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Jenn Shapland

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers

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By Jenn Shapland

A moving and original memoir that intertwines the author's story of identity and queerness with the misrepresented history of one of America's most beloved writers.

Format: Paperback
Pages: 296

WINNER OF THE PUBLISHING TRIANGLE JUDY GRAHN AWARD FOR LESBIAN NONFICTION, PHI BETA KAPPA CHRISTIAN GAUSS AWARD, AND A LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION

How do you tell the real story of someone misremembered—an icon and idol—alongside your own? Jenn Shapland’s celebrated debut is both question and answer: an immersive, surprising exploration of one of America’s most beloved writers, alongside a genre-defying examination of identity, queerness, memory, obsession, and love.

Shapland is a graduate student when she first uncovers letters written to Carson McCullers by a woman named Annemarie. Though Shapland recognizes herself in the letters, which are intimate and unabashed in their feelings, she does not see McCullers as history has portrayed her. Her curiosity gives way to fixation, not just with this newly discovered side of McCullers’s life, but with how we tell queer love stories. Why, Shapland asks, are the stories of women paved over by others’ narratives? What happens when constant revision is required of queer women trying to navigate and self-actualize in straight spaces? And what might the tracing of McCullers’s life—her history, her secrets, her legacy—reveal to Shapland about herself?

In smart, illuminating prose, Shapland interweaves her own story with McCullers’s to create a vital new portrait of one of our nation’s greatest literary treasures, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.

Read if you: only ever read the Personal Life section of any celebrity's Wiki article.