The Fabulous Exphrastic Fantastic: Essays
Miah Jeffra’s collection is notable not only for its style but also for its range. It is about the nature of memories, gender, truth, and place. The essays come together as something of a self-exploration, something like art-criticism, and something like a family saga. Jeffra traces their life back to a difficult youth, leads the reader through relationships, break-ups, and a marriage, and details several moves around the U.S.
Though we learn much about Jeffra’s personal life, the book isn’t simply an autobiography. It pushes the essay form in a way that calls to mind David Lazar’s “Queering the Essay” in which Lazar writes, “Queer and essay are both problematic, escapable, changeable terms. Both imply resistance and transgression, definitional defiance.”
In a similar vein Jeffra writes, “And what about this book? Memoir. A book of memories. And, also, subsequently, a book about false memories.” What one can say about the book is that the memories it contains, whether false or true, rose-colored or traumatic, are all written with stunning honesty. Throughout, pictures of Jeffra at various ages track their progress through time and self-understanding. We see the essayist as a child, an adolescent, and even get a glimpse of them with their wedding party.
Reminiscent of Michelle Tea in subject and humor, and of T. Fleischmann’s poeticism in style, this collection continues the work of modern queer essayists. It is irreverent at times and reflective at others, but throughout should keep the reader’s interest as they reflect alongside Jeffra on what memories mean.
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