For me, as a reader, there’s nothing more satisfying than picking up a book I just can’t put down. That usually only happens if the book is a thriller or a mystery written by a very skilled writer. It rarely happens when I read a memoir. So what a treat to pick up Daliah Husu’s “I am Woman” and find myself turning pages at “thriller speed”.
Not that “I am Woman” is a thriller, but for someone who is relatively unfamiliar with, and curious about what it is like to be born male and, and as an adult, transition fully into a female, I was enthralled by what Daliah Husu shared about her life. What was even better, was that she has the skill to write a memoir as if she were writing fiction. I haven’t found that talent with many memoirists. I had to pinch myself a few times to realize I was reading a true story.
A lot happens to Daliah in “I am Woman”. After Daliah is born, as a boy, into Dominican poverty, her birth mother leaves him to be raised by her grandmother, only to summon him some years later to live in comparative wealth in the US. But after a divorce a few years later, as he’s constantly getting into trouble, his mother sends him back to an upper crust Dominican boarding school. As Dalia grows, her many moves from place to place, and eventually from job to job once back in the US, parallel the inner transition from male to female. Keeping nothing back, Daliah Husu shares it all: dancing in gay bars, snorting cocaine, holding top-level management jobs, being arrested for prostitution and more. “I am Woman” discloses everything openly, honestly and emotionally. Daliah simultaneously loves and hates her life, looking for love of herself and others in all the wrong places, fighting internal and external demons all the way, yet never feeling sorry for herself. As a result, she earns the reader’s full respect.
The most satisfying memoirs are those that relate a story of overcoming struggles and finding oneself in the process. Even more satisfying are those where, by the end of the journey, protagonists are, at last, at peace with themselves. They have come to love the beautiful person inside.
In “I am Woman”, Dalia Husu emerges a multiple winner: she finds peace, learns to love herself, meets a loving soulmate and partner, and discovers her talent as a writer. She also earns a new fan: me. I look forward to reading more by this remarkable woman and thank her for enlightening me about the difficulties faced by members of the LGTBQ community.
Book Review ©Viga Boland