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Biography Journal/Diary Nonfiction Social Sciences

Surpassing Certainty with Janet Mock: A Dialogue

By Timothy S. Lyle, 2020

Janet Mock—writer, activist, television host, director—has become a leading voice for transgender women of color in the twenty-first century. In 2014, Mock published Redefining Realness with Atria Books. Shortly thereafter, Mock became a New York Times best-selling writer and garnered the critical praise of folks such as bell hooks, Melissa Harris-Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and more. Hooks described Mock’s work as a guide to transformation, Harris-Perry situated her work in the deep tradition of life writing in African American literature, and Winfrey called her a “fearless new voice” who “changed my way of thinking.” In 2017, Mock published her second memoir, Surpassing Certainty, marking a rare moment in which a transgender woman-of-color writer released a second book with a major publisher. During our conversation at Babbalucci, a restaurant in her beloved Harlem neighborhood, Mock reflected on her first book in light of the writing of her sophomore release. She also shared insight about writing love and dating storylines for transgender women of color, an amplified focus in Surpassing Certainty, and she discussed the dynamics of disclosure in narrative and life. Further, she ruminated about what constitutes home for her and how to write about space and place. Such remarks importantly center her Hawaiian roots and her multi-ethnic identity. Finally, Mock offered her most recent thoughts on being a trans woman of color in the public sphere in a turbulent national climate—particularly for folks on the margins of the already-marginalized.

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