Body Geographic

Overview

A memoir from the award-winning author of My Lesbian Husband, Barrie Jean Borich’s Body Geographic turns personal history into an inspired reflection on the points where place and person intersect, where running away meets running toward, and where dislocation means finding oneself. 

One coordinate of Borich’s story is Chicago, the prototypical Great Lakes port city built by immigrants like her great-grandfather Big Petar, and the other is her own port of immigration, ...

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Body Geographic

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Overview

A memoir from the award-winning author of My Lesbian Husband, Barrie Jean Borich’s Body Geographic turns personal history into an inspired reflection on the points where place and person intersect, where running away meets running toward, and where dislocation means finding oneself. 

One coordinate of Borich’s story is Chicago, the prototypical Great Lakes port city built by immigrants like her great-grandfather Big Petar, and the other is her own port of immigration, Minneapolis, the combined skylines of these two cities tattooed on Borich’s own back. Between Chicago and Minneapolis Borich maps her own Midwest, a true heartland in which she measures the distance between the dreams and realities of her own life, her family’s, and her fellow travelers’ in the endless American migration. Covering rough terrain—from the hardships of her immigrant ancestors to the travails of her often-drunk young self, longing to be madly awake in the world, from the changing demographics of midwestern cities to the personal transformations of coming out and living as a lesbian—Body Geographic is cartography of high literary order, plotting routes, real and imagined, and putting an alternate landscape on the map.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From the first evocative, disturbing scene of receiving an unexpectedly painful lower-back tattoo of a “dual city skyline” of her childhood home Chicago and her adopted home Minneapolis, Borich (My Lesbian Husband) enlists the reader in a gritty, poetic tour of her personal geography. Layers of memory, history, and conjecture create a palimpsest of cultural and family lore and personal recollection, accompanied by a collection of maps and images, both physical and metaphysical, that track human imagination across time and boundaries—the 1668 map of Bohemia as a rose by Christopher Vetter; the “big blond body of Miss Manifest Destiny” floating over westward-bound settlers in John Gast’s 1872 painting American Progress; the “city in the middle of Linnea’s brain”—an x-ray of the tumor in Borich’s lesbian husband’s frontal lobe. The book itself is chaptered as a series of “maps” and “insets” navigating Borich through the “memory and dissonance” of her Croatian immigrant family of mine and mill workers, her own northward migration, the politics and experience of gender ambiguity, and the spirit of place. “Words are maps,” she writes, “and maps say more about where we think we’ve been than where we actually reside.” 25 illus. (Mar.)
Cheryl Strayed
Body Geographic is as astonishingly original as it is profoundly humane. Barrie Jean Borich writes of the body, the psyche, the land, and real life with a reach so grand and a mastery so definitive it clutches the heart. This is a beautiful, bold, blow-your-mind book.”—Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
Alison Bechdel
Body Geographic is dizzying in its inward sweep, daring in its outflung absorption. Barrie Jean Borich tunnels through time, space, sex, and language to give us a new map projection of the North American continent, a distortion that not only clarifies and illuminates but dissolves for good the boundary between personal and public history.”—Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home and Are You My Mother?
Dinty W. Moore
“Borich maps place and body, time and space, personal history and the history of the American Midwest, in prose that makes me want to follow her daring journey wherever it leads. A glorious new take on the memoir form.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire
Booklist Online - Whitney Scott

"Borich's memoir creates a Midwest where her body and the landscape intersect—a unique literary cartography that traces the lives of her immigrant great-grandparents and more recent relatives while exploring her own personal journey."—Whitney Scott, Booklist Online
New Books in Literature - Eric Lemay

"Borich sets out to map not only the city of Chicago and the other places she and her family have lived, but also to discover the hidden geographies in her own skin—the personal and collective histories, the experiences and desires, that make her who she is. The result is a book that's insightful, lyrically beautiful, and uncompromising in its search for a self as rich as the cities in which she lives."—Eric Lemay, New Books in Literature  
StarTribune - Meganne Fabrega

"Thanks to Borich's unconventional approach, Body Geographic is both a thoughtful meditation on the world and a telling recount of the author's journey through life."—Meganne Fabrega, StarTribune
Full Stop - Teow Lim Goh
"In Body Geographic, Borich reminds me of the surveyors who mapped the West. They got lost in blizzards and arrested for trespassing into Mexico, but they came back to tell the tales. Through their mistakes, we understood the terrain better. These men of empire believed they ventured into an uninhabited continent; Borich on the other hand knows that her landscapes are woven with memories and histories. The terra incognita she seeks to map is instead the caprices of the heart, a space that is ultimately impossible to chart accurately. But her maps show us how our desires are rooted in and our psyches shaped by the places we inhabit."—Teow Lim Goh, Full Stop
Lambda Literary - Rachel Wexelbaum

"Borich does not consider herself an outsider looking in. Body Geographic is an American story, complete with the sights and sounds of our country, capturing the complex relationship between identity, place, and growth for most people living in the fifty states."—Rachel Wexelbaum, Lambda Literary
Kirkus Reviews
A stunningly original memoir that explores a woman's connection to the real and imagined Midwestern landscapes that have defined her life. Borich (Creative Writing/DePaul Univ.; My Lesbian Husband, 1999) takes on the formidable challenge of "countermapping [her] American body against 'the true and accurate atlas' any woman of [her] place and generation was supposed to follow." The author was born and grew up on Chicago's industrial South Side, which her Croatian grandfather helped to build. It was a place she "carr[ied] under [her] skin" in the same way she carried a tattoo of Chicago and her adopted city of Minneapolis on her back. Borich's path to Minnesota was anything but clear-cut. As a young woman, she traveled to a "prairie college town" in Illinois to attend college, but she gave herself over to alcohol and eventually dropped out. When a much older male lover in Minneapolis invited her to live with him, she joined him. But privately, she agonized over whether she was gay, straight or "something else." Borich's sexual quest(ion)ing led her to the lesbian community, where she began to map out her desires through the bodies of female lovers. In this riotously gender-bent world, she met Linnea, her future "husband." They shared a journey of partnership that would include excursions into the inevitable bodily reshapings brought about by time, desire and illness. Fragments of history--her own, her family's and those of the cities that have marked her life-coordinates--intermingle with images and actual maps of Borich's "Middle West." Together, they create an elegant literary map that celebrates shifting topographies as well as human bodies in motion--not only across water and land, but also through life. Poetic, complex and innovative.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803239852
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2013
  • Series: American Lives Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Barrie Jean Borich teaches creative writing in the English Department and the MA in Writing and Publishing program at Chicago’s DePaul University and splits her time between Minneapolis and Chicago.
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