In her sophomore novel, The Lauras, Sara Taylor offers a cross-country journey of self-discovery that touches on gender, identity, and family. Told from the perspective of teenage Alex, whose gender is never revealed, the story begins as Alex’s mom walks out on their father and takes the teen on a road trip through destinations from her troubled past. The trip is both nostalgic for Ma and awakening for Alex.
Below, read an excerpt from The Lauras, out now on Hogarth.
Whether it was my unremarkableness or their apathy, I didn’t seem to register on anyone’s radar, teacher or student. No one called me out for being new, or gave me a hard time about my loose, plain clothes, or tried to trap me into admitting whether I was a boy or a girl. I suppose I was forgettable, came across still as whichever gender a person expected to see, and I was thankful for it even as I worried that this was the last year I’d be able to skate by so easily, that eventually someone would make an issue of my careful androgyny and I’d have to choose my side in the war, make up my mind as to where my allegiance lay, whether I identified more with my mother or my father. Because in my mind that’s what they were asking: do you want to grow up to be like your mom or your dad, Alex? And I still wanted to know why I couldn’t be both, why it was an either/or situation.
Though I was grateful for this indifference, it also stung; that was new. I had always been perfectly happy on the fringe, occupied with my own fantasies, with books and one-person imagination games and just a little bit contemptuous maybe of the sort of person that took too much notice of the people around them. But something had punctured the smooth wall of my inner world, infected me.
I noticed it for the first time on the day we’d turned up in Florida and I’d sat on the beach and watched those teenagers; once I was surrounded by other people my age I couldn’t deny it anymore. My peers had become unexpectedly tantalizing.
They seemed perfect and delicious in a way I hadn’t known they could, and I wanted to touch them and taste them and smell them; I didn’t have to pick a gender alliance to know that I was attracted to all of them. I glanced at arms and legs and the backs of necks, the way they walked and how their lips moved when they spoke and all the little unconscious gestures. I limited myself to glances, fearful of how I might give myself away were I to take a full look.
I couldn’t imagine that anyone else was having these cravings, these urges. And I didn’t have friends who could disabuse me of my misconception.
Sara Taylor’s The Lauras is out now on Hogarth Press.