Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-08-05
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



'Borrowed Body' Begs to Be Read
by Marie-Jo Proulx

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Valerie Mason-John, a.k.a. Queenie, has written a loosely autobiographical book that surprises, compels, and repulses—sometimes all on the same page. Borrowed Body is the story of Pauline, an abandoned Black child fighting her way through the competitive and precarious environment that shapes her life in British foster care.

The first-person account remains in the present tense, which cleverly allows for subtle changes in Pauline's voice as she matures. Clear prose and level-headed reflection make for an effective style that avoids pathos. But violence always lurks close to the surface and it erupts with damning regularity.

The novel begins in the little girl's early years, when one set of mostly well-meaning adults after another is mandated to take her in. At the Barnardo's village for orphaned kids, Pauline is integrated into families that are in constant flux, where siblings and friends come and go like the seasons. Often the target of overt bigotry, she imagines ways to make her skin white and wonders when the transformation will finally happen.

In a second section that might have offered some hope, an extended stay with her biological mother is the source of physical and psychological abuse that is at times almost unbearable to read. Then, as Pauline reaches adolescence, she finds herself living on the streets of London, where destructive influences eventually land her in juvenile detention, which in turn perpetuates the relentless cycle of misery.

But she survives and few readers will remain untouched by her instinctive resilience in the face of cumulative losses and repeated assaults on her young spirit.

Throughout her childhood, Pauline actively wishes for God to come and take her to heaven, where she wants to be reunited with Annabel, a friend who died of a heart ailment. Feeling the presence of her friend in wind gusts and recognizing her in butterflies, Pauline relies on Annabel as an intermediary to the divine and seeks her advice when challenged by the unknown or frightened by harsh realities.

Without tipping into the mystical, Mason-John infuses the novel with just the right imaginary tone to convey Pauline's conflicted mix of endearing innocence and sharp mind. Over the years, as Pauline goes to live with different people, so do others come to live in her head. They either offer wise counsel or push her head on into trouble. It is when she negotiates with them that her strength and insight shine, and when she ignores them that her fate appears the most hopeless.

Borrowed Body is not a gay-themed novel. There are no gay characters ( open or closeted ) . By the end of the book, Pauline has not blossomed into a tough yet tender lesbian. But in as much as adoption is considered by many same-sex couples, this story could be read as a stark reminder of what can go wrong when unwanted children are born and then dumped into an anonymous bureaucratic care system. Whether Mason-John intended it or not, her little Pauline makes a perfect case for loving, adoptive parents—whatever gender they may be.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.

Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.