Say My Name: A Memoir of Lost Identity tells the story of lost and found identity as it has never been told: through the eyes, ears, and senses of an identical twin. But this identical twin reveals a different story, one of struggle and redemption.
The literature on identical twins is manifold. These born genetic clones have captured our society, fascinated our researchers, and confounded our psychologists. Much has been written on multiple births and those who live the lives that follow, from parenting guides to behavioral studies to narrative essays. But few books have taken to task the work of all three, as Emma Kate Tsai’s breathtaking memoir succeeds in doing, offering a cross-section of insight to parents, scholars, twins, and even individuals. In this sensual, riveting, first person account, Tsai brings the reader on a journey through identity crisis at its height: the deindividualizing experience of living in a world that knows you only as the second in a pair.
Parents will learn how to foster individuality in any and all children, whether twins or singletons; pre-pubescent girls will appreciate how identity comes from within; scholars will become acquainted with the humanistic side of multiple births; and any avid reader of lyrical prose won’t put this book down for long.
But, as a child, I twin-acted, a traitor to my twin self, hating it and everything for which it stood. That unseparated self carved its own cavity within me. She defined me. Without her, I was nothing. Less than nothing. An unnamed, untraceable grifter without a past. Composed of two selves, one on either side of an impassable dividing line, I could barely endure the staple of incompleteness without which I’d never lived. I could fight it—and my sister—as I did for years, but to extricate myself from Addie, or Addie from myself, launched a self-defeating civil war. If I won, I’d still lose. And if I didn’t do a thing, I just might disappear. I could barely hold firm to my own name; copyright protection didn’t apply to likefaced products like twins. Twinism was the infringement and, extant in the public domain, we had no rights. Our commercial value was in what we were, not what I was, not what she was. And so, without it, without her, I didn’t exist, my birth as a twin having revoked my license to an individual life. My only life was a shared one. Despite the beauty of an intimacy few people will ever know, crowd suggestibility aimed to squash me from sight, and a world parabalized us by our very nature, pushing me to wage a battle deep inside myself, where the I I’d never known might be. Hidden from view, I harbored little good will for the twin, and consequently, for my sister. I had to move away from her, on my terms, to hear my own voice, discover my own footprint, realize my own name. I had to leave her to truly appreciate her.