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The Fixed Stars From a bestselling memoirist, a thoughtful and provocative story of changing identity, complex sexuality, and enduring family relationships   At age , while serving on a jury, author Molly Wizenberg found herself drawn to a female attorney she hardly knew Married to a man for nearly a decade and mother to a toddler, Wizenberg tried to return to her life as she knew it, but something inside her had changed irredeemably Instead, she would discover that the trajectory of our lives is rarely as smooth or as logical as we’d like to believe   Like many of us, Wizenberg had long understood sexual orientation as a stable part of ourselves: we’re “born this way” Suddenly she realized that her story was complicated Who was she, she wondered, if something at her very core could change so radically? The Fixed Stars is a taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family In honest and searing prose, Wizenberg forges a new path: through the murk of separation and divorce, coming out to family and friends, learning to coparent a young child, and realizing a new vision of love The result is a frank and moving story about letting go of rigid definitions and ideals that no longer fit, and learning instead who we really are   While perusing goodreads reviews of this book before I started it, I found a review that compared this book to a friend showing up to your house with a bottle of whisky, ready to spill all the dirt on how and why her marriage ended And in a way, I completely agree Molly writes in a way that is totally candid, and feels as though I'm listening to my best friend fill me in on her life and her emotions It felt deeply personal and raw and trusting Molly held nothing back, not the good, not the bad, and definitely not the ugly And for that I appreciated her But at the same time, that review of the book does it a disservice, because this was so muchthan a steamy tell all brimming with salacious and gossipy details It was an exploration of gender and sex and sexuality and how we express these things and what they mean, and how they differ from person to person It was filled with snippets from writers who have written about these topics and from scientists who have studied it, And it opened up my eyes to the fluidity of feminine sexuality and how, regardless of how you categorize yourself, it is a deeply personal endeavor and there are no wrong answers. 2.5 stars There are two questions I always consider first and foremost when reading memoir The first is whether the writer has enough distance from the thing they are writing about It is possible to write about a recent time in your life, but it is extremely rare to do it well (And when you do it well you have to make the recency of it work for you, to make itvisceral,focused and finetuned.) The second is whether the writer has enough to write about at all This is a trickier question because it may seem like a large event should be plenty But somehow the biggest things in life, the things that are giant from your own perspective, can feel boring on the page All of literature is marriage and breakups and motherhood It is not so easy to take something people have read thousands of times before and make it feel new and urgent and unique Again, it is possible to write about something small and specific, but you have to open it up and make the reader feel it or see it in a way that feels new.For me, this book fails on both counts Wizenberg feels far too close to everything that happened to have much perspective on it It feelslike she is in the act of working through it and figuring it out,therapy session than book It seems likely that she could write another memoir about the exact same series of events ten years from now and it would be an entirely different book (and I suspect a better one) Not every story, no matter how deeply you feel it, is ready to be a memoir Love is overwhelming Being a mother, going through a divorce, they are such big things But they can also be quite boring on the page They can feel lifeless without the right perspective and the right prose Memoir can be an act of emotional violence to other people in your life Good memoir about painful topics and difficult relationships requires the ability to be as honest about the other people in your life as you are about yourself This book is not She is kind to her exhusband, kind to her current partner, and these relationships feel empty In contrast, her first relationship with a woman is shown with muchclarity and spark Which makes the other two onlylimp by comparison And because that relationship happens in tandem with her marriage and separation, it is immediately uneven With her first girlfriend, we get the best parts of the book We get details, we get frustrations We follow Wizenberg as she charges into a new kind of sex, and then when she has made only a little progress, the story ends We get almost nothing about sexual exploration with her next partner and we have almost nothing about her sexual history with her husband We don't get enough context for the story, there is no beginning and no end, just this middle without introduction or resolution I am not the audience for this book I realized this after a while, realized that part of why I had trouble connecting to it is that it is not for me Who is it for? Straight women, I think It feels almost like an apology, an explanation, an attempt to lay out why she was once one of them and no longer is It spends an awful lot of time defining and explaining For much of the story she writes about queer people as if we are another species, tells stories of when and how she has seen us in the wild, wants to lay out the boundaries of what we are Some of this is an attempt to explain herself, to try to figure out why she did not see herself as one of us before That I can understand I was not the kind of queer who knew it when I was 6 But there is still a remove that stays in place for the entire book where she does not ever see herself as joining a community as much as staking out some other territory altogether You would think that I, a queer woman who has also gone through a divorce from a man that led to me getting to explore my queernessfully, would find much to relate to here but instead I found almost nothing at all At the end of the day, it does not matter to me if you have explained sexual fluidity as a thing that exists and has been documented It matters whether you have showed me how it feels, and I never got to that point.The style here is, I admit, not my preference It is loose and little of it is rooted in actual moments, instead it isrooting around bigger, vaguer feelings Wizenberg is working through these big, difficult changes while also figuring out her own identity But the times when she stops her own story to quote someone else, to summarize someone's research in sexuality or gender, it doesn't lift the story Perhaps it is helpful to her to see herself clearly, but it does not help the reader It is also troubling to have yet another book where a cis woman explains to us how her trans partner defines themself (Similarly there are times when she explains to us how divorce generally penalizes women financiallythan men, but her privilege means it wasn't like that for her, etc.) As much as it may not sound like it here, I like reading about queer experiences that are different from mine I like exploring the breadth of our community and the way our other identities intersect with our queerness But I never felt like I saw anythingclearly in this book I did not understand Wizenberg any better when it was over And to be quite honest I'm not sure I would have finished it if I didn't already know who she was from reading her blog decades ago The queer community has been hesitant to accept fluidity and a lack of labels, it is not always willing to expand boundaries, but this book doesn't do much to open up that conversation But then again, it isn't really for us. 4.5 stars rounded to 5 starsI rarely read memoirs, but this one called to me The Fixed Stars is a very frank and absorbing account of Ms Wizenberg’s painful yet steadfast journey to find herself at the age of 37.After ten years of marriage to her best friend and father (Brandon) of her only child (June), Molly is awakened by a very unexpected draw towards a lesbian attorney while serving jury duty Over the next year, Molly and Brandon try valiantly to make things work within new parameters Unfortunately for Brandon, he is at a disadvantage as Molly, for the most part, has put aside her dreams in order to help Brandon achieve his and isthan ready to change course I was really impressed with Molly She puts her heart and soul, sweat and tears into discovering who she is, what her goals are and how to achieve them She takes Brandon to therapy and tries everything in her power to see if they can do this together and makes sure Brandon is as okay as possible throughout her trek to explore her own needs I especially liked how she made sure her small daughter understands the basics of what is happening and remains an essentially welladjusted kid Molly is willing to open herself up to many people during her journey and just lays it all out there How many of us can do that? She deeply researched her issues and includes many excellent references in a bibliography at the back of the book.Molly’s story is intimate, brave and inspiring She is also an author by trade, and her writing style is excellent Though it is nonfiction, it reads easily as if it were a novel And for other avid readers similar to me who like to be educated while reading for pleasure, there is opportunity to learn much about gender fluidity I highly recommend this memoir to all interested in reading about a fascinating journey in selfdiscovery and also those who want to learnabout gender identity Beautiful job, Ms Wizenberg!I’d like to thank Net Galley, Abrams Press, and Ms Molly Wizenberg for an ARC of this book Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. You know how when someone you sort of know has a really unexpected breakup, and you desperately want to ask them for all the details but that would be rude?This book is like if that person showed up on your doorstep with a LARGE bottle of whiskey and proceeded to tell you exactly what went down.

  • Hardcover
  • 256 pages
  • The Fixed Stars
  • Molly Wizenberg
  • English
  • 10 June 2019
  • 9781419742996

About the Author: Molly Wizenberg

I started out as a food writer focused on home cooking, using food as a lens for peering into everyday life and relationships I was interested in people, in how we find and make meaning for ourselves I still am My latest book, The Fixed Stars, is a memoir about sexuality, divorce, and motherhood I wrote it because, in my mid thirties, nearly a decade into marriage and newly a mother, I lost tr

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