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August 5, 2018

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg ~ Review

by M. K. French

Dr. Voth is a professor who had come across the apparent autobiography of Jack Sheppard and Bess Khan, two figures within London's underworld in the early 1700's. He annotates the work, discovering facts about Jack and Bess that haven't before been seen in academic circles: Jack is actually transgender, and Bess is a woman of color.
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Confessions of the Fox
June 2018; One World; 978-0399592270
audio, ebook, print (352 pages)
historical fiction
This is an interesting style of storytelling that I don't read very often. In the Kindle version, the footnotes at the end of the chapters are hypertext, making it easy to jump back and forth to see the definitions of the slang at the time. The footnotes themselves are academic styled initially, referencing different works; while there is an actual bibliography, I didn't check to see if these works cited in the discussion footnotes are real ones. A lot of the works cited in Danielewski's "House of Leaves" are invented, but the twisting footnotes of that book are a typesetter's nightmare and added to the hallucinatory and horror experience of that story. Like that book, the footnotes left by Dr. Voth become more tangled up in his own life, so that we have a story running parallel to that of Jack and Bess in London's underground.

There is an underlying discourse about academia, particularly when it's influenced by Big Pharma/military complexes. It's definitely a point that comes up a lot, particularly when the interest that they take in Jack and Bess' tale is more interested in tawdry details and trying to monetize that history while somehow erasing the queer history in it. Dr. Voth's personal history comes up more and more as the story goes on, and there's a distinct paranoia in it that really did remind me of one of the footnote storylines in Danielewski's book. The narrative goes off the rails a bit at that point, and to be honest, I was less and less interested in Dr. Voth's story than in Jack and Bess'.

I don't think you have to be transgender to feel empathy for the horrible situations that Jack and Bess go through. There are certainly enough sexist, racist, and classist aspects of their tale to empathize with. The history of disadvantaged and minorities have long been erased from the narrative, so this book does help put some of it back in. Transitioning is difficult in any time period, but to read about Jack transitioning in 1724 will likely help those in the process now. You're not alone, then, and others have survived that part of their lives. This means that you'll be able to as well, and that's an important takeaway to have.

Buy Confessions of the Fox at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

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