“The Suit,” published in the Spring 2019 issue of American Literary Review, is an essay by Julie Marie Wade in which Wade questions, but never resolves, what it means for her to be born in a female body.
Much of the essay is set in scene and centered around a tight-fitting suit that Wade’s mother is committed to squeezing her husband—Wade’s father—into. When Wade’s image-obsessed mother is not home, her father splurges on James Bond films and hotdogs and explains to Wade that “every man wants to be James Bond,” even though he doesn’t believe he will ever be similar to the handsome agent.
Meanwhile, Wade’s mother encourages Wade to nominate her as “Most Inspirational Mother,” via a department store writing contest. Between scenes, Wade gives us drafts of her contest submission where she wrestles with representing her mother in “equal parts nice and true.” Wade tries to define her mother as a woman who “can see through who people appear to be and identify who they might be.” In these drafts, we understand that although Wade praises her mother, she also examines how her family relationships influence the way she approaches her own identity.
Through metaphor, shopping with her parents, and contest drafts, this coming-of-age essay is a story that explores gender identity in a home that explicitly encourages traditional roles.
Review by Alyssa Witbeck Alexander