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R/B Mertz Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

R/B Mertz
R/B Mertz (thee/thou) is a non-binary/trans butch artist and poet. They wrote the poetry manuscript “C U T” which was a finalist for the XP Kennedy Poetry Prize.

Mertz taught writing in Pittsburgh for eleven years and was honored to be a finalist for City of Asylum’s 2020-21 Emerging Poet Laureate of Pittsburgh.

Mertz has published more than a hundred poems in literary journals including DIAGRAM, Arc Poetry Magazine, BathHouse, American Journal of Poetry, Guernica Magazine, Fence, Drunken Boat, Powders Press, and The Gay and Lesbian Review.

Mertz studied poetry in graduate school with everyone that was into poetry, and not just kind of cult Christian folk. Mertz would write these poems that were referring to things and making what they believed were really cool allusions to different things, but then realized that nobody else knows the hell they were talking about since her culture was this very small subculture.

Writing the memoir was the exact opposite of this and required being very clear. When it came to writing the memoir, it was a struggle for Mertz. It was a transition because during grad school, Mertz got to just write poetry and really only focused on doing that. But this also required a narrative.

Mertz wonders if the book places her in closer proximity to the Catholic church than they even are. Their goal with the memoir was to portray the humanity of the folks within such a toxic culture, not to make the culture seem any less toxic. Mertz says a lot that Catholicism and even Christianity are languages that they speak, possibly like variants of the same language, and even though Mertz no longer has a horse in that race, they still like horses.

So if they can speak such a language and reach people that may otherwise harm their queer kids or themselves since they’re just listening to select parts of the literature of this language, Mertz believes it is handy that they spent some of their most energetic, passionate years tearing through all of this literature, searching for signs, and that they were still okay.

And Mertz was able to find them, on the margins. The Mystics, the forgotten saints, those trans saints of the early church no one will talk about, but like queers everywhere else, what Mertz needed was all out there on the margins.

Christianity and Catholicism were used like bats against Mertz, however just because they were beaten with this certain tool that does not mean that is always how that tool is used.

Mertz never recommends attempting to stay in a religion to the point that you have tried to kill yourself over it. They recommend leaving, making yoou own house and getting it in order. Live your own life, your true and authentic life. Go and find folks that like you and don’t make you feel as though you’re just silencing some part of yourself. Just see what returns to you. What parts of your tradition do you want to go out and restore and bring into your new life? Which is a form of redemption, Mertz believes, the idea of redeeming of making

On January 1, 2021, Mertz left the US for love, and they live in Toronto, Ontario, traditionally the territory of many nations including the Chippewa, the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples.

“Burning Butch” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2022. This is the brave story about a non-binary/trans butch on a quest to survive religious, conservative, American culture while simultaneously questioning if there’s room in their heart for the traditional faith they were raised with, and what it truly means to come home again.

Divorce moves young Rebecca Mertz away from rural Pennsylvania and their abusive dad, Mertz and their mom find a new life in a conservative Catholic subculture just outside of Washington, D.C. It is there, Mertz’s adolescence is dominated by fundamentalist Catholicism. Life becomes saints, God, and babies.

Except of course for the showtunes that they latch onto, voices which permeate their childhood boundaries, singing about different worlds. Mertz spends their whole childhood split between Maryland and Pennsylvania, split between mom and dad, between Catholic homeschooling and secular Americana, between violence and safety, between the “world” they keep getting warned against and their real life.

It is while in homeschooling that Mertz learns what good, Catholic values actually are: pro-life, anti-queer, anti-feminist, pro-Jesus. The more babies, the better, so as to prove a stronger devotion to God. In an effort to interrogate their faith, their dad, and to repress the growing feelings Mertz has about a woman in their community, they choose the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a conservative Catholic school in Ohio.

While Mertz comes of age at an oppressive and gender-dependent Catholic college during the early aughts, they grapple with attractions, relationships with teachers and friends, sexual encounters. Men and women whom they admire and trust that romantically engage with them while in the same breath renounce the sacrilege of Mertz’s own identity.

Ever the outcast during their college years during their aptitude and affinity for poetry, Mertz is stuck facing their sexuality and what exactly it may mean within the confines of their strict faith. While Mertz struggles to navigate this repressive environment, and questions the role they could play in this community, the vulnerable identity they create starts threatening the life that they know in potentially irreversible ways.

Readers found this book to be an intense one, and it was beautiful yet also painful. Some read certain lines and wanted to shout ‘exactly!’ because Mertz captures exactly what it’s like to both be Catholic and queer. This is an articulate, quirky recounting of the author’s journey from fundamentalist Catholicism to their current identity as a nonbinary butch that teaches at a Catholic University and still wrestles with issues of their faith.

This book is well worth the read, as it is a heartrending and honest tale about a woman driven to despair before she acknowledged herself and who she truly was. Very well written, including personal stories about her teachers, the people she interacted with, and her family.

Book Series In Order » Authors » R/B Mertz

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