Elevate Difference

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog

Diana Joseph has weekly breakfast dates with her Satanist neighbor, a dog that tirelessly humps everything (including her petrified son), terrible relationships with men (including one that produced the previously mentioned son), and issues with her brothers. Save for the Satanist neighbor and humping dog—perhaps—most of those topics are standard fare for memoirs, and in the first seventy pages of I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, Joseph does not do much to set herself apart from other memoir writers.

The stories Joseph is telling are obviously her own, but she writes with a disinterested tone that is slightly unsettling and boring to read. Then she makes this statement, referring to her battle with OCD and subsequent refusal to continue taking Paxil: “I don’t think it’s ever going to completely go away. I’m not sure I want it to. Because then who would I be? What would I think about? How would I spend my time?” This marks a shift in her writing. She still maintains her dry wit and keeps a slight distance from what she is writing about, but she has a distinct talent for weaving in moments of vulnerability that—because of the straightforward voice she otherwise employs—never feel forced or exploitative.

“It’s Me. It’s Him. It’s Them.” is Joseph’s finest piece in this series of stories. It shows off her ability to not only write vulnerably, but also to write pointedly. She tells the story of her “perverted” friend Andrew, and why she’s not quite sure she can call him a pervert. The story steers away from Andrew and hones in on her discomfort with her buxom figure, and men’s opinion of it, which culminates in this self-exchange: _Do I hide my body under sweaters and sweatshirts and jackets or do I let the world know I’m female and as a female, I have breasts? Why do I feel so self-conscious anytime I wear a color other than black? Do I want to be looked at or not? I don’t know._And that’s that. She doesn’t know. She offers readers a look into the battle that she fights with her body and doesn’t announce a winner. Because if she were to have some kind of cathartic answer to all of those questions besides “I don’t know,” she would no longer be a non-fiction writer.

It’s that baldfaced honesty that serves Joseph well throughout I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. While I’m curious to see what would happen if she were to bring herself closer to the stories she’s penned, perhaps those moments of honesty and glimpses of vulnerability wouldn’t otherwise be so rewarding to read.

Written by: Alyssa Vincent, July 24th 2010

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