Fred: An Unbecoming Woman
by Annie Krabbenschmidt
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Pub Date 03 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2022
As she recounts the journey from the blissful non-committance of her “straight” origins, to falling in love, to her years spent (shockingly) alone, Annie Krabbenschmidt’s debut book is both wickedly funny and heartbreaking. More autotheory than memoir, Fred deconstructs the institution of “womanhood,” defying gender and genre.
Krabbenschmidt charts their adolescence through a constellation of their coded interactions with 2000s media—including The Notebook, Twilight, and, of course, Mean Girls—and is eventually resigned to undergo their inevitable arrival at true queerness. “Do I get no say?” a teenaged Krabbenschmidt screams into their godless void, only to be met by a challenge to embrace the unknown and the possibility of love, acceptance, and bold self-actualization.
Fred carves lasting grooves of ache and comedic introspection. Wielding her Marin-County-bred compulsory social grace, Krabbenschmidt invites us to be a part of her “coming out” story, though the road is far from unidirectional. This book is a lesson in accepting comfort, love, and desire, and freeing yourself of the ties that bind from both sides.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 7 members
In what is essentially a collection of introspective essays, Fred is Annie Krabbenschmidt’s coming-out/coming-of-age story, and it is filled with humour, heartbreak, candour, and thoughtfulness. I always say that I read (fiction and non-) to learn about the world and how others navigate it, and Krabbenschmidt’s story — overcoming an affluent and loving childhood that, perversely, traumatised and oppressed Krabbenschmidt with its strict gender expectations — represents the perfect union of a person with something to say and the writing skills to say it; I learned plenty. I appreciate what Krabbenschmidt shares about her life, appreciate what she has to say about society at large, and although her struggles were not my struggles, there’s something relatable and universal about this story of striving to make the painful transition to adulthood with authenticity and self-love. I’m glad I read this and wish the author much happiness and success.
I was hoping for something different from this book when I began it; I think I was expecting more about Krabbenschmidt's childhood, more specificity about her sister, her friends - maybe a sort of lesbian Anne Lamott. Yet once I was into the book, reading and trying to relate my own experience to hers, I was in it for the whole of it and I read it in one sitting without budging from my chair. It's solid, compact writing, and I felt like I'd had a conversation once I finished it.
The author of this memoir, Annie Krabbenschmidt, is from Marin County, where I went to school in the 80s; her Marin County was a future version of the one the rich kids at my high school knew: yacht clubs, impeccably dressed and coiffed mothers, money, the kind of financial and familial privilege that I remember finding intimidating. Reading about it was fascinating; it reminded me of going to parties at the houses of some of my classmates, where there were garages bigger than my house, or livingrooms that looked like Architectural Digest spreads; houses where 13 year olds had double beds and walk-in closets and en suite bathrooms. I loved getting those glimpses: the resplendent lighting, the pools, the stairways going up and up. I was never at ease in those houses, they made me feel small and bland like a cross between Beth March and Ron Weasley. But Fred didn't make me feel that way: I loved the references to the local newspaper, to the yacht club, to sports. I liked the writing so much, the humor and the resounding honesty of it. Marin in the 80s was less *extra* than it is now, but it was still a place where I was at a disadvantage physically, socially, and economically.
Krabbenschmidt was one of the elite, multitalented people I wished I could be like; the ones who were Ivy League from the cradle, who knew how to do all the things to get from point A to point B: what to wear, what to focus on in school, what sports to play, how to be. I found it tough reading at times, because I felt envious, but just for a second, here and there.
Like Krabbenschmidt, I'm queer. I first came out in the mid 80s to high school friends, and was certain I was a lesbian. I came out again in the early 90s as bisexual, having realized that I was genuinely attracted to people for what went on in their heads and not their bodies. I came out again to my friends here where I live as soon as I learned that saying "I'm non-binary" wasn't going to be treated like a joke.
I lost friends all three times, and that's fine - at no point did I feel any sense of alarm at who I was - there was never guilt, never confusion, never angst. So it was fascinating to read this book by someone easily 20 years younger than I am - someone who grew up when AIDS was a faint shadow of the terrifying force it had been in the 80s and 90s; someone who saw gay and lesbian people on TV and in movies, who didn't have to reread the same 2 novels over and over again to get a glimpse of what it might be like to have a girlfriend, because there were so many other books. And yet, I felt lucky that I was so unbothered by myself, and I felt genuine empathy for Annie Krabbenschmidt, because I had it so easy in terms of being fine with the core, at least, of the whole big chaotic mess of myself.
I highly recommend this book - I have friends I'm already telling about it - and look forward to what Annie Krabbenschmidt writes next.
I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I could relate to this book so much, at times I felt like I was reading my own thoughts. A good story of what it means to be queer and how we never stop having to come out.
Everyone has their own coming out journey and how you come out to yourself can be the most important. It’s important to know there is no “one way” to come out and this story shows that.
There was no climax to this story and was more like reading a journal but overall was enough to keep me entertained and at points laughing out loud.
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