Hilda Raz

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What Becomes You

Raz, Hilda; Link, Aaron

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography


Aaron Raz Link was born a girl, named Sarah, and loved as a daughter. Twenty-nine years later, after inner turmoil, deep thought and relentless examination of how society views gender, Sarah became Aaron, a gay man. This starkly open and moving book describes, in Aaron's words and then in his mother's words, both the costs and the rewards of this journey.

The book is divided into two sections: the longer, beginning section is Aaron's, an intense rendering of what might be called an inner dialogue: Aaron talking to himself about his place in a gendered world; Aaron talking to society about the role of men and women; and Aaron talking to us, the readers, as if we were his close friends, gathered around him as he revealed his life.

The second section belongs to his mother, Hilda Raz. In musing, episodic scenes, she writes about herself as Sarah and then Aaron's mother, about her own work as a poet and editor, and most poignantly about losing her breast to cancer.

On page 86 Aaron says, "A stereotype is a kind of camouflage; the eye finds what it expects to find, and passes over details." Throughout this book we are asked to look at, directly but never sensationally, our bodies' organs, our gender "details," not only as functional anatomy but as symbols of identification.

In both sections, I felt pulled along on this journey, both as someone invited and as someone looking on, an emotional voyeur, and in both sections I observed the unflinching honesty of the authors' revelations. But it in was this final section, the mother's story, that I felt most keenly the love between the two authors. It is this love that becomes the strength of the narrative, the ground on which this incredible story unfolds.

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Divine Honors

Raz, Hilda

Last Updated: Jun-03-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)


Breast cancer is a constant presence in this collection of poems by Hilda Raz. Part 1 begins with the poet's uncertainty and fear as she sits with her daughter in the oncologist's office. "I'm still me, same me no / matter what he says. Biopsy report shocks me," she writes in "Weathering/boundaries/what is good." After going under the knife, she further reports, "In the past year / I have given up four of the five organs / the body holds to call itself woman." ("For Barbara, Who Brings a Green Stone in the Shape of a Triangle").

Later, in "Breast/fever" she speaks of her new breast, "two months old, gel used in bicycle saddles . . .

/ stays cold under my skin / when the old breast is warm." Several of the poems evoke her daughter Sarah, both as a child and as a capable young woman who responds to her mother's cancer--"she knows whom to call, / where to go, or she'll find out, I'm not to worry . . . . " ("Sarah's Response")

The poet's illness is a route to self-discovery. Hilda Raz reconstitutes herself with insight, pragmatism, and humor. As she writes in "Nuts," "Nuts to beauty. / Bikini, music, then the childbed . . .

/ Nuts to the mirror." At the end of the book, "The fingers of rain are tapping again. / I send out my heart's drum." ("Recovery")

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