I like to think that I’ve become more whole having written my first novel If I Had Two Lives. After moving to the United States at twelve years old, I’ve not lived anywhere for longer than five years, moving from one state to another. My connection to place is tenuous, my relationship to people transitory due to geographical circumstance; my ability to hold together the various fragments of my identities loosens with time. I am perhaps lucky to have lived more than one life, yet as my life experiences gain in layers and textures, my sense of self grows all the more opaque.
If I Had Two Lives is a work of the imagination that has autobiographical consequences. I wrote it in bursts and out of order. When I had all the crucial moments, I began stitching them together, writing into the empty spaces, between voids, assembling coherence. Meaning is the magic potion that unites seemingly random series of events. Narrative gives meaning. I’ve not suddenly become surer of myself, but I’m more comfortable living with stitches, breathing in the seams.
Below are seven works of art that investigate powerful psychic ruptures. Often it is the protagonists themselves who undergo this split. They are not easy books and they shouldn’t be. Like most great works of literature, they ask difficult questions⎯How does a psychic split happen? Can a person survive it? How many masks can one wear before getting crushed beneath their weight? Is coherency an illusion?
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