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"Addie on the Inside" (book)


[Since no one else is contributing much "content"... :) ]

In the past few days, I've been reading and re-reading a book I found: Addie on the Inside, a book by James Howe (who I eventually realized I sort of know.)  It's in the form of free-verse poems by a seventh-grade girl over the course of the school year.  The poems reveal some of the events of that year, but in terms of how she feels about them and about herself.

The thing that struck me is that so many of the things she worries about are things that I worry about, even though I'm 55 years older than her.  She's someone who by nature doesn't fit in -- she doesn't do all the usual things to be popular, she's very concerned about injustice and isn't shy about speaking up about it, or any of the other things she sees as wrong.  (Not a good way to "fit in" -- especially if you're a girl.)

The book starts with a poem "You Are Who They Say You Are" which starts out listing all the insults and disparaging remarks she hears every day and asks -- is this really who I am?  And it ends with the poem "I Am Who I Say I Am."  And there's a lot that goes on in between; if you want to know, buy or borrow the book.

I've also struggled with being told who I am (and who I should be), especially as the "who I am" was (in everyone else's view) mostly wrong and (they assumed) choosing to be so.  I was always being asked "why can't you ..." and "why aren't you..." but they weren't really interested in knowing, they just wanted me to stop being the way I was.  (If there were people who disagreed, they were silent about it.)  It kind of scars you for life, and it has taken most of the rest of my life for me to trust that I can reject that judgement and not get killed for it.  Addie is fortunate that she has parents and a grandmother and a few friends who (mostly) accept her for who she is, which I didn't.  But it's still hard for both of us, I think.  It feels like you have the choice between soul-suicide and being a castaway on a desert island.  (Or maybe both!)

Much of my life has been about finding a way to live in this world without cutting away so much of who I am inside that there's nothing left inside and I'm effectively a zombie (a well-behaved one, of course!)  My transition to living as a woman was one step in this, though a huge one.  It was kind of a way to change the "who they say I am" to something a little easier to live with.

The poems also talk about some of the confusions and hurts she suffers, some of which I can really relate to.  For me, one of the most poignant passages is where she writes:

--- Quote ---"Maybe it would be better not to think," I say.  "Sometimes thinking hurts."

"It isn't the thinking that hurts," [her grandmother] says.  "It's the caring."

--- End quote ---
There are so many times in my life when I wished from the bottom of my heart that I could just stop caring.  But I guess that's another one of those things, like being a man, that I don't seem capable of doing.

Another is:

--- Quote ---"That's so gay"
is an expression I hate.
Do you mind if I change it to
"That's so straight"?

--- End quote ---
I'm going to have to try that.

But one that I can relate to all too well:

--- Quote ---Sometimes I hide
in the girls' room
on the second floor,
hating my self
for all that I'm not.

--- End quote ---

Thanks for posting this. Addie's experiences sound relevant to us! I've placed a request for the book through my library.


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