As Beautiful As Any Other: A Memoir of My Body by Kaya Wilson
I confess to feeling completely at a loss for how to review Kaya Wilson’s breathtaking memoir As Beautiful As Any Other. How on earth will I be able to do it justice? I must begin somewhere and so I begin with a word that keeps pushing itself front of mind: gratitude. One of the great gifts of reading is that we gain insight, understanding, compassion and empathy from reading about another’s lived experience. I am so deeply grateful that Wilson has gifted the world with this moving, lyrical and thought-provoking exploration of his deeply personal and challenging journey. Beginning with his survival and recovery from a horrific near-death surfing accident, Wilson shares with us his coming out to his family as transgender, his father’s death and the discovery of a silenced, hidden family history of queerness. Wilson tells us right from the outset, ‘This is a trans story. But it’s also my story.’ I have no doubt it has taken enormous courage and strength to write it, and Wilson has done so beautifully.
As Beautiful As Any Other is unlike any memoir I have read. It is so much more than the sharing of experience, the telling of trauma or a recount of life-altering events. It is a deeply immersive reflection on human identity, our search for it, our need to understand not only who we are, but also how others perceive us and how we in turn strive to identify others. It is an exploration of our culture, our societal constructs, our preconceived notions and biases, conscious or unconscious. It also reflects on our connection to the planet, and the vital role place plays in shaping parts of our identity and as such, the desperate need for us to protect our earth.
As Fiona McGregor so eloquently wrote in her review: ‘There is so much more to this book than meets the eye. Wilson is able to do that rare thing, fuse the personal with universal, the scientific with the emotional, without losing the impact of either. Instead, they are enhanced.’ This is a stunning memoir and an absolute must read.