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    Making Out: A Literary Journey

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: Kissing can feel fabulous, but are we trying to do something more through this common expression of affection? For Kathryn Bond Stockton, making out is a prism through which to look at the cultural and political forces of our world: race, economics, childhood, books, and movies. The following is an excerpt from Making Out, Kathryn Bond Stockton’s memoir about a non-binary childhood before that idea existed in her world:

    Do you, ever, reflect on kissing? Maybe mid-kiss, wonder who you are, who you’re kissing, where it’s leading? Perhaps you don’t make out—now, or ever. Still, what is kissing? Why do we kiss? It can feel luscious, libidinal, friendly. It can just be friendly. But are we trying to make out something via kissing? Is it a yearning, interpretive action? 

    I am hot for kissing.

    Tonight, I’m determined she will melt from kisses, delivered in a pattern (clever, irresistible) I am going to improvise. (Don’t ask me how.) She doesn’t know I’m kissing her with insects on my mind. Something is making our lips astir. Something somewhere flutters, making me wish I could trap a few of these kisses under glass … .

    All the political forces of our world are at our lips. Fragments of the world embedded in a kiss. Kissing takes me deeply into politics and thought, race and economics, sexual childhood. How does something sensual swell so dramatically into these dimensions?

    Kissing itself is just plain strange. Kissing is neither hetero nor homo; trans nor cis. Children do it, too—even with adults. Asexuals and celibates may partake. But is kissing sex? Odder still, is reading? For adults and kids? Kissing, in this book, is strange, fertile, inefficient, treasured, tonally various, related to reading, beautifully unknowable. There’s a story here about my kissing and my reading, how I’ve read kissing, made myself out in the kisses I’ve encountered. I am revealed in kisses I bend to. 

    Take back “revealed”: strewn is more like it; I, whoever I may be, am strewn, splayed across my memories. Memories I love as I distrust them. Thus, in all that follows, I recall kisses from across my life: the “Hollywood kiss” I request when I’m six, raising thorny issues of gender identity; Devin trying to kiss me as Fred bullies me; the chairlift kiss, with God in tow; “interracial kisses” (bs term); the accidental kiss we mean and desire during a haircut that will out me—the kiss and haircut blowing my cover; The Kiss, which can never be repeated or rendered; my kissing “marriage” (as a queer concept) while I’m against it; the don’t-share-your-day kiss changing my love. 

    The trail of varied kisses described in what’s to come makes for a layer cake of words through which I made myself out: “girl” turning “gay” feeling “trans” under “white” facing “God” soaked in “shame,” having a “blast.” An arc of heated memory curves across this book.  

    Kathryn Bond Stockton is Distinguished Professor of English, former Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity, and inaugural Dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the University of Utah. Two of her books—”Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where ‘Black’ Meets ‘Queer’” and “The Queer Child”—were national finalists for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Studies. Her newest book is entitled “Making Out.”  Stockton has received the Presidential Teaching Scholar Award and, in 2013, was awarded the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, the highest honor granted by the University of Utah.  

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 32 years of successful book campaigns. For more information:

    Published on February 13, 2020