both or not both / by Laura Kochman

I just woke up from a dream that took place at my Grandma's Margate house, that featured my Bubbe (not my Grandma). The house was a lot like the Margate house, but it wasn't exactly. My Bubbe was alive in the dream, but she was also already dead. She also looked nothing like my Bubbe, yet somehow I knew that that was who she was. She looked more like my Grandma than anyone else. This dream logic, when someone or something is several things at once, is not problematic for me, but in my manuscript it seems to cause problems for readers. Along the spectrum of writing whatever I want to write and writing what I think others want to read, I'm not sure where I want to land. I don't want to lose what I love, which is this sameness, this doubleness, danger and safety from the same character, two characters that can't be easily distinguished.

In my Baba Yaga research, one of the most interesting things about her is how she shifts. Sometimes she's the villain, and sometimes she's the donor that provides the magical object. Sometimes she's both, because she is unwilling to help and must be forced. Sometimes she's harmless, and sometimes the jailor, or the cannibal. Sometimes her house is a place of refuge, but it's also surrounded by spikes topped with human skulls. Sometimes she is a giant and sometimes a small, old woman, your fierce grandmother, one, or both of them, the dead one and the one that still lives.

But my book isn't about Baba Yaga. Or it is. Or it's about the human house, and what it means to rent it out. And what are you doing, reading these words? You're living in my house. You're the tenant of this text.


This, all of this, is what I'm trying to write. A dream in which someone is both entirely elusive, and yet right there. In your house. In your head. Maybe I'm answering my own question.