Fairest: A Memoir

For Meredith Talusan, transformation looks like this: "Sun Child," "Harvard Man," "Lady Wedgwood." In the nimbly titled Fairest, award-winning journalist Talusan shares an unflinching exploration of identity. "Mirrors were not just mirrors to me," she writes in her prologue, "but bridges made of light to fantastic destinations, where I could be different than myself and lead a better life."

Born in the Philippines, Talusan had blonde hair and blue eyes that marked her as an "anak araw, a sun child." Assigned male at birth, her albinism made her "fair and beautiful," pampered by her grandmother, who was her primary support. At 14, her estranged parents and younger brother posed as a family unit for immigration approval to California. In becoming American, "I perceived myself to be a white person of European descent when I looked in the mirror." Despite impossible obstacles, she arrived at Harvard, joining the class of 1997: "Maybe this was the place where I could erase everything about me that didn't add up or make sense, the place where I could finally belong."

As a "Harvard man," Talusan explored sexuality, inspired by one of her first classes, "Topics in Gay Male Representation." While she eschewed lasting love as an undergraduate, she fell into a committed relationship with an MIT professor--nearly Prince Charming with his British title and inherited wealth--and considered life as "Lady Wedgwood." Her eventual transition to Meredith, "released after a lifetime of hibernation," will be what leaves her "finally satisfied with staying put." Confronting race, colonization, gender and sexuality, Talusan's fierce quest for acceptance becomes an evolving odyssey navigating contemporary queer identity. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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