The Rib Joint by Julia Koets
Published by Red Hen Press, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Rib Joint is a memoir of sorts, comprised of a collection of personal essays. These essays explore Koets’ experiences growing up as a closeted queer woman in a conservative, religious community in the American South. In particular, she explores the pain of navigating the murky intersection between friendship and love, desire and self-loathing, and freedom and suppression when she and her female best friend fall for each other.
With clarity and self-reflection, Koets explores the difficulty of trying to reconcile long-held beliefs with newfound emotion, and the struggle to overcome your own ingrained homophobia when you’ve been raised to believe your love is a sin, and that embracing it will see you ostracised from your community. There’s a lyrical, lively quality to her writing style, as she plays with imagery and highlights linguistic parallels. This never bogs down the essays, however, each of them being incredibly readable for all their inherent pathos.
Indeed, there were some incredibly moving passages here. Anyone who has grown up queer is sure to find moments of painful familiarity, but it’s a read I’d recommend widely. My only criticism is the arguable lack of variety in subject matter or tone throughout the collection. It certainly makes sense to have such a clear thematic lynchpin, but with hindsight, I wish I had taken more time to sit with each individual essay. As it was, I felt a few of them did bleed together somewhat, their potential impact diluted to some degree.
Still, this is a little gem I wish I’d seen discussed more. Koets bravely bares her soul in the hope that others will find their own pain reflected there, and feel less alone as a result.
Thank you to the publisher for a free copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
You can pick up a copy from Book Depository by clicking here.