Award-Winning Books of 2016
160 pages; Graywolf Press
Nelson's brief but intellectually searching memoir—it won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism—is primarily a love story. A few years ago, her partner, Harry Dodge, who claims no fixed sexual identity, was undergoing testosterone injections while she herself was pregnant. It was a time she calls "the summer of our changing bodies." There is nothing about these transformations she's afraid to question: What is it about the desire to be a mother? What is motherhood? What gender issues are at play in both her and Harry's lives, and can they be overcome? Nelson's questioning spirit puts her in the same tradition of Susan Sontag, who could read the hidden codes in just about every cultural act. But though the The Argonauts is smart, it's also emotionally affecting: Nelson is energized about what it takes to make a family when you're changing the definition of what family is, where "becoming homogenized and part of mainstream domesticity is transgressive for somebody like me."