GLR September-October 2022

his parents. In a scene not played for laughs, D’Emilio describes the last time he went to confession. Because he speaks in a whis per when he confesses to having sex with a number of men, the priest, assuming he is a woman, is at a loss for words when D’Emilio corrects the priest’s mistake. At last, he knows this once revered sacrament has nothing to offer him. D’Emilio be lieves a copy of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, given to him by a man with whom he had a casual sexual encounter, “saved my life.” Reading about Wilde’s “paean to love” between men, grounded in the story of Jesus, caused him to recognize “the rightness of my deepest feelings” and enabled him to begin the process of coming out to others as a gay man. Once D’Emilio begins to make gay friends, he is intro duced to gay life in New York as it existed in the late 1960’s: the Greenwich Village, Christopher Street, the Stonewall Inn, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop. His memoir is a love letter to Manhattan, but also to the Bronx of his childhood, to the schools that educated and occasionally hindered him, to the family members who nourished him—even when they no longer understood him—so he would someday find his life’s work. The book ends with D’Emilio, saved from the draft be cause he didn’t pass the physical, returning to Columbia to begin graduate studies with a determination to see U.S. his tory in a new light, one that exposes how American power structures have systematically suppressed communities of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. It is the beginning of the next chapter in his consequential life. Based on the many pleasures offered by this book, I hope he decides to write the sequel.

John D’Emilio (Photo courtesy Univ. of IL–Chicago).

He knows his attraction to men is a part of his life that he must somehow accept. But how? Wanting to move “out of my Catholic cocoon,” D’Emilio chooses to attend a secular college and live away from home. His years at Columbia University, 1966–1970, are the most ex citing part of the book, not least because they were tumultuous years in American history and on college campuses. Again, he finds a group of sustaining friends. For the first time in his life, he meets people who do not believe in God, and who don’t live in fear of damnation for unconfessed sins. This shakes his faith in the institutional Catholicism of his childhood. However, when he becomes involved in protests against the VietnamWar, he discovers he truly believes some of his core Catholic val ues, such as pacifism and social justice. In his senior year, D’Emilio applies for conscientious objector status from his draft board. He has moved far from the pro-Nixon politics of


C ARLA Guelfenbein’s eighth novel, skillfully translated by Neil Davidson, centers on the lives and loves of four women living in the neighborhood of Columbia University in the 1940’s and in the present time. One in Me I Never Loved opens with Margarita, a Chilean faculty wife observ ing her fifty-sixth birthday sitting on a bench at Barnard College waiting for Jorge,

bench appears on the novel’s last page, suggesting the omnipresence of art in our lives. Guelfenbein gestures again toward her native country in the second chapter, which transports readers to 1948 and the life of Doris Dana, the historical lover of Chilean Nobel prizewinner Gabriela Mistral. (In an other affirmation of art and Guelfenbein’s Chilean heritage, the novel’s epigraph is


ONE IN ME I NEVER LOVED A Novel by Carla Guelfenbein Translated by Neil Davidson Other Press. 130 pages, $14.99

drawn from a Mistral poem.) The historical Doris Dana had met Mistral at Barnard College two years earlier and had become the older poet’s agent and lover. The Doris in the novel is an as piring writer herself who has fled to New York to find her own artistic voice and to indulge “the need to lose herself, to fill the room with something other than Gabriela’s voice.” As Jenny Holzer’s expressions punctuate Margarita’s narrative, Mistral’s language enters Doris’ narrative in the form of letters of pain and longing, possibly excerpted from the poet’s actual corre spondence and certainly the product of Guelfenbein’s extensive research. A third character, Juliana, is introduced celebrating her thir teenth birthday in 1946, a day that turns bizarre and initiates the

her physics professor husband, to appear on the arm of one of his students. “Waiting is a way of disappearing,” Margarita thinks to herself, introducing her exploration of the varieties of disappearance as a key focus of the novel. But Margarita is not sitting on just any bench; she’s sitting on an actual Barnard Campus structure decorated with sayings by neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, who has given Guelfen bein permission to punctuate the narrative with actual Holzer slogans. This is only one example of the rich artistic under pinning of the novel. Fittingly, a photograph of the actual Anne Charles lives in Montpelier, VT. With her partner and a friend, she co-hosts the cable-access show All Things LGBTQ .

September–October 2022


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