Queerspawn in Love By Kellen Anne Kaiser. She Writes Press, 2016 $16.95 [paper] ISBN 9781631520204.
As a fellow adult child of lesbians, I think we need more queerspawn memoirs, because each family is different, and none of us could possibly represent the whole experience. So to me, this is a ground-breaking book. Even though we are both queerspawn, Kaiser’s family makes my parents look like amateurs. First off, I had only two lesbian moms in a traditional family structure. Kaiser had four moms—she leveled up on the lesbian mother experience. I always like the idea of communal parenting, so this aspect was really interesting to me. Yet, even though our families were very different, there were similarities in our mothers’ parenting philosophy. I got tingles when I read echoes of my own upbringing on the page.
All that being said, this is a relatable and intriguing book even for someone who doesn’t have lesbian parents. The writing is tight, the story is easy to get sucked into, the narrator honest and likable. Kaiser isn’t afraid to show herself in an awkward light, which endeared the narrator to me.
The book itself isn’t focused on Kaiser’s upbringing, but rather her relationship with a man named Lior. Like me, how she was raised is an intrinsic part of who she is and how she sees the world. The fact that she had a consortium of lesbian mothers can’t help but inform the story, but as she writes about early adulthood, “…people’s parents presumably fade to the periphery of their lives around that time.” (Kaiser, p. 198) So it’s natural that her mothers don’t remain the focus of the memoir.
In the book, Kaiser details falling in love with an Israeli soldier, and how that thrust her into social action at NYU. She examines the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with sensitivity for both sides:
The current situation is like watching an abused boy beat his puppy. There is a power imbalance, but you should feel bad for both. After all, the conflict was born from two despised peoples being set at each other’s throat. (Kaiser, p. 46)
Although I have Jewish lineage, I was not raised either religiously nor culturally Jewish, so I am always interested in reading memoirs about people more Jewish than I am. Kaiser, however, also grew up with a mix of other traditions, so it was another aspect I related to the memoir. My moms would have loved the idea of Mrs. Claus coming in through the window instead of Santa himself.
Mostly, it’s a relationship saga. Girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, except there’s a war and over 6,000 miles between them. Boy returns to US, and they have to navigate the minutia and monotony of day-to-day life. When the relationship eventually dissolves (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler, she lets this slip in the first chapter) it is Kaiser’s mom posse that helps her return to her best self. In many ways, it is the love of these women that is at the core of the story and the narrator.
“And here’s the problem with having really good parents: it sets you up for disappointment. No one would ever match the sort of unconditional love they’d slathered upon me.” (Kaiser, p. 220)
If you have been young, awkwardly navigating adulthood, and in love, this book is for you.