McMaster author Paige Maylott publishes powerful memoir

A head and shoulders shot of Paige Maylott, with her chin resting on her hands

Debuting this month, My Body is Distant: A Memoir follows Paige Maylott from childhood to present-day as she discovers her authentic self through virtual worlds.

Paige Maylott fell in love with storytelling even before she could write.

At a young age, Maylott would sit her mother down at the kitchen table and tell reimagined endings to her favourite television series and movies while her mother affectionately transcribed her words on paper.

When she became old enough to write, Maylott began drafting short graphic novels about her favourite video game characters and other pop culture topics.

“I have always been enthralled by the alternate realities that exist within video games, books, television shows, and movies,” said Maylott.

“Writing was one of the ways that I could envision and bring to life these fictional worlds that I would obsess about.”

Maylott worked as the Library Accessibility Services assistant at McMaster University Library before taking on a new role in late August as accessibility projects support coordinator with the Office of the Vice-Provost for Teaching and Learning.

The Caledonia-raised writer has published several books and short stories as an adult, including a self-published game book entitled Nether-World. Her short story, Mayflies, earned her the 2021 Hamilton Arts and Letters Award for Creative Non-Fiction.

Maylott’s latest work, My Body is Distant: A Memoir, was released this week.

Described as a part trans woman’s coming out story and part heartfelt romance, My Body is Distant follows Maylott from childhood to the present day, as she discovers her authentic self through virtual worlds.

“There have been many times in my life where I’ve had to explain to people how I came to this,” she said. “When I would tell them that I discovered who I was virtually, I often got the sense that they didn’t value those experiences because they didn’t happen in the ‘real’ world.”

“Writing this memoir was an opportunity to tell my full story in a way that explains how real and important these virtual spaces are to me and many others.”

My Body is Distant is an evolution of pieces that developed while Maylott was writing her master’s thesis as a graduate student at McMaster. She credits her thesis supervisor, English and Cultural Studies professor Sarah Brophy, for encouraging her to seek unconventional ways to tell her story.

Brophy is an expert in auto/biography and the field of cultural studies and the author of Witnessing AIDS: Writing, Testimony, and the Work of Mourning.

“Paige has a strong grasp of the power of memory in storytelling, and her role as the writer to convey those memories as both related to the truth of the experience and to symbolism,” said Brophy.

“I appreciate her understanding of the art of memoir, its part in truth telling, and how important it is to share stories based on personal experience.”

More than five years after Maylott made the difficult decision to withdraw from the graduate program, Brophy proudly acknowledges the writer’s commitment to tell her story and share it as a resource with others.

“I feel very emotional and so delighted to see what Paige has accomplished,” said Brophy. “Her memoir is a brilliant piece of work that illustrates her candour, compassion, and artistry.”

In addition to being a talented writer, Maylott is a fierce advocate for accessibility advocate — as evident through her work on campus.

“Having a disability myself, I enjoy knowing that my work has a measurable impact on the happiness and wellbeing of other people,” said Maylott. “It’s fulfilling to know that what I’m doing matters.”

She gratefully acknowledges Lynne Serviss for going above and beyond to offer the space and support for her to pursue her ambitions as a writer while also being committed to her role at the library.

“Paige is a remarkable person and writer who shares a very important, powerful, and inspiring story through her memoir,” said Serviss, associate university librarian, User Services and Community Engagement. “All of us at the library are incredibly proud of her achievements so far, and we look forward to watching her dreams as a writer come to life.”

As for what those dreams look like, Maylott says she would love to assume a full-time career as an author.

“I have many years ahead of me and plenty of back pocket projects that I plan to write to potentially get me to that place,” she said. “There’s no rush, but if I happen to become an overnight success, I will gladly embrace it.”

For now, Maylott is focused on gearing up for the official release of My Body is Distant later this month. It’s a project that she describes partially as a personal love letter, and one that she hopes will help others embrace their true selves.

“We all deserve to find happiness, regardless of how we feel about ourselves,” she said. “I encourage others to seek happiness in the ways that feel right to them, and to be bold in exploring new ways to find that happiness.”

My Body is Distant: A Memoir is available for pre-order at ECW Press.

In Conversation with Paige Maylott and Book Launch

All are welcome to join Paige Maylott for an evening reading and conversation at Hamilton Public Library’s Central Library on Sept. 26, 2023, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. as part of McMaster University Library’s series, Transformative Stories: Year of Gender and Justice. Register for the free event on Eventbrite.

About Transformative Stories: Year of Gender and Justice

Transformative Stories: Year of Gender and Justice is presented by McMaster University Library in collaboration with campus and community partners, and will feature a lineup of free, public programming from fall 2023 through summer 2024. The series is part of McMaster University Library’s biannual “Year of” celebrations, which are aimed at highlighting the library’s unique collections, resources, and expertise and emphasizing its vital role in supporting the research, teaching, and learning mission of the university. For more information, visit the Year of Gender and Justice webpage.

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