For #familybookclub this quarter, we read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. (We’ll plan a video/phone chat soon to discuss!) In Middlesex, our narrator tells the story of a Greek family over three generations and a rogue gene that shows up in the youngest member of the Stephanides family and changes his fate.
Our narrator Cal is born as Callie. He is intersex, and has both male and female genitals. His family raises him as Callie, a woman, and later, after learning more about himself, he becomes Cal, a man.
To tell how Callie became Cal, he begins the story of his ancestors, starting with how his grandparents, who are brother and sister, fall in love. As Cal learns more about who he is, he visits a doctor, who calls him a hermaphrodite. Cal is young, and still Callie at this point, and doesn’t understand the word. So Callie looks it up in the dictionary. And to her horror, finds the words “see synonyms at monster.”
Can you imagine trying to learn why you are the way you are, and reading a definition that calls you a monster? That society might see you as a freak, as something to be scared of? And when you’re only 14?
I have never faced the discrimination Cal faces. But I do believe that sometimes we all feel as if we don’t belong or as if there’s no true place for us. That feeling can be universal when you are lonely or unsure of yourself, or if society casts you aside because of who you are. So when I made this embroidery, I made it with the intention of uniting people around this idea. We can all be monsters with Cal, who–after all–isn’t a monster at all.
This is part of an embroidery project I am working on to sew some of my favorite quotes from books and post the images here each Sunday. Let me know if you have any quote suggestions! You can see the other quotes in my embroidery project here: