Somewhere Else by Jan Guenther Braun

I just finished reading Jan Guenther Braun’s 2008 novel Somewhere Else. Although the prose is a bit uneven in the first half of the book, reading it was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had with literature. I felt physically uneasy while reading most of the book, which speaks to just how much it affected me (a good thing). I am still at a point where I am recovering from the reading experience, and thus don’t have much to say about the novel here other than that I strongly recommend it. It’s about a Mennonite teenager from Saskatchewan who leaves home because her family rejects her for being a lesbian and tries to find herself sexually and spiritually. I first got into Mennonite literature because it gave me narratives that helped me to understand myself and helped me realize that I needed to leave the Church rather than forcing myself to conform to its various oppressions, and after a long period of not reading Mennonite literature it is again reflecting myself back at me via the narratives of other queer Mennos.

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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