Travel. Sex. Work. Living alone. They’re universal topics, but for women, they’re often accompanied by societal expectations and restrictions. And for Molly McCully Brown, these realities are even further restrained.
From birth, Brown has been without complete control of her physical self. She and her twin were born early—too early. Her twin, Frances, died. Brown went too long without oxygen in the birth canal and was born with cerebral palsy.
In the essay collection Places I’ve Taken My Body, Brown reflects frequently on her connection to Frances and the ways her own body influences her movement through the world. While visiting Europe for a writing fellowship, for example, Brown writes, “A few weeks in, I’m discovering that being abroad in a wheelchair requires an intense kind of myopia that feels both necessary and dangerous. . . . I worry that, because my body goes with me everywhere, it won’t matter how far I travel, that I’ll still just be telling its same small story over and over again. That this is all wasted on me.”
But it isn’t. Whether she’s writing about traveling Italy in a wheelchair or managing a classroom of adolescents in Texas, Brown offers poetic, contemplative insight about her experiences. Yes, these moments are all, necessarily, observed from the vantage point of her particular body. But even when she revisits an idea or a location, the ideas are always fresh.
Brown has won awards and acclaim for her poetry collection The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, and her prose is equally lyrical. This affinity for poetry comes naturally for Brown because of the way poetry complements her corporeal experience. She writes, “In my daily life, I was desperate to wrench away from my body and I hated how stumblingly and ploddingly it moved, but in poetry, I found a form that not only mirrored my own slowness, but rewarded the careful attention with which I had to move through the world.” That careful attention shines in this essay collection, which opens a window into Brown’s graceful interior life.