Mindy Tarquini’s daughter inspired the author to include a normalized LGBTQ character in her debut novel, Hindsight, about a woman who remembers all her past lives.
Eugenia Panisporchi, a 33-year-old Chaucer professor, has hindsight — the ability to remember all of one’s past lives. This time around, Eugenia is part of an Italian-American family so traditional that neither she nor any of her adult siblings have escaped their mother’s tiny South Philly row home. Eugenia lives a simple life with no love connection, no controversy, and no complications in the hopes that the Blessed Virgin Mary — who is like her personal Jiminy Cricket — will grant her heart’s desire: the option to choose the circumstances of her next life. But when a student reveals that he shares her hindsight ability, Eugenia suddenly finds herself setting up a Facebook page and sponsoring a support group for others like them.
Through the support groups, Eugenia soon discovers that she needs to confront her current shortcomings, not shy away from them, in order to break the cycle and finally live the life of her dreams. A contemporary fable full of humor, Hindsight reminds us to live this life like it’s the only one we’ll have.
‘What my gay daughter taught me about writing LGBTQ characters’ by Mindy Tarquini
My daughter is bright, funny, talented. And under-represented.
“There’s almost no gay characters in books,” she told me one wind-whipped morning at the seashore. I opened my mouth, she put up a hand, “And don’t go telling me Dumbledore. Being told he’s gay after the series is over means nothing.”
Here was the issue. There are plenty of LGBTQ books out there, with LGBTQ characters being…LGBTQ. My daughter’s complaint: rarely are LGBTQ characters LGBTQ at the grocery store. Or mowing the lawn. Or picking out a princess costume for the school production of Sleeping Beauty. “I just want to see them there, part of the story, participating in life, without a label attached.”
I understood my daughter’s point. As a Rotund-American, I’m often displeased by stereotypes in which the character’s weight is an unnecessary focal point in the narrative. I used my daughter’s insights while I worked on edits for my debut novel, Hindsight.
Hindsight is the tale of a woman with the ability to remember all her past lives. Trapped by her memories, the woman struggles to escape a repeating cycle of failure. The woman sets up a Facebook page, then starts a support group, in which she meets others who also suffer from hindsight, and who likewise seek a way to break the cycle. My daughter’s frustration helped me to shape the character of Tony, a member of Hindsight‘s support-group cast.
Tony dresses in women’s clothing and answers to any pronoun, encompassing the best of all, a trait demonstrated in his profession. Relaxed in his skin, Tony refuses to be defined by his sexuality, refuses to place himself in any of the boxes the other characters are so eager to assign. Instead, Tony chooses to fill those boxes with custom shoes. Shoes that emphasize comfort over contortion, and steeze over gender stipulations. Shoes Tony sells because Tony specializes in the hard-to-fit.
The writer, Geoffrey Chaucer, once said, “Full wise is he that can himself know.” Tony embodies that axiom, less concerned with where he fits in the LGBTQ alphabet, than whether his shoes fit his customers well. He gives that good to the world and it makes him happy. When challenged to pick his box, Tony sweeps a hand head to toe. “This is a shell,” he proclaims. He sweeps an arm to encompass the room. “And this is another shell.”
A proclamation that defines Tony as a truth-teller, a soul of the story. Tony becomes a beacon, the instrumental piece who helps the other characters put together the hindsight puzzle.
Tony is not an LBGTQ character. Tony is simply a character. His clothes, his confidence, his curiosity, his courage, his contrition over what sins may have landed him in his hindsight predicament — his reason for being part of the story — grant us a window on a world we all seek.
To be able to live our lives authentically, without explanation, without boundaries. And without boxes.
About the author
Raised by traditional people in a modern world, Mindy Tarquini is a second-generation Italian-American who grew up believing dreams are prophecy, the devil steals lost objects, and an awkward glance can invite the evil eye. She is an assistant editor with The Lascaux Review and a member of the Perley Station Writers’ Colony. A native Philadelphian, Ms. Tarquini resides in Phoenix with her husband, where she divides her time between writing and wrestling with her bread machine.