Identity to Affinity: A Conversation with Torrey Peters – Michigan Quarterly Review
Author photo of Torrey Peters over the cover of their book, Detransition, Baby laid over a background image that features a banner which reads "Zell Visiting Writers Series Interviews" as well as the University of Michigan, LSA, and Helen Zell Writers Program logos.

Identity to Affinity: A Conversation with Torrey Peters

Torrey Peters is the author of the novel Detransition, Baby, published by One World, which won the 2021 PEN/Hemingway award for debut fiction. The novel was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, a finalist for the Brooklyn Public Library Award, and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Masters in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth. 

Peters’ work allows us to glimpse the labyrinthine identity politics of queer Brooklyn. She writes on identity’s nuanced relationship with culture, selfhood, and community. One of the great pleasures of reading Peters lies in her ability to welcome the reader into the superabundant activity of her characters’ psychologies, to craft characters so convincing, so alive, that you find yourself wondering about their lives off the page. Torrey and I met during her visit to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in the fall of 2022, and I’m thrilled to share this conversation on her writing and career.

Joshua Olivier (JO): You spoke last night about “ranting through your characters”—about shaping or cutting their rants to serve the novel. Can you speak  more on that? And can you speak on your relationship with character at large—that complicated process of lending characters your own thoughts and feelings while also creating their own inner lives, their own insecurities and desires and flaws?

Torrey Peters (TP): Sure. So, the thing I often come to literature for is a sense of urgency. I like books where I’m like, This author really needs to tell me something; they’re desperate to communicate something with me. My favorite books are the kind that have a kind of ferocity to them. And so, you know, occasionally [a writer] is super riled up, and is able to sit down and have that ferocity kind of on tap, because it’s naturally there. But most of the time, I sort of have to work myself up over a process of maybe an hour while I’m writing. Oftentimes, the way to do it is to find some aspect that I’m emotional about, and then kind of key into that, and just let it go. And that’s usually where I find that urgency. After that, it’s a question of shaping it. You know, nobody really likes to be ranted at, so the writing has to be funny, it has to be crafted. But I find it really hard to find urgency through craft. I’m always trying to read books on stylists and like, style my way into urgency. But that doesn’t work for me. It has to go the other way. I have to find the urgency and then style it. 

And on the question of character. Most of the characters have some aspects of myself. You know, I always want to write characters who are totally different from me, but I don’t really discover them. So it’s more like I find some facet of myself, and then I put that character in a situation that’s totally different than anything I’ve ever experienced. And slowly, the accumulation of that character being in situations different than me gives that character a different history. And then—I don’t know—usually a third of the way through a project, I’ll find that character making a different decision than I would make. And sometimes you force a character to make a decision because of the plot. But occasionally, with the sort of accretion of little details and histories that I’ve given that character, even though the spark of them is probably me, I find them doing things differently than me, because they’ve lived differently than me in a certain way. It’s sort of very mystical-sounding, but you know, it’s sort of just the practice.

JO: The characters in Detransition, Baby are fucked up in the best ways. Could you speak on why it’s important for you to lean into the folly of your characters, and also how folly works to create humor, and the role you feel humor has in your writing?

TP: There’s like three or four reasons why it’s important to me. It probably started out with more of a political reason—which is that writing trans characters, there’s a real pressure to make them heroic; to make them have, like, redemptive stories; to make them, you know, resilient, and something where people can be like, Wow, they’re so great. And that’s so limiting to a character—that a character is always resilient and overcoming. And I really didn’t want characters like that. I mean, I don’t relate to characters who overcome. And so especially at the time I started writing, it felt very freeing to basically be like: I’m not going to write trans stories where people can point to these characters in some sort of like queer round-up of, you know, queer joy and resilience. That’s actually uninteresting to me. I mean, it’s fine for other people who do it, but it’s uninteresting to me. 

And you know, what people say is messy—to me, I accept that word, but I don’t really think it’s accurate. A lot of us contain a lot of contradictions, and those contradictions are human. And in the presentation of ideas, a lot of times those contradictions get ironed out. But for me, those contradictions are what makes those characters feel human, it’s what makes them struggle. Doing anything is hard. And I mean, me as a person, when I make a decision, I’m rarely all for it. I usually have some sort of internal contradiction, where I’m sitting there going, like, On the one hand, This; on the other hand, That—and I have to struggle my way towards any decision that I make. And that’s what’s interesting to me. I’m very passionate about ambivalence, you know? I think that the contradictions and ambivalence in a character reflect what feels to me why it’s so hard to do anything in life.

And so you have these messy characters, and then you break down messiness. For instance: Reese. Reese is an interesting character because people are always like, “You know, Reese is so messy,” when actually, Reese is a very loyal character. She has a great capacity for care. And she’s actually quite constant in her care. What she doesn’t have is sort of a context in which she can activate that care reliably. And so there’s a way in which the problem for Reese is an unreliable context. And that gets attributed to her character. She’s… and you know, she’s difficult…she has all these different things, but like, when people say, “Messy,” I’m sort of, like, In what ways? Like, in what ways is she messy? In what ways is the world messy? In what ways is she forced to make intolerable decisions? I’m very interested in splitting apart all of those things. So when people react to these characters, and Reese’s decisions or Ames’ decisions, the complexity of it is called “messy.” And I’m sort of just like, No, this is what it takes. We don’t get to smooth ourselves out without any contradictions.

You asked about humor, and that wasn’t a very funny answer, but I think the fact that we are absolutely riven with contradictions is hilarious. Like, we’re all hypocrites. I mean, I don’t know, maybe you’re not a hypocrite, but I’ll say I’m a huge hypocrite.

JO: I’m a hypocrite, yeah.

TP: Yeah. And you know—you can be mad at hypocrisy, but also, it’s quite funny. The things that are pathetic are also things that are hilarious. And the ways in which we thwart ourselves are very amusing—frustrating, but amusing—and I think I sort of developed a sense of humor around finding my own capacity to lie to myself, my own capacity for hypocrisy. Unless I want to really just walk around hating myself, I have to just find it all quite funny, you know?

JO: You spoke last night, too, about living as a trans person and facing these, like, expected everyday violences, and having a compulsion to reframe those as humorous.

TP: If you think about the book, part of it is questioning to what degree we’re accepting [victimhood]. Ames, in some ways, buys into some of these narratives about trans victimhood. And there’s a couple of different things that I’m trying to do in the book to basically ask, Where’s the agency in this? Like, What’s going on?

You know, lots of times people will come to me—there’s a scene in the book where Ames gets beat up—and lots of people come to me, and they’ve heard so many stories about trans people, and they’re like, “This is street-based violence against a transgender woman.” And it’s like, yeah, roughly, in terms of a category, that’s what it is. And, you know, what you think of there is some sort of like, transphobic, gay-bashing type of incident. And yes, the Stanley character does use the word “faggot.” But if you look at what actually happens, Ames went to that park on a weird, stalker mission; Ames threw the first punch; Ames insulted people; and this is a trans woman who’s doing this stuff. There’s a kind of agency there for her. And yes, she was driven to it, but it’s this question of, Do we actually accept the narratives about trans people? And in what ways are the narratives true because of context? And in what ways does an individual actually do this stuff, or have some sort of part in it? And, for me, you know, that is an instance of, like, dark humor. The idea that that is street-based violence against trans women. In some ways it’s both true and a complete misunderstanding.

Similarly, there’s the question of suicide and trans women, right? There are two quote unquote “suicides” in the book. The first is a funeral that they go to where a trans woman really did commit suicide, and then it becomes a social event, which is like a dark comedy in and of itself. Where people perform, you know, political sorts of speeches about what it means that trans women are killing themselves. And the second [suicide] is like a false suicide played as farce— you know, that old Marxist quote or Hegel’s, first it’s tragedy, then it’s farce— where, because people are so accustomed to this narrative about suicide and trans women, they— when Reese goes into the water, which is sort of the climax of the book— assume it to be a suicide. When in fact, it’s not a suicide at all, it’s something totally absurd, it’s the Wim Hof Method. Part of what I’m trying to do then is call into question the narratives that surround trans culture, that overdetermine it, that make it, to me, constricting and deadening as a way to talk about the condition of being alive.

JO: The novel’s structured around the conception of Katrina and Ames’ child, and it moves freely through time exploring different moments in the lives of every central character. Rereading the book, I was struck by how expansive and holistic it feels. I’m curious why you chose this structure, what it allowed you to accomplish, and what technical challenges you may have faced while working through the book.

TP: Well, I knew I wanted…obviously, there’s no baby in the book. Everybody talks about—not everybody, but the parents that I know and the trans people I know….It’s very easy to talk about parenthood in an abstract kind of way. To be like: here’s the structures of parenthood, here’s what it means. And then at some moment, the baby appears. And it’s an actual person with a personality, even as an infant. And all your plans go out the window. So I wanted the baby to basically not exist for the entire book, and I wanted the last line of the story to be the moment where the baby makes itself present. I always knew that was my ending. So all of [the novel’s action] happens before the baby is present.

And then in terms of the way it jumps around in time and the timeframe… You know, it’s interesting that people talk to me about that, because I actually think that is not at all experimental. I think that having grown up in the 90s, and having written this in the 2010s, dual timelines and dual timeframes are actually the standard way of telling stories. I mean, I was writing this at the same time that Westworld was on TV. So, this is popular culture, this is the way that stories are being told now. To me, it’s like, if I look around, I’m like, “How are people consuming narratives?” Generally, the stories that are popular, maybe not so much in literature, exactly, but in popular culture, are stories that fuck with timelines. The most popular piece of pop culture, I think, at this moment, in terms of just people who watch it and understand it, might be Marvel stories, right? MCU stories. And those are multiverse stories, right? And so the stuff that used to be quite high concept— I don’t know, when Borjas was writing or something like that— is actually completely middlebrow. And so for me, this is my inheritance: the style of writing of multiple timelines and jumping around. You know, I write in that style in the same way that there was a sort of standard way of writing stories for like, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. It’s just the vernacular of the era.

JO: I understand you’re doing a good deal of screenwriting these days. Can you talk more about how your relationship with pop culture and film has influenced your thinking about narrative at large?

TP: There are sort of two answers to that. One is that there are structural questions. For instance, the structure of the book is simply a kind of modified Tarantino Pulp Fiction structure that has two timelines. It feels confusing when you see it, but if you diagram it, it’s actually two parallel narratives with typical story arcs—with climax, denouement, rising action, etc etc—paralleled on top of each other, cut into slices, and then alternating back and forth, where the end of the first timeline connects to the beginning of the second timeline. That’s Tarantino. I mean, Tarantino didn’t invent it, but, you know, when I was—I don’t know, I don’t remember how old I was; middle school? something like that—I saw Pulp Fiction. So this is formative storytelling for me. And so [I looked at] these narrative structures that I think came from screenwriting—or they came from literature, but then screenwriters kind of took them and turned them into beats that could be parceled out—and I started thinking about things in terms of parceling out beats. That’s the screenwriting thing. But to write literature simply like a screenplay doesn’t work, because the great power of literature is that you can go inside characters’ minds, and that’s mostly what I try to do—favor the medium that I’m working in, which is prose, and the great thing I can do [with the medium of literature] is something that the screen and the movies can’t, so I want to play to the strengths of the medium. 

But the second thing about pop culture is that I think pop culture provides a sort of shared [context]. There are pop cultural figures in the book. Sarah Jessica Parker shows up, Sex in the City shows up. Friends shows up, Verner Hertzog shows up, Wim Hof shows up. I think that pop culture is as close to a kind of standard of references as we—as the audience I’m thinking of—has right now. I ask myself, “What is this audience going to get?” I can do a Macbeth reference because a lot of people learn Macbeth in high school. I can do a Burnham Hill reference. And then I can follow that up with a Friends reference. And those things, although they don’t go together generally in how they’re presented in culture, they actually form a pretty standardized set of references for a lot of people that I know, in the same way that, in the past, you could make a biblical reference and you’d have a large swath of the population know it. So there’s a way in which the screenwriting beats and the culture of screenwriting bleeds into the fiction, not just simply in narrative beats, but also in a sort of referential shorthand.

JO: And what does that accumulation of references do for the work, do you think? How does it bridge the gap between the writer and the audience?

TP: I think it’s the same reason that people have always used reference: so you don’t have to constantly be reinventing the wheel. When I was in college, I took this class about archaeology and literature, where we got rid of all the characters, we got rid of everything they said, all that they did, and what was left was just the like, items that [characters] use, similar to how archaeologists would go to like a site and see like, “Oh, they have clay pots,” or whatever. What I realized this did is it allowed you to know the characters really closely. For instance, if I had a character who owned a pair of rollerblades, you could probably be, like: Okay, they grew up in the 90s. They’re probably suburban, because you’re not rollerblading at like farms or in too dense of a city…so you have a certain kind of middle-class affluence, you all have the stuff, and it’s sort of adhering to the concept of rollerblades. And instead of having to explain all that stuff, “This character is a white middle-class suburban kid from the 90s who did blah, blah, blah who, you know, probably listened to Offspring or something like that,” you just mention a pair of rollerblades and that does all that work. I think that these references set a tone, they set a vibe. That everybody walks into Katrina’s apartment and recognizes that as a knockoff of Friends helps you know these characters’ world, because they all know this show. You get a sense of when they grew up. You know that these are people who watch Friends as comfort. These are people who would understand —in a tongue-in-cheek way— their own womanhood through Sex in the City. Well, that’s already such a specific set of people. And then you’re working within that sort of world. So all of these references allow me to do all that work, and then do a whole bunch of tone work. I think tone is so hard to do, to get the tone on things right. And so much of this, for me, is shorthand and tone.

JO: Am I able to ask about the adaptation of Detransition, Baby? You said Amazon had picked it up?

TP: Yeah—I’ll just say that it’s not greenlit, so it may not get made. So, it might be a year from now, and your readers are like, “Where’s the show?” But I really wanted to remake Detransition, Baby as a 30-minute comedy and sort of a sitcom. It’s not gonna be a three-camera, laugh track, but that 30-minute comedy, A plot, B plot, C plot way, for a couple of different reasons. One [reason] is I thought that was the most subversive thing you could do. Oftentimes, when people think of transness, they think of people crying to get surgeries or whatever. And I would like people to come home at 11pm and be like, “I’m tired, and I want to hang out with my friends, my TV friends,” which is what I do when I watch comedies, and that those friends could be trans women. So that was like the first project.

And the second project is that I feel like there’s been a decade of arguments about trans representation that are actually extremely CIS in that they think about trans representation as being about bodies. There have been so many kerfuffles about, “Oh, did Scarlett Johansson play a trans man?” or “Was Eddie Redmayne a trans woman?” and “We have to have trans actresses play trans parts.” To me, this is really a regressive argument, because the logic makes the only available parts for trans women trans roles, unless one does an analysis of power, which, you know, is not really something that Hollywood is big on. So then the question is, How do you break out of this cycle? The idea that we’re going to look at a person’s body, we’re going to determine whether or not that body is trans, and then we’re going to slot it into roles, is actually not how trans people think of their own bodies. I don’t walk around being like, “What body do I have today? What role does his body play?” And in fact, my transness, my body is in some ways, incidental to my experience. It’s very important, but it’s also like, If I did this surgery, and not that surgery, or X surgery or not Y surgery, I don’t think it makes my body more or less trans. So that’s what I mean when I say my body’s incidental. And yet the entire casting process is about the specificity of these bodies. And we have to have the right body for the right role. Well, my question is, how do you visually represent transness in a way that’s not all about bodies? 

So Detransition, Baby is an interesting problem because the Ames character is a trans woman detransitioned, so what do you do for that cast? Do you hire a trans woman and then tell her to act like a man the entire time? Do you hire a man and then hire a separate trans-woman actor to play Amy because there are two timelines? How do you reconcile this sort of thing? And for me, the answer was just simply like, “Well, it’s not really about showing their bodies.” A lot of people will suffer from dysphoria or dysmorphia, where they basically can’t see their own bodies. So I was thinking about how trans women can’t see themselves through dissociation dysmorphia, and how they picture somebody other than themselves when they walk into a room to have the confidence to just sort of be. And so I was like, What if—and I just chose this person; she’s not at all involved in the show; but just for a screenwriting project—I was like, What if Amy, when she walks into a room, pictures herself as Taylor Swift? And then we cast Taylor Swift? And so the answer is, Taylor Swift is not playing a trans woman. Taylor Swift is playing a psychic projection of dysphoria, and she’s an embodiment of a sort of an ideal. None of this actually has to do with bodies. This is psychic projection. And that idea of psychic projection and the work of psychic projection actually feels, to me, very trans. So then you’re actually not experiencing trans as looking at a body, you’re experiencing trans as it may feel, and the alienation of that, and the strangeness of, What’s Taylor Swift doing here? And then it allows you to have all these jokes, like “Is Taylor Swift bitching about trends about cis women playing trans actresses as a psychic projection?” So with the television show, I had a vision for it as a way of doing an end run around what feels to me an extremely tired argument of the past decade.

JO: Your novellas, from what I understand, were originally self-published and offered for free online. I’m wondering if you can speak on the difference of working within that DIY ethos to publishing with a major press: how that changed your life, your writing life, and also your perception of the audience, and how that’s influenced your relationship with your work.

TP: So, I came out of this trans writing scene in Brooklyn, which fell apart for various reasons. And afterwards, I had this idea—largely because there’s a set number of people who can get published every year when you’re going through any sort of press, and what I really wanted was a flourishing of trans stories, like a cacophony of trans stories—so I had this idea that we would all write novellas, and that novellas are a perfect form for this, because to write a novel takes years, but to write a novella, you can do it in three, four months. You can publish it if you get $300 together and an account on Kindle or whatever. You can obviously publish it online, but you can even publish physical copies, you can get 100 of them printed for a couple hundred bucks. And you can read a novella in the length of the train ride.

So, I had this project, and I bought a subscription to Adobe Suite, and I bought a subscription to Lynda, which teaches classes on how to do InDesign and stuff like that. It’s sort of this zine culture, but I pitched it in more of a publishing mode. So I Tweeted my passwords, and I was like, “Come on, everybody make novellas with me. I’ll do two. I’ll do some first as a sort of test for this.” So I wrote The Masker and Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones as this sort of proof of concept for a trans novella renaissance. And then I waited for other people to also use my passwords and make their own novellas, and nobody did. Absolutely nobody. I was hugely disappointed because I put like six months into this project.

And on the question of whether or not they were free—I was never like, “These are going to make money.” The ethos of the press was always that the most important thing is to have readers. Once you have readers, everything else will follow. You know, people think you go to a press first, and the press gets you readers, but once you have readers, the press comes to you. The biggest book that Topside press published was Nevada, which was recently reissued by FSG. But Tom, the publisher at Topside, made sure he seeded Nevada on every single pirate site, so that closeted trans people who wanted to know about trans literature, but were too embarrassed to go into a bookstore and buy a trans book, could download it for free, and have it be untraceable. Most of the books of the times were these books that had trans puns. But this book is called Nevada, the cover has nothing trans about it, so anybody could read it on the bus. This was an ethos of like: you do this stuff, you find your readers in whatever way you can. That’s what matters, connecting with people. 

So I did this project, and nobody took me up on it. But in fact, the concept that was a Topside ethos turned out to be true. You could always download my novellas for free from my website. I also put the books in these, like, quasi trans porn Tumblr sites, so that people who were looking at porn, and were maybe closeted, would download them. You know, I just tried out whatever I could. And about a year after I considered the whole thing a failure, the downloads just really started picking up. People started downloading the books. I had printed a bunch of physical copies, and I would send them out to people when I started. The print run was supposed to be, like, 350 copies; by the time I stopped sending them myself, I had sent out thousands—which is, you know, that’s good numbers for a big press. But even the physical copies were sometimes “pay what you want.” The thing that mattered was just finding readers and getting stuff to the readers.

And that idea did carry over. What ended up happening is, I didn’t get an agent, I didn’t go try and find a press, because I had the readers. And presses were like, there’s this trans thing happening. You know, Pose was on TV, Transparent was on TV, and they were like, Who’s doing this in literature? So, they looked around, they asked people, and they were like, “There are these books by Torrey Peters.” And then an editor approached me. And then for ethical reasons, I got hooked up with an agent to represent me. But the idea that you find the readers who need your stories has always guided me. The way that I handled the large-scale publishing was that I had an idea of who I wrote Detransition Baby for — who, if I hadn’t gotten a big press, would have tried to read it anyway.

Then when the big press came around, you know, I got a couple of different offers for the book. The third one, Random House, they were really willing to listen to me about everything. I went with Random House because they were basically like, “We don’t know where to find these readers. We don’t exactly know how this works.” I was able to sort of come in with a vision for the book, and, in some ways, just do the exact same thing as before. And maybe it sounds arrogant to say, but I feel like it was borne out of the fact that this trans fiction that crossed over, and it went exactly to plan. But I’m in some ways much more proud of my self-publishing—I mean, I’m proud of what happened with Detransition, Baby, but it’s easier to do that with the resources of Random House—and I’m proud of what I did, self-publishing.

JO: I’m curious about how your perception of audiences changed and if that changed your relationship with your work. You were speaking last night about how you’ve changed your frame of mind from—what was the second part? From identity—

TP:  Identity to affinity?

 JO: Can you describe that change in your thinking and what it means?

TP: Yeah. I say that these categories of trans writing or writing for a trans audience are shorthands about, like, hitting a target. And I still say that I write for trans people, but I wouldn’t say that I write for all trans people. In the process of writing this stuff, you know, I’m very aware that there are many trans people who don’t necessarily like my writing. In the process of writing Detransition, Baby, after self-publishing all those books, I began to be like, Oh, I’m writing for a certain section of trans readers who see the trans experience the same way that I do. And then, at some point, I was like, Well, maybe I’m not writing necessarily only for trans people, which is an identity category. I’m writing for a small subsection of that identity category. I’m really writing for people with whom I have an affinity. There’s a kind of affinity to my address.

And then I was like, well, why should that affinity stop at the border of identity? I actually think that there’s a lot of cis women who look at the world the same way that I do, who see womanhood in largely similar terms. So why should I make my address identity-based? You know, it comes out of ideas of identity, but the importance of the address is one of affinity, not of some sort of demographic identification. So, when I was writing Detransition, Baby, you know, I specifically dedicated it to divorced cis women, largely because that, like, transness, in some ways, is a kind of shorthand, and so it’s not like you have to be a divorced cis woman to understand this book. But it was that this was a shorthand for people who have had to start over in the middle of their life, who had to not get bitter and not reinvest in illusions that brought them to failure in the first place. 

JO: You call divorce a transition story.

TP: Divorce is a transition story. I mean, in some ways, a lot of things are transition stories. The emotional work of transition is the same. If one has one’s spouse die, if one has a heart attack, even if one is an athlete, and then has a heart attack, and you just start over, not having the things that you relied on to make you happy. That’s a transition story. There are many, many transition stories, and the emotional work of transition, part of what I believe…  there’s an idea now that this is a very specific thing that there’s something so unique and special about a gender transition, that I’ll go and talk to people, and they’ll be like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly understand what you’ve gone through, I couldn’t possibly understand what it means to change or want something different.” And I dislike that. I think that it’s very easy, actually, to understand transition. I think it’s very easy to understand the work of transition, and the work of what it means to change how you think about yourself and ask the world to change with you. Many people are doing that all the time. Class—when people change class backgrounds. You know, these are transition stories—and there’s the sadness of what you’ve left behind, the feelings of alienation, the feelings of impostor syndrome— these are all transition stories. And to me, I’m like, why can’t they all resonate together? There’s so much that I learned about framing gender transition outside of… you know, most of my thoughts about how to do trans literature comes from Black literature. Writers from the Combahee River Collective. You know, The Bridge Called My Back, and just various approaches to getting work out into the world. These are things I emulate, and they don’t come from trans stuff. The divorced cis women, through those books, taught me how to do various things. I’m very tired of a sort of stay-in-your-lane approach to thinking about gender, because while I understand that comes out of the place of respect, I actually don’t think it produces understanding.

JO: Last question—who are some working trans writers you love?

TP: I’ll say Jackie Ess, who wrote a book called Darryl. You know, I’m going to talk about some favorites who, if you Google me, you’ll find associated with my scene, like Imogen Binnie, and Casey Plett. But I got to go to Europe on a book tour, and my hobbyhorse right now is translation. I think it’s very interesting how a lot of trans writers are kind of discovering the same thing separately all over the world, or are arriving at the same conclusions separately all over the world, and suddenly now we’re at a moment where we’re connecting. There’s a book in Spanish called Las Malas—in English, it’s translated as The Bad Girls—by Camila Sosa Villada. That book is just like Detransition, Baby. It’s a magical realist tradition, and the preoccupations about motherhood and community are totally the same. We’ve never met, we’ve never talked, we have no friends in common. And yet we produce books preoccupied with the same things. 

When I went to Europe, all of these writers gave me books that they wrote, that are books in Polish, books in German, books in Swedish, books in Danish. And no one’s translated them yet. So, when you asked me who my favorite working trans writers are, the answer is that I don’t even have access to who may be the best and most inspiring. My plea in print is for people who can translate and have access to like, the means of production or whatever, to start looking at some of these trans writers working in different languages, because they may be producing stuff that’s better than anything I’ve ever written. And we just don’t know.

JO: Thank you so much.

Josh Olivier is a writer from Redlands, California. He is currently working on a novel and chewing his nails waiting on PhD decisions.

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