Review of REDEFINING REALNESS: MY PATH TO WOMANHOOD, IDENTITY, LOVE & SO MUCH MORE by JANET MOCK
This memoir relays a trans woman’s journey from childhood into becoming the woman she is today. While I can imagine that a lifetime of being told who you are by others does indeed make one very thoughtful, the level of insightful self-reflection in this memoir truly amazed me. Mock distills complicated experiences, emotions, and preconceptions into powerful phrases. She’s incredibly articulate in analyzing not only herself but this complex, horrible, wonderful world.
Mock does share about some dark experiences in her life, so I would warn any sensitive readers about that, especially those who feel they can be easily triggered by others’ stories. I am wary about seeking too much darkness in the books I read as I find plenty in real life. However, I often say that it’s not a matter of avoiding darkness as there being a proportional, emotional payoff for exposing yourself to it. Watching or reading some terribly dark, gratuitous story does not appeal to me, unless there’s some deeper meaning woven into the darkness. Mock makes exploring her demons with her well worth it. She has clearly had an abundance of opportunity to think in depth about some of the worst moments and people in her life. As with many survivors, Mock comes to the conclusion (through an abundance of much more memorable quotes) that she wouldn’t be the woman she is today had she not gone through the experiences that she did.
I hesitate telling people this a memoir about a trans woman, because I think many consider that experience not relevant to their own. It would be far more accurate to say this a memoir about discovering and claiming your own identity even as others try to tell you that you’re mistaken. It’s not all about gender, not by a long shot. For starters there’s the whole victim versus survivor debate. An integral part of recovering from any tragedy is to shift from seeing oneself as a pitiable victim of misfortune into viewing oneself instead as a brave and resilient survivor. Mock is also multi-racial and grew up extremely poor, two other identities that the world thrust upon her to do with what she could and would.
Honestly, Mock is so impressively articulate about such complex topics that I find myself anxious I can’t possibly write a review that fully does her memoir justice. I would caution that some might opt to avoid books with darker, traumatic material, but aside from that I feel this is one of those books that everyone can benefit from reading. She filters her insight through the perspective of a trans woman, but most of her revelations are applicable to all humankind: about discovering and claiming your identity.