Interview | Kerry Cohen

Now that Loose Girl has hit our shelves, we asked author Kerry Cohen if she’d do a follow-up interview with us, since the first one was so great. Thanks, Kerry!

TKE: Last time we talked, you gave us the lowdown on the vocabulary of Loose Girl. Can you give us some new vocab that reflects your current life?

KC: PDD-NOS: Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. This is the diagnosis my son received a few years ago. It means he has some, but not enough, symptoms that would qualify him for an autism diagnosis. Yet it also puts him on the autistic spectrum. It also means, “We don’t really know,” and is therefore a pretty useless diagnosis. Those six letters have changed everything about who I am and what I live for. Mostly, I’ve learned what it means to have special needs, and I’ve come to know that my own special needs are much bigger than his.

Intimacy: Loose Girl is about how I came to stop not having intimacy. Since I’ve been married, I’ve been forced to learn how to have intimacy. This learning has been at a crawl’s pace for me. I’m really, really bad at intimacy. I mean crippled bad. I believe we tend to make lots of assumptions about what intimacy is, what it should look like, etc. I’m fascinated by this, and have spent lots of time just considering the concept. I tend to believe that our cultural narrative about intimacy is probably off-base and immensely unhelpful – maybe even harmful – for most people.

TKE: Are there any benefits to having been a Loose Girl — is there something (or some things) that you are glad you went through?

KC: Oh, sure. I like how my past set me in the direction I eventually went, to become a writer and therapist. I love that I gained the perspective I did, and that I was able to write a book that has been meaningful beyond my own self.

TKE: Who/what are your favorite authors/books, and why?

KC: I hate that question! Not because it’s a bad one, but because I can never narrow down my answer, and later, long after I’ve already answered I inevitably think of three names or books I should have said. But… here are the few that come to mind right now. Some favorite authors: Lauren Slater and Gretel Ehrlich. Some favorite books: The Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The reasons: Slater and Ehrlich are the two nonfiction writers who made me want to write nonfiction. Both see their worlds through intensely unique perspectives. Ehrich, in particular, sees herself more clearly by examining the natural world around her with stunning, accurate prose. Grealy’s book, in my opinion, is one of the best memoirs ever written. She is a master at making her self matter to the larger world. She took something already interesting, if topical–childhood cancer–and expanded the issue to encase female beauty and feelings of self-worth, issues we could all relate to. And she did it with beautiful prose and a tremendous ability with storytelling. Cisneros’ book, which is fiction, holds my favorite narrative voice. No one has ever repeated as well what she has done here. Her chapters are short, quiet, and minimal, and yet they explode with the many complicated experiences of being young, female, poor, and of color.

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