Guest Post by Olga Montenegro
Jody Keisner’s Under My Bed and Other Essays explores the ritualistic aspect of fear, the summoning of anxiety’s ghosts, and what it means to be a woman living under the promise of male violence. Although Keisner speaks truth to power on what it is like to live with anxiety, it is the exploration of fear and her grandmother that ties the themes of womanhood, illness, and survival. Keisner’s three-section arrangement (Origins, Under the Skin, and Risings) plays an intricate role in how the work is both read and experienced. The reader could interpret the three sections as a balanced academic and creative essay of the Genesis of anxiety, the kinesthetic journey of a disabled body, and the resurrection of Self, which are all ideas Keisner studies deeply about herself.
In “Origins,” the opening essay, Keisner explores her fear as her partner asks, “Why does your mind go down such dark corridors?” This is the premise of the collection of essays in which Keisner, while realizing her own body has an autoimmune disorder, is also realizing that the world is constantly telling women that there is always a threat. Learning how to coexist with this notion, Keisner offers an exploration of female-bodied anxiety through beautifully curated pieces with profound research that both enriches and empowers the reader. Always paying respect to queer and disabled bodies, Keisner unites her voice as part of a symphony of those trying to survive in an increasingly antagonistic world.
To offer a counter point to the deeply embedded fear, Keisner devotes beautiful moments and lyrical prose to speak of her beautifully messy and human grandmother, Grace. Always studying the power behind language, Keisner speaks of her paternal grandmother with admiration and fondness, “My grandmother protected my joy-filled childhood, but to do so, she had to keep a part of herself from me: her pain and suffering.” It is through Grace, ironically, that the readers find a form of respite and the goal that, regardless of how much this world tells us we’re not welcomed, there are ways to not be afraid.
Under My Bed and Other Essays by Jody Keisner. University of Nebraska Press, September 2022.
Reviewer bio: Olga Montenegro is a grad student at Bridgewater State University. She splits her time between Mexico City and Massachusetts. You can find her @ActuallyOlga on Twitter.