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The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts is the book selection from May for Our Shared Shelf. I know, I know, I'm behind. I'm working on All About Love from March as well, but hey, at least I'm reading them. Originally, I didn't read the book because I had a lot of other books I was working through since May was Mental Health Awareness Month. But upon starting this one, I became extremely glad it was short because I am not liking this book very much. I wanted to like it, but I am really just disappointed with it.

(Source: Kelsey Darling)

Two Sentence Summary

The Argonauts is a memoir about Maggie Nelson and her partner, Harry Dodge, who is gender fluid. The novel is focused on Nelson's journey with pregnancy and Dodge's journey with transitioning, as well as their journey together. 

Likes and Dislikes

This makes me sad to say, but their really wasn't anything with this book that I liked, and this is why.
  • This memoir is supposed to be about Maggie and Harry's journeys. Instead, I feel like the portions of the book that focused on their lives were few and far between. Nelson talks a lot about other people and very little about herself.
(Source: Giphy)
  • I felt like I was reading a term paper.Nelson quotes other peoples works frequently. I don't want to read a memoir that is all other people's words, I want to read a memoir that is your words. 
  • I feel like the book started at a really awkward spot in Nelson's life and I felt like I was playing catch up. It starts when Nelson told Dodge that she loved Dodge, and how Dodge did not feel love was the correct way to feel so Nelson tries to find different poems and writings to correctly depict her feelings. And then it goes into them finding a place to live for them and Dodge's son. It takes some serious context clues to figure out that it is not their child, just Dodge's. 
  • I feel like the book switches back and forth some. In some portions, Nelson talks about life with Iggy (their son), and then it talks about trying to conceive, and then pregnancy, and then first-time motherhood. Also, towards the end of the book, she starts talking about her parents divorce which took place in her childhood, while the rest of the book took place in adulthood. It felt very inconsistent.
(Source: Giphy)
  • I am seriously irritated that she had to mourn the fact that she was having a son, not a daughter. She wanted a feminist daughter, a mini-me, someone whose hair she could braid. And yet, she is married to a transgender spouse. Not only do I believe that just because you have a son doesn't mean they cannot be a mother's mini me, but she should also realize that just like her spouse, they might be gender fluid.
  • For the majority of the novel, I felt like Nelson was extremely vague. This goes back to the amount she quotes other people. Instead of using her own words and thoughts, she uses others words and thoughts and then sprinkles in how she sort of agrees or disagrees with what was just said, but is never definite in where she stands.
Wrap Up

I was hoping for a book that talked about the life of a family whose lives are changing through pregnancy and transitioning so that I could broaden my understanding and world. Instead, I got a book that was incoherent and felt more like the rambling of thoughts you have while you do every day mundane tasks. Harry and Iggy play a very minor role in the book. 

With some of the quotes that Nelson uses throughout the book, I feel like she put them in their to sound wise and beyond her years. Instead, I feel like they just bogged down the book and drowned out anything that Nelson was trying to actually say. In some cases, it even felt repetitive. 

I've read reviews of people who loved the book and I wonder what they saw in the book to make them love it so much, just as I'm sure people will look at my review and wonder why I hated it so much. But I really do not feel that reading this book added anything to my knowledge, it didn't speak to me in any way; it just took up time and space on the bookshelf.

(Source: Giphy)
Rating: 1/10
Pages: 143 (paperback)
Genres: Memoir, Non-fiction, Feminism


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