One of my favorite author-written Forewords is to Lindsay Lerman’s I’m From Nowhere. A decade before the publication of her book, she had moved from Toronto to Istanbul, where she was a research assistant and taught English. She didn’t really speak Turkish, and she lived in “relative isolation” in a little apartment. Of this period in her life, she says:
…I was given permission to abandon myself, and to recreate myself as I saw fit. I didn’t have enough to ask myself: What will you do? And I did not have the dangerous lure of doing the usual shit to distract myself from the question. I was fortunate to be there, in Istanbul, no matter how maddening and difficult it was, but anyone who has abandoned and recreated themselves out of necessity knows that it’s not quite fun, that it feels like death—is death—and of course it’s beautiful, but beauty hurts.
Did I have the luxury of shattering, or the sudden absence of the luxury of habit and inhabiting recognizable norms? Probably a bit of both.Lindsay Lerman, I’m From Nowhere. CLASH Books, 2020. Foreword, p. xiv.
Those of us who have moved far away or otherwise gone through a period that feels somewhat like a hiatus or personal reinvention might relate.
Much twentieth-centry literature imagined that “personal crises could often be neatly separated from political crises,” and “all the books I read that inhabited that fantasy world made me sad, not in the deep reckoning-with-reality kind of way, but sad in the way you feel when you watch someone walk unwittingly into danger, knowing you can’t stop them.”
In this book, she acknowledges that “the issues related to ‘climate’ are subcutaneous—felt but barely articulated…I don’t necessarily like the way we continue to carry on as we make the world less and less inhabitable, and as we see fresh evidence of it each day. But…we are allowed to create characters and milieux that we find disagreeable, or troubling, or don’t fully understand.”