If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you are supposed to be here?
When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.
Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.
Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.
As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.
EE Ottoman grew up surrounded by the farmlands and forests of Upstate New York. They started writing as soon as they learned how and have yet to stop. Ottoman attended Earlham College and graduated with a degree in history before going on to receive a graduate degree in history as well. These days they divide their time between history, writing, and book preservation.
Ottoman is also a disabled, queer, trans dude whose correct pronouns are: they/them/their or he/him/his. Mostly, though, they are a person who is passionate about history, stories, and the spaces between the two.
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EE Ottoman on Documenting Light
To me, the erasure of trans and queer people from history mirrors the experience of being trans and queer in the present, where space is often not given for our stories and lives. As an artist and historian, I am haunted by this fractured and absent past. Documenting Light came from the center of this. It charts where the past and the present meet and how we struggle to make space for them both in our lives. I also wrote Documenting Light to be a love story and a story about family, concentrating on the things that tie us together as human beings. Finally, I wrote about coming out and finding yourself as trans and queer in a conservative, working-class part of the American landscape.
Documenting Light focuses on these topics because they have been vital parts of my personal narrative around being a trans, queer person. Wyatt’s relationship with their family, their sense of duty, and Grayson’s struggle to be out and visible in a dangerous world echo my own experiences. While I think some of the topics I tackle in this book are universal, many of them are specific to trans and queer people. To me, this specificity is important, because queer and trans stories are always devalued except where they overlap with straight and cisgender stories. To stand on our own as people who have lives, loves, pasts, futures, and above all stories worth telling is the heart of my process and the center of this book.
what people are saying about Documenting Light
A Library Journal Best Book of 2016
“Well-crafted stories with transgender characters can be a bit scarce, but this one hits the mark.“
“Everyone should be reading this book. Right now.”
—Prism Book Alliance
“I could gush on and on and on about this story . . . I give this book the strongest possible recommendation.“
“I have not read a more human story … Find and read Documenting Light. You will see humanity. You will be uplifted.“
—Dr. Rupert Nacoste, NC State Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
“I loved this story, this romance, and the truth behind this novel. This author has my admiration and the book my highest recommendation.”
—All About Romance
“A delightful and important read — please don’t let it pass you by.”
—From Top to Bottom Reviews
“An important book … claiming new territory. Highly recommended.”
—Just Love Romance Reviews
“I devoured this thing!“
—See Sadie Read
“These are nuanced portrayals, not paint-by-numbers trans folks, so they come off so very real and fleshed-out and wonderful. . . . Definitely recommended for everyone, but especially historians.”
—Trans Book Reviews