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In a Gentrifying Seattle, a Queer Activist Works to Blur Borders

In a Gentrifying Seattle, a Queer Activist Works to Blur Borders
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In a Gentrifying Seattle, a Queer Activist Works to Blur Borders

In a Gentrifying Seattle, a Queer Activist Works to Blur Borders

By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

How does one delimit the world when language isn’t sufficient? Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore seeks to uncover and rethink boundaries in her new e book, “The Freezer Door.” Sycamore, a queer activist whose 2013 memoir “The Finish of San Francisco” gained a Lambda Literary Award, shifts her focus to an ever-changing Seattle, extrapolating from the connections she has made there and all through her life ideas concerning the irritating limitations of language, the borders of gender and queerness. The issue with relationships, Sycamore suspects, is that everybody needs to take care of separations. “I need the space to go away,” she writes, hungry for a brand new type of intimacy.

The e book opens with a stark assertion: “One drawback with gentrification is that it at all times will get worse,” Sycamore writes, leaving the remainder of the web page clean. On the following web page, we discover this: “However then I am going right into a Hooters, and it’s a classic clothes retailer. A buddy of mine is making an attempt on breasts. For this reason I like dreaming.” These surprising (and really witty) swerves turn out to be a recurring motif in “The Freezer Door”; language, when wielded in skilled fingers, can thrive in thriller, outdoors of linearity.

Sycamore leaves San Francisco for Seattle twice — first, briefly, within the Nineteen Nineties, and once more in 2012, amid the supercharged progress and displacement that function a backdrop for this memoir of types. She struggles to make a life for herself in a world the place lease can shoot up $500 in two months, the place she feels as if she barely exists within the “politicized queer areas” that when allowed her to think about a future. “The meanings of queer and trans are always shifting — that is a part of the attract,” Sycamore writes. They’re “directly identities that declare an finish to borders, and identities that always construct partitions.”

The creator regularly questions herself, but in addition questions the form that her e book ought to take, veering from social commentary to sexual confession to nostalgic flashback. At occasions, she cuts away to imagined conversations between two sentient objects in a freezer — an ice dice and an ice dice tray — who maintain forth on all the things from international warming (“Even I’m going to soften,” the ice dice tray explains) to elections (“Who wins, and who loses — it doesn’t appear to make a distinction,” the ice dice says). We’re behind the freezer door with them, aware about their questions on existence: Who permits themselves to be held in life and who does the holding?

There may be a lot to like right here. The pacing of the work, with its typically fragmentary type, permits readers to sit down with poignant moments for a beat, unpacking a sentence solely to return later to unpack it once more. Different sections slide previous extra shortly, ideas rubbing up in opposition to each other in wild streams of consciousness. The bigger, denser segments permit uninterrupted entry to Sycamore’s ideas as she navigates the complicated (and sometimes conflicting) intimacies that assemble her life: connections to sickness, to artwork, to gender, to pals and lovers. She writes to grasp her lack of knowledge. “One drawback with language is that it’s nonetheless language,” Sycamore notes.

Borders shift and vanish as she shapes and unshapes the work. Sycamore strikes fluidly by timelines, at one second in a sexual encounter with a stranger within the park, the following at a membership, transferring to the throb of the music, determined to bounce with somebody. We settle into the concept that recollections typically hinge on scattered pictures in our brains, and might take myriad shapes. Right here they’re rendered by the curling smoke of a cigarette, a well-recognized music enjoying at a neighborhood bar, a bit of fondly remembered artwork, a welcome message on the answering machine. A wealthy tapestry of pictures, tethered by rigorous self-examinations.

There aren’t any questions answered on this e book. As a substitute, questions create additional questions, additional makes an attempt at rediscovery and at blurring boundaries. Hers is a welcome blurring and, in a tradition of relentless demarcation, a needed one. “I do assume a world with out borders,” Sycamore writes, “is a dream we should maintain onto — personally, politically, intimately, explosively, expressively.”

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