Sobel Weber Associates, Inc.

Carolyn Hays

  • GIRLHOOD
  • by Carolyn Hays
  • Picador - U.K.

  • Writing under a pseudonym to protect her daughter’s identity, an internationally published author shares the moving story of raising a transgender child.

    Here is the author’s letter, introducing GIRLHOOD:

    Dear Nat,

    All these years, you’ve known me as a novelist who has written fearlessly. Writing is how I process the chaotic, brutal, brimming world. And yet, you also know the truth – I couldn’t write about what was filling my days with beauty, fear, and love, what upended my life and the lives of those in my family. It was too dangerous, too loaded. Instead, I did what writers do. I took notes. Years passed. 

    You’ve known our youngest child from the beginning, as we celebrated the birth of a healthy seven-pound baby boy; and how, as soon as she could talk, she told us that we were wrong and she was a girl. We had a big loud house with four kids, each with their own smart, funny, fierce personalities. We shifted pronouns and left the South. It was no place to raise her.

    I didn’t tell you the whole story. You didn’t need to know. No one did.

    Shortly after our daughter transitioned, an investigator from social services knocked on our door. We quickly realized that, in this Southern city, with its long history of Republican judges, we could lose her. That knock changed our lives.

    I was wrong about no one needing to know this story. One person very much deserved to know. My daughter. These are family stories that she doesn’t remember. She’s was too young. Now she’s thirteen. GIRLHOOD belongs to her.

    In GIRLHOOD, I tell her both difficult and beautiful truths, handing over a record of her early years while tracking the connections I was making. As a witness, record-keeper, and archivist, I found universal truths about the richness of gender, motherhood, girlhood, the intricate and stunning architecture of the brain; the long history of trans people; botany and migration; the science of seeing and being seen; God and feminism; and the world that takes shape around her. 

    This is the story of opening a space for her girlhood and holding that space, viscerally. It’s the story of my body as a mother and this family as a larger body that built itself around her to hold that space, collectively. One day, she might choose to write her own story or make art from these pages or upcycle them into armature or a gown or something we can’t imagine. She will create her own grand mythology as we all should. This book is my contribution to that ultimate work. 

    Once I began, the writing felt urgent, especially during this time in history, this violent contraction of America’s heart. I needed to put it all down for her, but the larger world needs it too; we don’t have enough stories of love – an antidote that can save us. 

    Love, 

    Me 

     

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