Seven Stories Press, 2017
Nonfiction. 256 pp, paperback
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Sexuality and identity are the twin goddesses that lend Jan Clausen’s Apples & Oranges its grace and urgency. In the late 1980s, after more than a decade living within a strong Brooklyn lesbian community with her female lover and their daughter, Clausen travels to a war zone in Nicaragua, where she falls in love with a West Indian male lawyer. Her memoir is brimming with intimate physical and emotional details of her personal journey, but perhaps what sets it apart are the deeply informed historical and philosophical lenses through which she examines her own experience. Deeply felt, intensely thoughtful, gorgeously written, Apples & Oranges is a testament to the power and peril of desire. It is also a dazzling examination of the ways in which our search for love and happiness intersect. What does it mean to be straight? What does it mean to be queer? Jan Clausen gives us not one but many answers to these questions.
Apples & Oranges is a brilliant—and stirring—book. Jan Clausen has courageously used her own life as a way of illuminating the crucial issue of ‘identity’ currently embroiling the culture. With remarkable subtlety and painfully taut candor, she has managed to combine two genres, memoir and social criticism, into a complex, powerful exploration of how we decide internally to self-label and publicly announce ourselves. This is a work that will be looked back on as seminal, as a true trailblazer.
—Martin Duberman, author of Haymarket, In White America, and Stonewall
Jan Clausen’s memoir is more relevant now than ever. Apples & Oranges is at once a riveting personal narrative about the sacrifices we make for love, and an intellectual examination of the ways that intimacy, identity, and community entangle in our lives and selves. It is a book that shows us with grace and stirring honesty how severing an attachment—to our lovers, to our self-conceptions—can collapse everything we thought permanent, and reveal what truly is.
—Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me