The BookBrowse Review

Published June 9, 2021

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

The Natural Mother of the Child
A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood
by Krys Malcolm Belc
15 Jun 2021
304 pages
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Genre: Biography/Memoir
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Krys Malcolm Belc's visual memoir-in-essays explores how the experience of gestational parenthood - conceiving, birthing, and breastfeeding his son Samson - eventually clarified his gender identity.

Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity. And yet, when his partner, Anna, adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as "the natural mother of the child."

By considering how the experiences contained under the umbrella of "motherhood" don't fully align with Belc's own experience, The Natural Mother of the Child journeys both toward and through common perceptions of what it means to have a body and how that body can influence the perception of a family. With this visual memoir in essays, Belc has created a new kind of life record, one that engages directly with the documentation often thought to constitute a record of one's life—childhood photos, birth certificates—and addresses his deep ambivalence about the "before" and "after" so prevalent in trans stories, which feels apart from his own experience.

The Natural Mother of the Child is the story of a person moving past societal expectations to take control of his own narrative, with prose that delights in the intimate dailiness of family life and explores how much we can ever really know when we enter into parenting.

"Belc develops a candid, gritty, tender story that should garner empathy and understanding regardless of a reader's background. In this multilayered narrative, augmented with black-and-white photos, the author successfully holds readers' attention all the way through the last poignant line. With vivid rawness, Belc paints an impressionist mural of what it means to be a parent while also birthing his true self." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This is a beautiful memoir of parenthood and selfhood that promises to expand the canon of literary writing on caregiving and identity. Belc is a nonbinary, transmasculine parent whose family story is here interwoven with revelations of the bureaucratic processes that are inharmoniously bound up with people's real lives." – The Millions, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"The Natural Mother of the Child is a captivating memoir of family, identity, and experience." - Bustle

"A formally daring queer memoir about parenthood and inheritance and the way our bodies resist the binaries of the state; The Natural Mother of the Child is brilliant." - Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

"All memoirs offer a study of a body through time, but my favorites make this fact transparent, refuse to separate the self from its tangible form. This memoir is an embodied story—of non-binary parenthood, of true partnership and the challenge of navigating systems which were not designed with us in mind, but on which our most intimate decisions sometimes depend. Above all, this is a love story, one which tracks the evolution of self through the relationships that define it. I loved this portrait of a queer family's making, its proof that the ways we love and are loved create us." - Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me and Girlhood

"This is a gorgeous memoir about families, raising children, and figuring out how to live in a world where intimate matters are both inscribed by individual history and entangled with the workings of the State. A work of solace and communion, this book is destined to be a major addition to the literature of parenthood and selfhood, one that will be read for years to come." - Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

Krys Malcolm Belc's work has appeared in Granta, Black Warrior Review, the Rumpus, and elsewhere, and has been supported by the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Belc lives in Philadelphia with his partner and their three young children.

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