John Irving’s In One Person

John Irving’s new novel In One Person is a beautiful, fantastic book. It is narrated by Bill in the present day as he reflects upon growing up in the 1950s and the intervening half-century. He realizes as a teenager that he is bisexual, and the rest of the novel describes his journey to figuring out how he fits in a society that designates him as Other and the friends he meets along the way. It is the best fictional depiction of bisexuality that I have ever encountered both in terms of how accurate it is and how positively bisexuality is portrayed–Bill encounters lots of people who are unsympathetic to him, but he never lets their hatred affect his confidence in who he is and his confidence that there is nothing wrong with him. The novel also includes several sympathetic transgender characters and a moving description of the early AIDS crisis. It is difficult to write about In One Person because it is just so good that mere descriptions of it pale in comparison.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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