Liralen's Reviews > Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
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's review
Jul 28, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: z-2014, lgbtq, nonfiction, take-back-the-night, book-club, reviewed, hear-me-roar

Reading this made me think a lot about luck. Mock makes some explicit points about luck and success -- one, that while it is good for her that she can be viewed as a 'success story', there are a lot of people left behind; two, that it's problematic to say that she's lucky to 'pass' (and that that terminology is problematic in the first place) because she wouldn't be any less of a woman if she didn't look so conventionally feminine.

She's right, of course, and I want to extend those thoughts: I did come away with the impression of Mock as lucky -- lucky that her family accepted her (if not without reservation), lucky that hormonal treatment worked so well, and yes, lucky that, away from her hometown, she could 'pass' as cisgender.

The problem with all of that is twofold. First, it shouldn't be considered a matter of fortune for your family to embrace you; that should be a given. Ditto access to quality health care, and passing as cisgender shouldn't be lucky, because one should be able to expect the same amount of respect and the same acceptance and the same treatment no matter how well one fit's into society's expectations of gender presentation.

Second...there's a lot in here that's not lucky. Sexual abuse. Taunting. Prostitution. Pornography. Those things are only lucky in that Mock got through them and got out, and in the case of prostitution (and pornography) that she had very few violent experiences and managed to use them to, as she says, survive.

I guess what I'm saying is that luck is a complicated concept, and whatever good luck one finds in a situation is relative to the situation.

The writing: Mock's a writer by trade -- a well-educated writer -- and while this isn't my favourite memoir ever, she draws a nice balance between storytelling and analysis; she takes the book beyond her story and into broader cultural ideas. She challenged assumptions and made me think, and what more can I really ask for?

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 28, 2014 – Shelved
July 28, 2014 – Shelved as: z-2014
July 28, 2014 – Shelved as: lgbtq
July 28, 2014 – Shelved as: nonfiction
July 28, 2014 – Shelved as: take-back-the-night
July 30, 2014 – Shelved as: book-club
July 31, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
July 31, 2014 – Shelved as: hear-me-roar

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