Like many well-meaning, millennial hipsters, I struggle to find authenticity—particularly in regards to my identity. I question my motivations, preferences, and fears as if self-actualization were a matter of hours logged (in some sense it is a community service after all). Inevitably though, I come to the same conclusion: there is no real/right/better/more acceptable version of “me.” Just this one, and the same goes for everyone else.
Many authors have contributed to this understanding, but not all as strongly as Miranda July.
In her collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You, her narrators are
unapologetically flawed. They’re anxious, awkwardly driven, and often uncomfortably direct. Settings and plot lines go from the seemingly average, to ever-so-slightly skewed within the span of two periods. They warp your perception of “normal” like plastic tupperware left on a hot stove—melting and bending and folding in on itself but slowly, smoothly, naturally.
Miranda July’s writing is almost hauntingly relatable—like a transcription of your own inner fears spread across the page before you. Her characters speak effortlessly to all of life’s misrepresentations, and inherently biased assumptions. They simultaneously confront and forgive…a feeling which, for me, allows for an immense sense of relief.
There will always (I think) be the urge to conform. There’s some biological imperative to
maintain social structures because our genetics know (if not our conscious minds) that we would likely perish without the support of our tribes. But as our rationale evolves, we must also question this drive, and strategically challenge it.
Miranda July experiments with this in several parallel storyverses. She examines the outcomes of social awkwardness (or lack thereof) and invites you to join her. Both in the moment and every one thereafter.
Miranda July makes me question what it means to be weird. She reminds me that there will never be a time when I am less perfect, or more deserving of existing right here, in each individual moment.
I can’t recommend these stories enough, and hope you take as much from them as I have.
Oh, and if you finish each story with a deepening sense of infatuating unease…keep going. You’re right on track.