Shortlisted for the 2019 Pacific Northwest Book Award
Named a Best Book of Fall by NYLON
"[Dieterich's] writing is crisp and intelligent. . . She writes about her own reckoning with her sexuality and exploration of queer identity without becoming pat or coy, giving readers intimate access to her fears and conflicting emotions." —NPR
For as long as she can remember, Leah has had the mysterious feeling that she’s been searching for a twin—that she should be part of an intimate pair. It begins with dance partners as she studies ballet growing up; continues with her attractions to girlfriends in college; and leads her, finally, to Eric, whom she moves across the country for and marries. But her steadfast, monogamous relationship leaves her with questions about her sexuality and her identity, so she and her husband decide to try an open marriage.
How does a young couple make room for their individual desires, their evolving selfhoods, and their artistic ambitions while building a life together? Can they pursue other sexual partners, even live in separate cities, and keep their original passionate bond alive? Vanishing Twins looks for answers in psychology, science, pop culture, art, architecture, Greek mythology, dance, and language to create a lucid, suspenseful portrait of a woman testing the limits and fluidities of love.
Dieterich (Thxthxthx: Thank Goodness for Everything) chronicles her romantic life in this intimate and passionate memoir, which focuses on the link between identity and love. The narrative's central metaphor comes from the phenomenon of the fetal "vanishing twin," when "one twin becomes less viable and is... absorbed by the other twin." Dieterich explores each of her relationships as the quest to become either the viable or absorbed twin. In her husband, Eric, an architect and artist, she recognizes the nurturing compatibility of a partner, observing, "It's like we're the same person. We finish each other's sentences. This is what we've been taught to desire and expect of love." Then Elena, a filmmaker, enters Dieterich's life. Dieterich develops a romantic relationship with Elena, and in the process explores questions of fidelity, monogamy, and the malleability of sexual identity. Dieterich's self-exploration is also informed by her experience as a ballerina, as when she observes that the dancers in the George Balanchine ballet Agon never "merge their bodies into one and become set dressing." Like her relationships, the structure and style of the book explores unconventionality. Dietrich writes in short passages that could be read as prose poetry. The narrative, though, is seamless, as she traverses a period of uncertainty and questioning into comfortably claiming her queer identity.