I rarely read memoirs. I find personal excavation unsettling, a little too raw in its most original form but too packaged when well-edited. But Rachel Krantz’s book ensnared me. Alive and pulsing with insight and self-reflexivity, “Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy” creates an intricate portrait of a vibrant woman lost and found. I chased my roommates in and out of rooms reading out applicable dog eared portions. I saw myself, my queer friends and my straight friends in the book. A word that comes to mind is “parity,” despite the distance of race, family and job experience.
Rachel Krantz is a journalist and co-founder of Bustle, who practices non-monogamy — an agreed upon, consensual relationship where individuals in a relationship can seek other partners. In her memoir, Krantz seeks to understand her place in both an abusive relationship and in white supremacist power structures.
In a Zoom interview with The Michigan Daily, Krantz echoed the memoir’s introduction. Writing the book was an exercise in “being the most vulnerable persons in the room” and an attempt “to understand how (getting lost in her relationship) happened and kind of retrace (her) steps.”
“Open” encompasses five years of Krantz’s adult life, following her introduction to Adam, a charismatic man, and through him, non-monogamous relationships. The narrative traces the development of their relationship and his extensive gaslighting. The book is structured chronologically to treat Krantz as the investigative subject in an asymmetrical relationship, providing frequent footnotes that break the fourth wall. Primary sources like typed journal entries and recording transcripts are included as tools to help readers investigate alongside Krantz as her exciting romance devolves.
Rather than be a passive subject, Krantz falls back into her usual position as an intrepid interviewer. She is too vivacious a narrator, too quick and clever a writer to let her life be the memoir’s only subject. While readers are busy putting together the warning signs of abuse, Krantz flashes her own insecurities about her queerness and positionality in the peripheral. It’s a brilliantly employed and aggressively engrossing tactic. By the midpoint of the book, the readers find themselves at a mental table opposite of Krantz, questioning the binaries they subscribe to and what liberation looks like for them.
The book frames ideas and anecdotes through critical feminist frameworks, making reading a treasure hunt for theory and its application in the real world. Krantz is a product of elite institutions (though she does not name or reference her alma mater, NYU, in her memoir) and as good practice, frequently signposts her positions and privilege. To her humility and credit, despite being an award-winning journalist, her memoir barely references her professional success. But perhaps because of Krantz’s past in journalism, scenes featuring Krantz’s queer friends and cosmopolitan lifestyle feel like more than incidental visits; through Krantz and her connections, the reader receives an insight into inclusive queer spaces, guided by a wonderfully expansive accepting network. In sum, the vignettes transform the memoir into a conversation that branches out and touches on a great many things other than just non-normative sex and relationships.
While reading, more about Krantz herself emerges, keeping her equally as compelling as the broader narrative. The realizations mimic the constant self-reflective and self-reflexive thinking Krantz anxiously cycles through as she struggles with questions of hierarchy, whiteness and womanhood. In a book supposedly all about her non-monogamous lifestyle and experience being gaslit by a long-term romantic partner, she seamlessly interjects theses about biphobia and power structures before hitting readers with her own lucid considerations of queer imposter syndrome and what it means to be liberated in the 21st century.
Krantz comments that there is an “under representation and dismissal of (bisexuality) with gatekeeping within the queer community. If you’re a woman who, like me, has always had these feelings, but you’ve only dated men seriously, it can have this effect where it’s like no one believes you, and so, then you start to not believe yourself.”
In her memoir, Krantz constantly references new literature and reevaluates how an individual can live in an overdetermined, oppressive world without upholding the patriarchy and other oppressive systems.
And this is not an accident. Rather, it’s through these power structures and critical theories that Krantz processes life. During our conversation, Krantz articulates how learning about anti-racism and power structures influenced how she processed her relationship with Adam.
“Learning throughout the last few years a lot more about how to be anti-racist and also just the kind of traits of white supremacy culture,” Krantz said, provided a “lens (through which) to view my relationship with Adam.”
She also noted “paternalism, rationalism, either/or binary thinking, the idea that progress is bigger or more, worship of the written word, and a disavowal of the emotional” all fall under the cultural umbrella of white supremacy. Though patriarchy does not only exist in white supremacy culture, it is a trait of white supremacy.
Reading Krantz felt like getting coffee with the right side of my brain, if it were smarter and more well-read. Rather than salacious, this memoir about sex, queerness and non-monogamy felt comfortable and inclusive. Krantz successfully made a space for me and my life and others between her vivid narration and asterisked advice and notations.
Daily Arts Writer Elizabeth Yoon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.