I picked up The Third Person (2022) by Emma Grove specifically for Cannonball Bingo. I wanted another graphic novel to read, so I looked at NPR’s Best Books of 2022 and decided that Grove’s memoir looked interesting. Fortunately, it was available at my library, and I didn’t have to wait long.
When The Third Person arrived, I was surprised that it was a huge tome of over 900 pages. The majority of the story is a conversation between Emma and her therapist, Toby. Emma wants and needs the therapist’s okay to medically transition from male to female. She seems to know what she wants, but she’s also confused about a lot of things. When she’s stressed, she blacks out and can’t remember what happened. And there are people in her head, which she thinks is normal.
The reader goes on this journey with Emma, and I found it both confusing and stressful at times. There were a number of scenes where I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening. Emma, Edgar, and Katina all inhabit the same body at different times. But for a long time, even Emma didn’t know who she was or who was in charge.
What added to my stress while reading this book were the conversations with the therapist. Instead of a kind expert who gently pushes Emma toward self realization and understanding, Toby was often pretty horrible. He yelled at Emma, ordered her out of his office, accused her of lying, and said she deserved being abused by her grandfather. I am no psychology expert, but I’m pretty sure the psychologist is supposed to have more patience and understanding. I kept thinking I was missing something–wondering if Toby was following some weird program that’s required for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder. He sometimes later apologized for his actions, but I never felt that Emma was in good hands. Fortunately, Emma eventually learns about herself and manages to find another therapist who is much kinder.
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. The Third Person was especially interesting to read after finishing Becoming Nicole. Both are true stories with protagonists who are transgender women. But Nicole had a loving and supportive family who fought for her while Emma had the exact opposite. I got a glimpse into what a difference that makes and how difficult Emma had it. At the same time, though, this book was often confusing and stressful to read.
cbr15bingo: “Picture This” because The Third Person is a graphic novel.