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Can You Imagine?: A Review of Chachi D. Hauser’s It’s Fun to Be a Person I Don’t Know


Gabi Diaz Guerrero


Whether explicitly invoked or implicitly summoned, Kenneth Burke’s notion of the terministic screen dogs me and my students’ steps every day. We see the effects of our personal biases and limitations in understanding the world around us everywhere we look, and we worry about what it means that so many of us, so much of the time, can’t seem to get beyond our particular lenses for viewing the world around us—and for imagining the possibilities for a better one. Chachi D. Hauser’s collection of essays, It’s Fun to Be a Person I Don’t Know, inhabits these themes and preoccupations with a thoughtful unease that is both deeply empathetic and personally honest. 


In our classroom, our concerns and worries echo with each other’s, all amounting to a fear that we then have to carefully work ourselves away from in favor of more helpful, more healthful hope: the fear that, no matter what, our collective imaginations may be fated to fail, to falter, or to harm early on, Hauser freely owns how their writing “gives me authority over the truth, at least my truth, and sometimes this scares me, maybe because my own truth seems murky even to me,” an admission that opens up rather than closes off the possibilities and yearnings presented throughout the rest of their collection of essays and invites the reader fully into their journey.


Weaving back and forth, Hauser’s essays reflect considerations of love in an open relationship and gender identity, her relations to place and particularly her experiences living in New Orleans, and her work and identity as a writer and filmmaker. Alongside these considerations, Hauser’s essays both implicitly and explicitly reflect on the ramifications of growing up with a name that ensures that “the larger storytelling consciousness intersects so distinctly with” her own “personal reality.” This state of living is one that unavoidably “distorts your sense of self,” Hauser reflects. These considerations are woven through the essays that directly touch on her family relations (the recollections of her grandfather Roy E. Disney’s funeral and various memorials interwoven with her reflections of ash-spreading stories in the Disney Parks and particularly in the Haunted Mansion ride, for instance), and in the ones that focus on New Orleans, her relationship, and her coming into confidence in identifying as an artist. 


“I want to create art that imagines a new way of being,” Hauser tells readers earnestly, but with no pretensions as to the ease of this endeavor: “I say this but I don’t know how; I don’t know if it’s possible. So I will write.” The connections between vision, imagination, and identity—and how this subsequently plays out in relationships, in love, in work—are reinscribed through the essays in a cycle, for better and for worse. Some insights are uplifting, even as Hauser is uncomfortable with the “cheesiness” of having them, like accepting that “love is losing control” and that fear and trepidation in this arena will not subvert the story or way of relation so circumscribed by the larger culture, but rather reify it in such life-denying ways. Some insights are less freeing on their own: “I’ve found myself desperately wanting to dissociate myself from the negative powers of the imagination, from my ancestors who oppressed people through art,” Hauser admits. 


Ultimately, striving for truth through language remains the goalpost to which we tie our hopes: my students’, Hauser’s, mine, all of ours. “I can only write my own truth,” Hauser writes toward the very end of their collection, “and, even then, I won’t get it right.”


 

CHACHI D. HAUSER (she/they) is a filmmaker and writer who has recently returned to New Orleans after living in Paris. She has had essays appear in in Lit Hub, Prairie SchoonerSwamp Pink, Third Coast, Hobart, and The Writer’s Chronicle, among others, and is the new nonfiction editor of the literary journal Hunger Mountain.


GABI DIAZ GUERRERO is from Miami, Florida, and is a PhD student in FSU’s rhetoric and composition program. Her research interests include digital rhetorics, global/cultural rhetorics, writing centers, and online identity and communities.



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