Author Torrey Peters spoke at Brandeis in the latest installment of the Creative Writing Department’s Brandeis Readings on Wednesday, Oct.  6. Moderators of the Zoom event included co-director of the Creative Writing Program Professor Stephen McCauley, Brandeis Ph.D. candidate Holly Robbins and Creative Writing co-director, author and English Professor Elizabeth Bradfield. Peters’ new, acclaimed novel “Detransition, Baby” served as the focus of the conversation and reading.

Peters previously published “Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones” and “The Masker” on her website and through in-print self-publishing. Both works are set to be revised and rereleased through Random House in 2022. “Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones,” a short novel, revolves around the life of a trans woman character named Lexi and her relationship with a second character, Patient Zero, in a dystopian setting. “The Masker” is a novella on the protagonist’s contemplation on transitioning from man to woman in a society where one has to reckon with their gender identity due to the fact that all civilians must take hormone medications. 

Peters published the two works online in 2016. Both stories serve as installments to the greater movement of trans women in urban settings, writing pieces without concern for perfect representation, emphasizing a specific, inclusive style which they can all understand. In an article with the magazine Them, Peters said she was inspired by author Imogen Binnie to write messy, honest trans characters.

“Detransition, Baby” is Peters’ breakout novel. Buzz for the work has been comprehensive in the media, with reviews and features for Peters in The New Yorker, The Guardian and Vox. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, with the novel garnering acclaim and awards such as the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which is especially monumental given that Peters, a trans woman, serves as a reminder that both her personal identity and her work is valid and free to exist in its true form. 

During Peters’ appearance on the “Kobo” podcast, the author said she began reading a range of fiction at a young age, a habit her parents always encouraged. When she moved to Brooklyn and found a community in a circle of fellow trans women artists, she felt inspired to begin self-publishing her work and chose to focus on telling real stories of the trans experience. This, in turn, offered an escape from the confines of giving relentlessly positive, empowering representation to the trans community through her characters. 

In the first chapter of “Detransition, Baby,” Peters outlines a “Sex and The City” analogy for the realization many women come to upon turning thirty. Likening each decision to a character in the iconic show, Peters writes that some women at this point in their lives decide to make large domestic decisions, such as having a child or getting married; some put all of their energy into their career or make some sort of art. Peters plays with this social observation of womanhood by holding the common pathway of cisgender women up against the experience of a trans person, one who aspires to have access to those opportunities and shifts in life.

Next up for the Brandeis Creative Writing Events will be the “Brandeis Novel Symposium: Espionage, Empire and the Novel” on Friday, Oct. 22. According to the symposium’s website, “this one-day conference has a dual focus: both on a particular novel and on theoretical and scholarly questions raised by the novel more generally.”

The text for this year is “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene, a mid 19th century novel on Vietnam and French and American influence.