November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

When Jenn Shapland was an intern at a University of Texas at Austin archive, she uncovered love letters written between Carson McCullers, the late author beloved for her novels about outcasts, and a woman named Annemarie, with whom McCullers had an affair. Soon after, Shapland changed her own life: within a year of the discovery she was more openly calling herself a lesbian, and so all their lives became intertwined. In this searching, thoughtful work, Shapland shares the letters as a corrective to the historical record of McCullers’ sexuality—almost always painted over by her biographers—and reflects on her own efforts to understand lesbian identity and its absence in literature. At one point, frustrated by the pervasive erasure, Shapland asks, “If indeed there hardly is a lesbian history, do I exist?” Through the process of correcting that history, Shapland asserts not just the facts, but also herself.

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