that you can’t catch it, you can go outside and feel it on your skin.Preface, pg.xx
I received this book in my subscription of the Feminist Book Club (FBC) box for June and I’m so so happy that I got to read it! As part of the FBC membership we also get a Q&A with the author, which happened earlier today. It was so great to hear from the author about their process and their experiences since writing the book.
A Year Without A Name is a snapshot of various moments throughout the time when Cyrus Dunham was exploring their gender and their body identity. These snapshots go from his childhood to the present time in the book and it’s very circular. It’s not a book that’s easy to understand right away because it deals with a lot of dissociation form the moment and also emotional trauma. Dunham takes us back to the time in their childhood when they tried to fit into being a girl and the feeling of failing at that because they did not identify as a girl. Then the feeling of having to choose between being a woman or a man in the present, along with everything that comes with that decision.
For me it was very valuable to learn about the experience of struggling with gender identity through Dunham’s point of view. It is amazing how they managed to translate those feelings and thoughts as they were happening and construct a memoir around those moments in time.
In the Q&A Dunham talked a bit about how they like to write into questions and not necessarily answers. That is exactly what A Year Without a Name is, it is an exploration into questions. Questions about gender, about the role of people in a world built around a gender binary, about the relationship of our selves and our bodies. It made me question my own relationships and not necessarily have answers but simply explore those questions for myself. The quotation at the beginning of this post embodies that idea that each individual should be able to explore and experiment however they like, try certain ideas, beliefs, identities, for themselves and see what fits and what doesn’t. We don’t have to have answers or the expectation of an answer when we explore our bodies and identities.
If you are looking for a memoir about gender identity exploration definitely check out A Year Without A Name, it is an incredible opportunity to see someone’s experience in their exploration of self, one that is not often in the spotlight.