Every day is a new day. It’s full of the potential to grow, to learn, to love and be sad too. When you wake up there’s a sense of the unknown ahead, of chance encounters beside vending machines or on buses or in school hallways and random acts of kindness from your older sibling allowing you the last slice of cake (totally out of character perhaps and may leave you with the sense of impending doom) to someone returning your lost wallet with the cash still inside. A new day could suck or it can be the best day of your life, but, from the moment you open your eyes, yesterday is gone and today is full of possibilities.
Well imagine if every day wasn’t just a new day but a whole new life. A new family, a new school, a new body. You could be black or white, tall or round, girl or boy. This is “A’s” life.
“Every day I am someone else. I am myself- I know I am myself- But I am also someone else. It has always been like this” (1).
“A” has lived 5994 lives and counting, just for a day before he wakes up in a different bed and looks out through different eyes. “A” attempts to move through these stolen moments of other peoples’ lives without leaving a mark until one day “A” falls in love.
This is the first novel I’ve read by David Levithan and I devoured it well into late at night and was rewarded with the trippiest dreams. What would it be like to define ourselves purely from what we feel? How much of our identities are wrapped in appearance? How we look like? How others perceive us? What if the gender barrier didn’t exist? Levithan explores identity and gender through his character “A” who is neither a boy or a girl.
This examination of gender reminds me of a project by BeAnotherLab called “The Machine To Be Another” which allows participants to experience the world through another’s eyes including given people the opportunity to body swap. It investigates the role of gender in identity creation as well as breaking the barriers around sexuality.
You can check out the article here. Below is a video of this project that echoes “A’s” plight of swapping bodies.
(Please note there is some nudity.)
Who knows? Maybe in the next decade or so, the Oculus Rift or similar such devices will be used in schools to teach Sex Ed? But we don’t have to wait that long to discuss gender equality. Levithan makes his views clear as “A” comments, “In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard, when it’s so obvious.”
Whilst gender still, undeniably, makes up a part of our identities, Levithan also explores the affect of the past on our sense of self especially as “A” has no definable past.
“A” has no family, no home, no beginning, which affects his identity. She has only his memories to define her as he physically can’t retain anything. No photos, no gifts, nothing but what he emails to herself as a record of who he’s been.
“I have learned how to observe, far better than most people observe. I am not blinded by the past or motivated by the future. I focus on the present, because that is where I am destined to live.”
It’s a sad and lonely life, but whilst “A” is tempted at times to use his ability for his own gain (and I found myself wishing he’d be selfish just once), she maintains a strong moral core despite, or perhaps because of, lacking parents or mentors to guide him. It’s not a long book and it’s never boring as new characters are constantly flitting through as “A” borrows their bodies so I recommend it whole heartedly.