fig. 1: The Artist, 1993
© Corinne Whitaker

"If you would understand me go to
the heights of water-shore
The nearest gnat is an explanation,
and a drop or motion of waves a key"

"I am large. I contain multitudes."

unfolding: a memoir

by Corinne Whitaker
with poetry from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

I Identity

Genetics is destiny, they say. But what happens when the inner world and the outer world conspire?

fig. 2 Popcorn in Love, 1994
© Corinne Whitaker

Sixty-three years ago, two mutant genes mated, and I was their product, an other-than infant, genetically invalidated, an alien creature. A Jew in the pure white sands of Eastern Connecticut; a daughter in place of a son; a creature of spontaneity in an Eastern European family of rigidity and rules. I fought those demons of otherness - no Christmas lights for me, no Bar Mitzvah at the completion of religious school, no Santa Claus. My friends went to private schools in luxurious cashmere sweaters; I crossed the railroad tracks to the local elementary school. My father told me that truth was writ large in black and white in the scrolls of the torah. But at synagogue I saw women interested only in showing off new clothes and boasting of price tags and designer labels. I saw truth as an exclusive country club, whose members were males only: women were segregated and denied access to the significant prayers and rituals. The Rabbi ran off with a woman he was counseling for a troubled marriage. Power vested in maleness, white maleness, and money, identified by hypocrisy and bullying. It was clear that to be different was to risk rejection and ostracism.

fig. 3: Ectomy, 1993
© Corinne Whitaker

fig. 4: Men and Marrow, 1993
© Corinne Whitaker


All text and images © Corinne Whitaker.