from The Rumpus
Borich has composed Body Geographic to mimic the cartographic process, the text a two-dimensional albeit lay- ered and evolving representation of the multitudinous self and the shifting landscapes we inhabit. The book is inserted with an array of maps and even has its own textual topography in that braided stories are sub-headed as “overlays” and “insets” (i.e., “Inset of Body Improvisation,” “Overlay of Open Space,” or “Panorama View, with Crossroads”). In its form, the book is a representation of a representation, but the effect isn’t so theo- retical as it is constructed out of its parts… In all, Body Geographic navigates fluidly between recovery narrative, travelogue, family leg- end (in both the literary and cartographic senses of the word), and coming-of-(middle)age story, and in so doing posits a new telling (or re-mapping) of the American story. “All Americans, even the most put-upon among us, might have a little bit of empire building in our makeup, some desire to refind the lost parts of ourselves through locating and owning, land- ing somewhere and inscribing our names,” Borich writes. By “somewhere,” she infers not merely latitude and longitude, but place and flesh and gender, self and other, past and present. She reveals how we lay claim to our physical and historical geography, to our lovers and to our own bodies—all of it real and imagined—and mark it ours, even as it makes us who we are.
from Publishers Weekly
From the first evocative, disturbing scene of receiving an unexpectedly painful lower-back tattoo of a “dual city skyline” of her childhood home Chicago and her adopted home Minneapolis, Borich (My Lesbian Husband) enlists the reader in a gritty, poetic tour of her personal geography. Layers of memory, history, and conjecture create a palimpsest of cultural and family lore and personal recollection, accompanied by a collection of maps and images, both physical and metaphysical, that track human imagination across time and boundaries—the 1668 map of Bohemia as a rose by Christopher Vetter; the “big blond body of Miss Manifest Destiny” floating over westward-bound settlers in John Gast’s 1872 painting American Progress; the “city in the middle of Linnea’s brain”—an x-ray of the tumor in Borich’s lesbian husband’s frontal lobe. The book itself is chaptered as a series of “maps” and “insets” navigating Borich through the “memory and dissonance” of her Croatian immigrant family of mine and mill workers, her own northward migration, the politics and experience of gender ambiguity, and the spirit of place. “Words are maps,” she writes, “and maps say more about where we think we’ve been than where we actually reside.” 25 illus. (Mar.)
from Kirkus (starred review)
A stunningly original memoir that explores a woman’s connection to the real and imagined Midwestern landscapes that have defined her life. Borich (Creative Writing/DePaul Univ.; My Lesbian Husband, 1999) takes on the formidable challenge of “countermapping [her] American body against ‘the true and accurate atlas’ any woman of [her] place and generation was supposed to follow.” The author was born and grew up on Chicago’s industrial South Side, which her Croatian grandfather helped to build. It was a place she “carr[ied] under [her] skin” in the same way she carried a tattoo of Chicago and her adopted city of Minneapolis on her back. Borich’s path to Minnesota was anything but clear-cut. As a young woman, she traveled to a “prairie college town” in Illinois to attend college, but she gave herself over to alcohol and eventually dropped out. When a much older male lover in Minneapolis invited her to live with him, she joined him. But privately, she agonized over whether she was gay, straight or “something else.” Borich’s sexual quest(ion)ing led her to the lesbian community, where she began to map out her desires through the bodies of female lovers. In this riotously gender-bent world, she met Linnea, her future “husband.” They shared a journey of partnership that would include excursions into the inevitable bodily reshapings brought about by time, desire and illness. Fragments of history—her own, her family’s and those of the cities that have marked her life-coordinates—intermingle with images and actual maps of Borich’s “Middle West.” Together, they create an elegant literary map that celebrates shifting topographies as well as human bodies in motion—not only across water and land, but also through life. Poetic, complex and innovative.
Borich’s memoir creates a Midwest where her body and the landscape intersect—a unique literary cartography that traces the lives of her immigrant great-grandparents and more recent relatives while exploring her own personal journey. “Maps are less actualities than acts of discernment . . . Mapping [is] the art of making out some new and more accurate self that I hadn’t made out before.” The “alabaster city” of her hometown, Chicago, and Minneapolis, a port of entry into a new life, are her defining geographic coordinates. Her immigrant roots, her youthful longings, her coming-out, and her present life as a lesbian are the subjects of powerful essays in which glimpses of the past generate an evocative physical and psychic synthesis. Illustrated by vintage maps, Borich’s literary voyage embraces “those monsters on the old maps” that “suggest the ways wonder and injury might inhabit the same seas,” and one life.
from Minneapolis Star Tribune
It’s time for a true confession: I have a plastic magnet on my refrigerator that is a riff on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” My mother gave it to me as a not-so- subtle reminder that our time here isn’t a straight line with a definitive end point, and that it’s impossible to predict all of the twists and turns on life’s path Barrie Jean Borich’s multilayered memoir takes this sentiment to its outermost borders as she visually and literally interlaces cartographic terms with her own personal history. Borich uses “insets” within the maps, or chapters, to talk about her family, her lesbian husband, her friends and her childhood. She includes illustrations of a unique variety of vintage and antique maps to represent her geographical wanderings across the Midwest and other parts of the world….Thanks to Borich’s unconventional approach, Body Geographic is as much a thoughtful meditation on the world at large as it is a telling account of Borich’s own voyage through life. “In a fully conscious geography,” she writes, “the landscapes of memory loop in and out of the body … a constant circle of departure and return.”
from Lambda Literary Review
In her third creative non-fiction book Body Geographic, creative writing professor Barrie Jean Borich traces the development of her identity as an American, a Midwesterner, a woman, a lesbian, and a writer. She connects these identities to the routes of her immigrant ancestors who traveled to Chicago, the historical evolution of Chicago itself, her own movement through the city as a child, a teenager, and an adult, followed by her “emigration” to Minneapolis. Borich also re-travels her roads through adolescence and substance abuse as she takes Amtrak and other forms of public transportation. These stories take place simultaneously, through musical narrative, historical research, and maps. Body Geographic was selected for inclusion in the American Lives Series (edited by Tobias Wolff). The series embodies this theme: The singular American life is a source of endless diversity, and the methods of telling the life are as important as the details themselves. Borich’s story could easily fill in the blanks of many American memoirs, if those Americans had the time and inclination to write them.
In these days of shrinking attention spans and dwindling memories, saying that something was “worth the wait” can be a tricky statement. The fickle entertainment-seeking public is in- creasingly impatient, finding it easier to move on than to wait for the next movie from their favorite filmmaker, the latest song or album from a favorite musical act they enjoy, the new book by a writer they regularly read. But “worth the wait” has rarely been truer than it is in the case of Body Geographic (University of Nebraska, 2013), the third memoir by lesbian writer Barrie Jean Borich. A queer travelogue incorporating personal and historical details that is seamlessly woven into a one-of-a-kind atlas quilt, Body Geographic contains of echoes of Borich’s first two books Restoring The Color of Roses (1993) and My Lesbian Husband (2000). But Body Geographic unfolds differently, spins on its own unique axis and is veined with roads traveled and landscapes claimed and reclaimed.