The Argonauts Background

The Argonauts Background

Maggie Nelson is an American writer born in 1973 and the author of the book The Argonauts. She is the recipient of many grants and awards, including a 2016 Macarthur Fellowship "Genius Grant" and a 2012 Creative Capital Leadership Fellowship. The Argonauts was published in 2015 by Graywolf Press and is generally perceived as being a nonfiction book, with many autobiographical elements. Nelson describes The Argonauts as a work of "autotheory," bending traditional genres through the combination of autobiography and commentary on sexuality, gender, and popular conceptions of family.

Nelson’s previous books are also considered to be nonfiction and semi-autobiographical as they all focus on some period in the writer’s life. In The Argonauts, for example, the author concentrates on the period in her life when she was pregnant. During this time, her partner, the sculptor Harry Dodge, was undergoing gender-reassignment treatment. At this time, Harry underwent a double mastectomy and injected himself with hormones, changing the scope of his partnership with Nelson and prompting her to incorporate these life changes into The Argonauts.

In this book, Nelson explores various aspects of her pregnancy but also her experience alongside her transitioning partner and the way they were perceived by the public. The book was received with mixed reviews by the public and the author was sometimes criticized for being so open about her person life and about her struggles. However, Nelson claims that writing about her personal lived experiences comes naturally, allowing her to explore important themes with honesty and integrity.

Despite sometimes harsh criticism, The Argonauts won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was also a New York best-seller, while also being a popular book outside of the United States (the book received especially high praise from The Guardian, the UK-based publication). The Argonauts is Nelson's most widely-known piece of literature and remains a "must-read" love story among many critical reviewers.

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