First Person Plural
by Andrew W. M. Beierle
Kensington, 328 pp, $15.00
What would you do if you saw or met conjoined twins? How would you react? Would you stare? Would you quickly look away? Would you laugh or make fun of them? Would you ask questions and carry on a conversation? Would you have sex with conjoined twins?
All of these social situations are flipped on their heads with Andrew W. M. Beierle’s book First Person Plural.
Owen and Porter Jamison are conjoined twins who have two heads and necks but share a common torso and legs. They have two separate minds and most importantly two separate hearts.
Owen was always the bookish of the two gravitating more toward education and higher fine arts. Porter is the athletic high school football captain. They have led a somewhat easier life than most would, given their physical condition, because they come from a wealthy family. This has bought them shelter (private schools, the best doctors, etc.) from most of the uncomfortable situations that people with their physical appearance often experience.
Their parents are well adapted and never made twins feel any less than two whole individuals. However, nothing can buy them complete acceptance. They do suffer discrimination on a daily basis from friends and family but generally lead a very charmed life with very few needs. The brothers are the leads in a rock band and have used their physical condition to their advantage to lead successful music careers.
As most identical twins are, Owen and Porter are extremely in tune with each other given they rely on each other for even the most trivial of tasks. This unspoken understanding becomes a constant game of compromise as the twins mature and only becomes more complicated when Owen realizes that he is gay while his brother is straight. The situation further complicates when Porter meets a girl and wants to get married.
First Person Plural is a story of Owen and Porter’s brotherly love for each other, their yearning for a sense of “normalcy” in their private lives, and ultimately – their sacrifices for each other.
I found the book extremely interesting (yes – as I know all of you are wondering – it does describe the twins’ sex lives) and a commentary on how society sets standards for what is “normal."
There were times when I found parts of the story line distracting and a little contrived (Owen and Porter’s celebrity and their constant coverage in the media), but overall I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to other readers. The story line is one of the most imaginative and original ones (albeit somewhat unbelievable) I’ve read in a long time.
Andrew W. M. Beierle won a 2002 Lambda Literary Award and has been a journalist for over 30 years. He is a former resident of Nashville and a former employee of Vanderbilt University.
First Person Plural is available online and in local bookstores.