“Gorgeous, symphonic, tender, and brilliant, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers is a monumental achievement.” -Carmen Maria Machado
While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson and a woman named Annemarie—letters are that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings. Shapland recognizes herself in the letters’ language—but does not see Carson as history has portrayed her.
And so, Shapland is compelled to undertake a recovery of the full narrative and language of Carson’s life: She wades through the therapy transcripts; she stays at Carson’s childhood home, where she lounges in her bathtub and eats delivery pizza; she relives Carson’s days at her beloved Yaddo. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and Carson, she sees the way Carson’s story has become a way to articulate something about herself. The results articulate something entirely new not only about this one remarkable, walleyed life, but about the way we tell queer love stories.
“So it isn’t about ‘is Carson a lesbian?’ or ‘Carson is a lesbian’ Or ‘what is a lesbian?’ What I want to know is, how have lesbians gotten by and had relationships and found love and community…But please, no more ‘doesn’t count unless—’ bullshit. Don’t tell me there’s not enough evidence…Call yourself a lesbian if you’ve ever loved women. Loved another woman. Period. You loved your mother? Lesbian.”
In genre-defying vignettes, Jenn Shapland interweaves her own story with Carson McCullers’s to create a vital new portrait of one of America’s most beloved writers, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.