In a very real and measurable way, cisgender identity is no longer unmarked, universal, or assumed. It is denoted, limited, and in conversation with trans identities—or at least we’re moving in that direction.
While no one book can contain the revelations of an entire career, The Cosmopolitans is a novel that has deep roots in Schulman’s nonfiction, which I would broadly classify as an attempt to explore, catalog, and explain the queer experience in America today through the specific lens of her own life. A close reading of The Cosmopolitans can reveal the fruits of many of her earlier scholarly endeavors, from the profound commitment to urbanity she espoused in Gentrification of the Mind, to the powerful reflections on trauma at the heart of Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences.
I first encountered Norman Hasselriis in the summer of 1987. Barely nine years old, I was far too young to understand his work. A child of the suburbs and the city, I found rural life freaky, and didn’t get my parent’s perverse desire to spend our summers traipsing around the Catskill mountains visiting one potential death trap after another. Inevitably, there were no serial killers in the barns we toured or monsters in the campgrounds we slept in, but that always felt like a lucky accident. When we stumbled across Hasselriis’ store in the hamlet of Oak Hill (population 277, as of the 2010 census), I was convinced that we’d finally found our local Ed Gein.