There are two things Karleen Pendleton Jiménez always wanted to do in life: write a book and have a baby.
Her new memoir, How to Get a Girl Pregnant, is about accomplishing both of these goals.
The self-identified “Chicana at large in Canada” started writing in university. “I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I was more of a math person,” she says.
But she was eventually influenced to put pen to paper by a favourite writing-class professor. “I thought she was so cool. I wanted to be just like her,” she says.
So she bid farewell to engineering and took up writing.
Jiménez, who is also a professor in the school of education at Trent University, began self-publishing zines in 1999. She played with different genres, wrote short stories based on her life, and later began to focus on personal essays. After a chance encounter following a downtown Toronto reading two years ago, her writing career really took off.
“I was doing a reading and said, ‘These are excerpts from a book I want to write,’ and the publishers were there. And the crowd really liked the piece. Things I thought were heartbreaking had people laughing,” she says.
Among those laughing was Tightrope Books publisher Halli Villegas. She approached Jiménez after the reading and offered her a book deal on the spot.
“They chose me,” says Jiménez. “Very Hollywood.”
Most writers have a manuscript and then look for a publisher. Jiménez did things in reverse. She says she wrote two hours a day, every day, for a year.
“Everyone’s dying to know: ‘How does a lesbian get pregnant?’” she says.
But it’s more than that, she says. The book is about a woman in her late 30s and early 40s who really wants a child.
Jiménez says it is also a challenge to the queer community: “Butches can have kids, too!” she says. “People don’t see me as someone who wants to have kids or should have kids. There’s a big stigma if you’re butch. Definitely within the lesbian community.”
In How to Get a Girl Pregnant, she writes, “As a butch, I would alarm proper women like my mother, who would see me as someone who wasn’t going to make family, make babies, make a home.”
She adds, “I think it’ll push people to think about what being butch means to them and what it means they can do and can’t do and why.”
She says trying to get pregnant made her think about things she’d never contemplated before.
“The book is about forcing your values into your face and getting you to really think about what they are. Other things in life don’t necessarily do that for you, but finding sperm is one of those things that will,” she says. “It forces all your politics and values that you didn’t even know were there.”
How to Get a Girl Pregnant
By Karleen Pendleton Jiménez
Toronto book launch: Thurs, Nov 17, 6pm
Slack’s, 562 Church St