Diagnosed with cancer at age twelve and perilously pregnant at eighteen, surviving surgeries and violent accidents: sometimes you can't believe Bee Lavender is still alive; sometimes you think nothing could kill her. Lessons in Taxidermy is Lavender's fierce and expressive search for truth and an elusive sense of safety. This autobiographical tale is stark and resolved, but strangely euphoric, tying together moments and memories into a frantic, delicate, and often transcendently funny account of anguish and confusion, pain and poverty, isolation and illusion. While staying conscious of the particulars of her circumstances, Lavender frames her life in the context of history, traveling, landscape, and freak show culture. Lessons in Taxidermy is apocryphal, troubling, cathartic, and important.
I've known Bee for several years; she's one of the editors of Hip Mama and is an incredible woman/writer/mother/activist/human being with the coolest signature cat eye glasses around (not to mention the coolest name). I remember when she was first sending Lessons in Taxidermy to publishers. Editors told her it was too dark, too depressing; no one would buy it, they told her. She ended up publishing parts of it herself serially in zine form. And then Akashic/Punk Planet picked it up.
I had been blown away by the portions of the book I had seen when it was in its zine incarnation; it's wonderful to see how she has pulled everything together into a narrative that is breathtaking in its horrible, beautiful honesty. Such a vivid exploration of what it's like to live in a dramatically unpredictable body, a dramatically unpredictable world. And despite those early editors' dire predictions, the book has ended up on the bestseller list of the Village Voice, and is earning accolades far and wide.