Surpassing Certainty Book Review

Goodreads Summary: The journey begins a few months before her twentieth birthday. Janet Mock is adjusting to her days as a first-generation college student at the University of Hawaii and her nights as a dancer at a strip club. Finally content in her body, she vacillates between flaunting and concealing herself as she navigates dating and disclosure, sex and intimacy, and most important, letting herself be truly seen. Under the neon lights of Club Nu, Janet meets Troy, a yeoman stationed at Pearl Harbor naval base, who becomes her first. The pleasures and perils of their union serve as a backdrop for Janet’s progression through her early twenties with all the universal growing pains—falling in and out of love, living away from home, and figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

Despite her disadvantages, fueled by her dreams and inimitable drive, Janet makes her way through New York City while holding her truth close. She builds a career in the highly competitive world of magazine publishing—within the unique context of being trans, a woman, and a person of color.

Long before she became one of the world’s most respected media figures and lauded leaders for equality and justice, Janet was a girl taking the time she needed to just be—to learn how to advocate for herself before becoming an advocate for others. As you witness Janet’s slow-won success and painful failures, Surpassing Certainty will embolden you, shift the way you see others, and affirm your journey in search of self.

Thoughts: I read Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness a few years ago and knew that I had to read this one immediately. It has taken me a while to get back to this book but I am so glad that I returned to it. I decided to listen to it on audio while following along with the book and that was a great choice.

Autobiographies as memoirs are something that are a little difficult to review as I don’t want to review someone’s life. I did want to speak about this one though as I think it is something that is so important to read. I learned just as much from this book as I learned from Janet Mock’s other book.

As I listened this book I paused it many times to put a sticky note in the physical book. There were so many important parts shared and so many things to think about.

Part One: This section of this book talks about Janet Mock’s time during her undergraduate years and her years as she begins her first serious relationship. She also talks a little about the time that she worked at a strip club and lets you know about her family.

I really enjoy how Janet Mock talks about the idea of found family and includes those people throughout her book. She talks about the woman who work with her at the strip club and the owner of the club who took her in. I like how she also includes pieces about her immediate family and how supportive they were of her even if they didn’t always know how to support her.

Janet Mock discusses what being in a relationship as a Trans woman was like for her and the first serious relationship that she is involved in. I like how she slowly reveals who she is to Troy. I like getting to hear about her time dating Troy and how she feels about this relationship. I like hearing about how she slowly begins to date others and enter the dating scene.

I also really like the way she explains her Trans identity to herself and others. I love how she slowly explains the way that she identifies and how she didn’t want to claim her identity as a Trans woman. I think it was important that she talks about consent and access to her body. I thought it was important to learn about the ways in which she gave consent to others regarding her body and how that consent also transferred into her consent of letting others know she is a trans woman.

Part Two: In this portion of the book Janet Mock talks more about her time in graduate school in New York. She discusses what it was like for her to not only be surrounded by whiteness in the city but also being one of five Black girls in her graduate program.

I love the way she discusses her feelings towards this and particularly how she points out that she felt these 5 Black girls “weren’t there for their education but to provide their peers a diverse learning experience.” I thought this was such an important statement and something to really think about. It reminds me of how often time people of color and even more so Black people in a classroom are expected to educate their peers on diversity, inclusion, and racism.

I liked how she included a piece about her in therapy and how that started her writing journey. I thought that piece was so important to destigmatize therapy and bring attention to mental health. I thought it was important that she points out how valuable therapy can be for people of color.

I found it interesting to learn about how she looked away from activism and advocacy work. I thought it was great to learn why she didn’t want to do that work and wanted to forge a different path for herself. She talks about her first jobs about graduation and also her time in publishing. I loved learning about how she came to advocate for herself and how that advocacy shifted into activism for all.

Narrator and Writing Style: I loved listening to this book as the person who is reading the book is the author of the book. When authors read their stories the experience feels a lot more intimate and reminds me that they are letting me into their lives. It was a privilege to be able to hear about this portion of Janet Mock’s life and how it contributed to the person she has become.

Each chapter flows into each other so well and no transition between different portions of her life are needed. I like how we find out more about Janet Mock through each chapter and we get to learn more about how she feels. I like how we slowly get to see her grow into herself and grow around others.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

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