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She Wants It
by Lauren Emily Whalen
2018-12-05

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By Jill Soloway

$27; Pegasus Random House; 241 pages

Jill Soloway can tell a story.

Celebrity memoirs are a dime a dozen, and often require one of two elements to be legitimately good reads: a specific angle or an interesting background on the memoirist's part. Soloway has both. Over the course of She Wants It, the nonbinary, Emmy-winning writer and director explores the idea of those who aren't straight, cis men wanting something. Anything. Whether it's representation, human rights or career success, Soloway argues, wanting is a radical act. And over the course of Soloway's life, they have learned to want.

Soloway was a married, straight-presenting, culturally Jewish mother of two when their parent came out as transgender. If this sounds familiar, it's the premise for Transparent, the very first Amazon series that became a smash success. As Soloway processed and eventually reconnected with their parent Carrie, they wrote and directed the indie film Afternoon Delight, featuring two complex female protagonists. A former writer for cable series like Six Feet Under and The United States of Tara, Soloway struck out on their own with Transparent—and struck gold with an unconventional, dysfunctional family story heavily inspired by the Soloways of Chicago's West Side.

No matter how you feel about Transparent ( and despite its critical and commercial success, the show had plenty of naysayers ), there's no denying Soloway's powerful voice. They are strong, funny and brutally honest about their shortcomings: conflating professional and personal fulfillment, acting on impulse rather than instinct and perhaps most egregiously, casting the cis male actor Jeffrey Tambor as transgender parent Maura Pfefferman. Soloway admits they never considered casting a trans actress in the role, and that Transparent may not have aired at all were it not for Tambor's name attached to the project. Though Soloway sought to rectify the mistake by hiring queer and trans individuals in every department of the series, they own their misstep, as well as the privilege they enjoyed for so long as a heterosexual-presenting white woman.

Soloway also tackles their personal life: coming out as queer shortly after Transparent's debut, and later as nonbinary. Acknowledging their queerness put an end to Soloway's marriage, but led to fulfilling relationships with women and an even deeper connection with family. Soloway's journey through sexual and gender identity and how it manifests in their love life and in Transparent makes for a wild page-turner.

As Soloway learns to balance their familial, romantic and LA relationships, the reader is along for a bumpy but ultimately fulfilling ride that culminates in MeToo and the ensuing Time's Up movement, of which Soloway is a founder. She Wants It is a book to consume in one sitting: the rare memoir that doesn't idealize or sugarcoat, but presents life as the messy, funny and fascinating journey it is.


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