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Ed. Magazine

Memoir Making

Michael Sadowski
Michael Sadowski

Michael Sadowski, Ed.M.’95, Ed.D.’05, believes that every life can tell a story — it just takes some digging to figure out what that story is. Recently, we sat down with Sadowski to learn about his story, Men I’ve Never Been, which was published as a memoir last spring and shortlisted for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for Nonfiction.

How did this book, your memoir, come about?

The book started when I was just writing stories, some about being bullied and about my family. I quickly realized that gender socialization was a thread connecting these stories. As a graduate student, I worked very closely with [former Ed School Professor] Carol Gilligan, whose work explores theories about gender socialization. I saw those theories at play in my own life. They informed the story arc of what my memoir became. In some ways, it’s a gay coming-of-age memoir ... but I’d like to think it’s more than that. It’s really about how we’re socialized into gender in our culture, and the ways that socialization costs us some of our closest relationships.

So you found your story through the writing process?

Yes. I wouldn’t say that my attitudes about the individual incidents I was remembering and writing about changed, but the lens that I saw them through did. I started to understand that writing a memoir is a process of understanding. You come to see your own story as a story. My own journey through trying to emulate all these different masculine images was a story about the ways in which our gender socialization can silence us. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think that we all have stories that we live. We may just see them as things that happened, but they are metaphors. They are stories.

Who do you hope will read Men I’ve Never Been?

People who relate to the idea of trying to live up to a false self. I distanced myself from a lot of relationships in my life — with family, with friends, with partners — because I didn’t feel like I could be my authentic self. If you’ve felt this way, my story is for you.

Michael Sadowski is an associate dean at Bard College, where he has been teaching courses on adolescent identity and LGBTQ issues in education for more than a decade. He is also the author of several other books, including Safe is Not Enough and Adolescents at School. Prior, he taught high school for five years.

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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