Maggie Nelson is considered one of the most electrifying writers of America today. ‘The Argonauts’ is an unclassified genre talking about gender-bending and fluidity. It is a work of ‘autotheory’ offering a new outlook on love, motherhood, relationships, language, and binaries. The central focus of the work is the romance between Nelson and Harry Dodge. The author has traced her journey from falling in love with Harry, getting married, pregnancy, and joys & complications of homemaking.
Nelson has cleverly used arguments about sex, gender, marriage, and child rearing of certain theorists to talk about her own personal experiences. Her emphasis on care-taking and individual freedom is what makes this book an uncompromising unclassified genre.
The story of her life is sure to move you. She fell in love and got married to transgender Harry just before Prop 8, a law banning same-sex marriages in California.
Both individuals go through tough body changes, Nelson undergoes several rounds of IVF treatment to get pregnant and Harry injects himself with injections of testosterone and gets a top surgery to liberate him from the pains of chest-binding. His three-year-old son joins the family and their baby ‘Iggy’ is also born.
From domestic dramas, parenting, and readjustments, there is a shift to problems like encounters with the society who do not accept a slant in the system and rob them as basic human beings, threatening their identity. The obsession with binaries, maintaining a pure and unpolluted system, and constant policing and investigating are some of the factors the author uncovers while breaking the culture open. I was personally quite disturbed by the double standards and hypocrisy of people around the world. She presents herself and Dodge so nakedly in their experiences that you can feel the oppression and abstracts of the works of conservatives and thinkers who enforce these prohibitions.
In a much bigger sense, this novel is also about boundary crossing, dependence, and interpenetration. She beautifully mingles the birth of Iggy and death of Harry’s mother towards the end of the book. Both birth and death in the same context is actually a poetic strategy undertaken by Maggie here. She has the strength to fight and talk about violence while she is pregnant, which was surprising to the majority of the critics. Only a powerful mind can write about a powerful subject like this. If you desire freedom the way she does, then this is a book that undoubtedly should be on your shelf. If you already have freedom, be grateful and think harder, you will certainly find yourself pondering over the uncertainties of life.
If this book inspired you, also get enlightened as you read, “All The Lives I Want” by Alana Massey which shows how culture can define you.