Friday, June 20, 2014

Why Let Fantasy Writers Have All the Fun? Guest Post by Donna Minkowitz

I wrote Growing Up Golem, among other reasons, out of a profound envy of the work that fantasy writers do. Magic swords, evil usurpers, captive monsters straining to be free- aren't they the language of the soul? Just as important, aren't they fun?

The elements of fantasy are active in all of our brains, no matter what culture we come from, or what our politics are.

Impossible trials, shapeshifting lovers, child-eaters, kings and queens -- they are all there in their richness and glory, inevitably becoming part of the lens through which we see ourselves psychologically.

But I am a memoir writer, and the story I wanted to tell was my own sad, funny, freaky one. I always felt like my body and even my heart belonged to my mother, who wasn't physically sexually abusive, but definitely was verbally, and in the way she treated me in emotional terms as her lover, not a child.

And despite the way she might sound in that rather clinical description, my mother was alluring. She was brilliant, beautiful, and always talked to me about books. It was hard not to be captivated by her. And yet she made my sisters and me admire and praise her body, her mind, and her accomplishments so often that sometimes I wished my tongue would fall out rather than have to praise her just once more.

I felt like nothing and no one, unable to be desired, scarcely able to desire anyone because it had felt so shameful (and yet somehow inevitable) to want my mom.

But rather than tell this story as just another sad, heavy memoir about unpleasant things, I decided to tell it through the language of playfulness, fantasy, and myth -- the language in which we dream of impossible journeys, and creative transformations out of being stuck.

My mother had often "joked" with my sisters and me that she herself was God, and she had told us in all seriousness that she could do medieval Jewish magic from the Kabbalah. I decided to tell the story as though she had used Jewish magic to create me as a golem, a magical servant made of clay from Jewish legend.

I tell the real story of my life, but all as though I were a golem trying to do it, and pass for human. So, as a lesbian golem, I go and write for the Village Voice, I try to be a radical activist, I try to date real human women, but because I am only a fake person – an automaton made of clay – I am never able to have real power over my life.

But there is a very painful, difficult way that golems can become human, and eventually I find out about it…Thanks, fantasy writers, for giving me some of the tools to write this journey!
Donna Minkowitz

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