“Because I was looking at one of the most beautiful faces I’d ever seen, even if I could only see half of her. That face belonged to me. […] I had a vision of my future then. I would call myself by a different name, one I have yet to determine. I would use chemicals to alter my body and eventually have surgery. I would endure the judgment of society, the loss of friends and loved ones. I would lose the person I loved most, so I could love myself better. I would do whatever it took, so that I could finally see the whole of that most beautiful face.”
FAIREST: A MEMOIR by Meredith Talusan breaks the mold by refusing to be just one type of memoir. FAIREST is a gay coming-of-age story, an immigrant story, and a story of gender confirmation all at the same time. While Talusan tells her distinct life story, she simultaneous analyzes complicated subject matters like race, colorism, queer sexuality, and gender.
FAIREST begins with Talusan’s boyhood in the Philippines. Born with albinism, Talusan’s white skin-tone and blonde hair made her stand out as a young boy. Though her genetic anomaly could be perceived as a disadvantage, in fact her “whiteness” was greatly admired. As a teen Talusan immigrates to the US with her family and then attends Harvard. While at Harvard Talusan studies queer theory, explores her sexuality as a gay man, and begins of loving relationship. Through these experiences Talusan continues to examine her gender identity and heartbreakingly realizes that she is in a relationship with a man who can only love her as a man. But with her gender transition, she becomes the woman she needed to be so that she can love herself fully.
Talusan uses her own life experiences as a way to discuss issues of race and gender. Specifically, the idea of “passing” is expertly analyzed throughout the book. Whether it’s being regarded as white or perceived as biologically female, Talusan explores the complicated concept of passing, how she has benefitted from it, and also the risks. This concept is strikingly highlighted when Talusan and her brother are at a baseball game. She realizes that though they are the same ethnicity, others perceive and interact with her and her brother differently just because of their skin color pigment.
FAIREST is a captivating and entertaining story from start to finish. The writing is straightforward yet vibrant and each page is filled with thought-provoking insights. I was entranced with Talusan’s story and could not put this book down! FAIREST is not only a crucial and significant memoir but a must read book!
** Viking provided the book for honest review
- Title: Fairest: A Memoir
- Author: Meredith Talusan
- Published: May 26, 2020 (Viking)
- Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction, LGBTQ
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *