Sunday, August 5, 2012

"A Queer and Pleasant Danger," by Kate Bornstein

One of the great things about reading is its allowing us to enter whole worlds that we would never have known much or anything about without books or other written works. This is an obvious observation, a cliché, but occasionally certain books powerfully and even viscerally remind us of its truth. I just finished reading Kate Bornstein’s “A Queer and Pleasant Danger” (Beacon, 2012), a memoir described on the front cover as “The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.” This description is a good short summary of the “plot” of Bornstein’s life, but doesn’t begin to capture the way she invites readers into the painful and exhilarating highs and lows of her life. About those worlds that we learn about (“we” here meaning “I,” and others like me who are well read and somewhat knowledgeable about the worlds within our world, but have only superficial – even if open-minded and accepting – real understanding of some of those worlds): Here we learn about the worlds of scientology, transgender, and sadomasochism (and various permutations in the complicated taxonomy of gender and sexuality). Our guide, Bornstein, is a complex, troubled, yet resourceful and resilient person who has somehow survived (sometimes just barely) a complicated dance of insiderness/outsiderness throughout her life, and now is at what seems to be a place of hard-earned (at least relative) peace and happiness. Her person and voice are candid, confiding, bracing, even endearing. She is a pioneer in her openness, as well as a good writer; I thank her for her honesty and courage, and wish her well.

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