My Autobiography of Carson McCullers

Tin House. Feb. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781947793286. $22.95. LIT
Mixing memoir, criticism, and biography, Pushcart Prize winner Shapland (creative writing, Inst. of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM) intertwines deep research and her own quest for love into a comprehensive examination of the life and work of American novelist and short story writer Carson McCullers (1917–67). As an intern at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, Shapland discovered McCullers’s personal letters and was later invited to stay at the writer’s home, thus began her journey toward understanding an author she’d long admired on a more intimate level. Shapland relates how parsing McCullers’s work (e.g., The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter) has allowed her to articulate her own identity and explores how queer love stories are shaped and told. Along the way, Shapland defines what is means to her to be a queer woman and the truths she wishes to tell about her own life, drawing on examples from her own work.
VERDICT A fine narrative of how the best writers express the deepest secrets of the heart.
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