Steve October 9, 2020
a-mother-can’t-know-everything
Found in Transition, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Found in Transition’

By Paria Hassouri, MD

c.2020, New World Library

$25.95/215 pages

In your mother’s book, you were known before you were born.

She noted every kick, every head-bump, every stretch you made as she carried you. She felt your burps, and when you rolled over. And though she’d never met you, she recognized you the minute you arrived because your mother knew you before you were born. But as in the new book “Found in Transition” by Paria Hassouri, MD, a mother can’t know everything.

She always wanted to be a mom.

Born in the U.S., raised in Iran, Paria Hassouri was a teen when she returned to the U.S., where her mother insisted that Hassouri and her sisters get an education. But schooling was secondary in Hassouri’s eyes. She’d wanted children since she was a child herself, and was particularly eager to have daughters, though she was not terribly disappointed that her first two babies were sons.

For much of her life, the second born, Ava, had been a handful.

There were many conversations with teachers through the years, Hassouri recalls: Teachers worried that Ava was depressed, had behavioral issues, or was suicidal. Ava was a smart kid with great creativity and she loved to try new things, but she didn’t tend to stick with them for more than a few months. Because of that, when, at the edge of adolescence, Ava finally told her parents that she was a girl, Hassouri thought it was another “phase.”

To her own later guilt, she refused to believe her child.

Though Hassouri was a pediatrician, her first identity was as the mother of three children, two boys and a girl, and now what? She was confused, wounded, and greatly saddened. She and her husband had carefully named their offspring according to family tradition, and now one of them wanted a new name and new pronouns that sounded wrong to Hassouri’s ears. She mourned that her second-born would never become the man she’d envisioned. She cried and grieved. And yet, she writes, there really were just two options.

“I choose figuring it out,” she said. “I choose my child.”

Reading “Found in Transition” is tough – not for what it is but for what author Paria Hassouri says. It’s almost like sandpaper on a sunburn.

Foremost, there are a lot of hard truths inside this memoir, for which Hassouri states: “I have to own them and be honest about them,” and that took courage – although confessions seem to be necessary here, for her and for readers. This book, in fact, would’ve been much different absent those harsh, sometimes incomprehensible feelings and thoughts; readers may have even sensed that it wasn’t quite complete. 

No, it would have been the lesser without its brutal truths from this maternal point of view, because here’s the thing: though Ava is a constant presence in a memoir that truly wouldn’t exist without her, this is really not her story. It might make you angry, it might make you cry, but this tale belongs to her mother; indeed, “Found in Transition” is 100 percent a mother’s book.

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