Warland’s Oscar of Between is an astonishing book by a truly luminous writer. Intellectually and emotionally brave, there isn’t a word that doesn’t ring deeply, deeply true.
Vibrant and pulsating with life, Oscar of Between, like Warland’s other works, demonstrates Warland’s multiple engagements with crucial—and contemporary—literary, political, and aesthetic questions.
The book itself occupies a state of between-ness: it is somewhere in between prose and poetry, memoir and diary, narrative and notation. In this way, it becomes more than just a retelling of Warland’s journey throughout her life as a person of between — it becomes a record.
Taking the name Oscar, she embarks on an intimate, nine-year quest by telling her story as “a person of between.” As Oscar, she is able to make sense of her self and the culture that shaped her. She traces this experience of in-betweenness from her childhood in the rural Midwest, through to her first queer kiss in 1978, divorce, coming out, writing life. In 1984, she and her lover wrote lesbian erotic love poetry collections in dialogue with one another, the first and only tandem collections on this subject in English Canada. After the two split, she experienced years of unacknowledged exclusion from a community in which she thought she belonged.
In the process of writing Oscar’s story, Warland considers our culture’s rigid, even violent demarcations as she becomes at ease with never knowing what gender she will be addressed as: “In Oscar’s daily life, when encountering someone, it goes like this: some address her as a male; some address her as a female; some begin with one and then switch (sometimes apologetically) to the other; some identify Oscar as lesbian and their faces harden, or open into a momentary glance of arousal; some know they don’t know and openly scrutinize; some decide female but stare perplexedly at her now-sans-breast chest; some are bemused by or drawn to or relate to her androgyny; and for some none of this matters.”
A contemporary Orlando, Oscar of Between extends beyond the author’s personal narrative, pushing the boundaries of form, and by doing so, invents new ways to see ourselves.
Travel with Oscar to sights that provoked & nourished Oscar of Between