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straw into gold

why be happy when you can be normal

straw into gold
alex johnston

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson; Published by Vintage Canada; Available in Paperback (2012)

Even if you have not read Jeanette Winterson’s beloved LGBT classic Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, or seen the successful BBC miniseries based on the book, you’ve likely heard of it. Oranges is described as “semi-autobiographical” and is based on the deeply troubled relationship she had with her abusive and mentally ill adoptive mother. Her new book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal  takes away the “semi”. It’s tempting to see Why Be Happy as a kind of ‘clef’ to Oranges Roman-a-clef. But this would be a mistake on a few levels.

While the first part of the book does discuss her relationship with her adoptive mother, the second part deals with her attempts to get in touch with her biological mother - and the profound emotional breakdown that accompanies this effort.

But the real reason not to approach this as a confessional or corrective to Oranges is simply the nature of Winterson’s writing. Powerful, unflinching, unapologetically poetic, Winterson is the very image of the unflinchingly thoughtful writer. The thoughts, insights and just pure unadulterated humanity that she brings to these reflections is the real reason to read the book.

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Authoralex johnston

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