The Surrender, by Scott Esposito
2016 has been a year where many great novels, memoirs, and books of poetry regarding sexuality, identity, and the challenging of the gender binaries have been released. Authors like Susan Faludi, Drew Nellins Smith, and Robert Coné have found an imaginative way to present the aforementioned topics while allowing even the readers who may feel far removed from the topics to become absorbed in the literature. The same can be said about Scott Esposito’s collection of essays, The Surrender.
The essays supplement each other. They come together to form a magical journey that does not have a beginning, middle, or end. It is perhaps Esposito’s refusal to conform to a predisposed format that fascinated me. I wanted to keep reading because of the way the words moved on the page. Sure, it sounds a bit silly to say as such, but I found that within a matter of pages Esposito was able to take me from staring into a mirror at a woman who is captivated by her appearance to the heartbreaking pain a young boy feels as he sneakily tries on his sister’s bra. The incident with the bra is the first of a lifetime of feeling both shame and happiness. The narrator confides in the reader: “I had never felt revulsion at the thought of something I was wearing. I had never felt any feeling that remotely resembled this” but at the same time reveals: “Minutes later I wanted nothing more that to wear it outside of the bathroom, but I knew I couldn’t.” The contradictory revelation points to the way much of this essay is written. The narrator has many experiences where he is both shameful and enchanted to be wearing women clothing. Scenes like the one described above beg a larger question and one that should be directed to society: are we suppressing individuals by what we tell them to wear or by what we tell them not to wear?
Another reason I enjoyed The Surrender is because it is many things at once. The collection can be viewed as a memoir, film criticism, essay, theory, and even perhaps as a bibliography of sorts. Esposito’s last essay, “The Surrender,” conveniently reveals a sort of works cited where he divulges the different books and authors who have influenced him in some way or another. I can definitely see Esposito’s collection being taught in a Queer Studies or Women Studies class. At least, I hope a professor will encounter Esposito’s collection and get the same valuable information I received in the matter of a hundred pages or so and share the information with students in the hope of creating a dialogue both in and out of the classroom.
If one thing is to be learned from reading the collection is that identity is fluid. We live in a society where the media dictates what women and men should be wearing and how they should be acting. However, identity is not always related to our gender. Our identity constantly changes as we associate ourselves with other individuals and the different personas we constantly take in order to feel like we belong. This intersectionality of identities creates borders that we must see beyond. Ultimately, the reader is able to take away that identity is fluid not stagnant and is instead formed by the way in which an individual is socialized. I believe the point of Esposito’s words is to remind us that we can change the way we view each other. We can argue for the fluidity of identity and a remapping of our cultural topography.
The Surrender is available now through Anomalous Press.