SHIFT: A Memoir of Identity and Other Illusions

coming March 1, 2024 from University of Nebraska Press

“…a stunningly powerful memoir”
– Morgan Talty, author of Night of the Living Rez

“…imagines a world where we can love intelligently, with candor and without masks”
– Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in The High Country

“harrowing, hilarious, erotic, wise, and calm, honest and cagey, poetic and profound”
– Bill Roorbach, author of Lucky Turtle

Advance praise for SHIFT

I read SHIFT with my heart in my throat. It’s both the most romantic book I’ve encountered in ages and a clear-eyed dissection of romance’s consequences when falling in love means reinventing not just a life, but a self. This urgent, wry, deeply reflective book will be with me for a long time.

-Kristi Coulter, author of Nothing Good Can Come of This

In Shift, Penny Guisinger brings us slowly and methodically into the cracks and fissures of her quietly changing domesticity. After entering her first marriage childless, straight, and fairly certain of her future, Guisinger leaves it a mother of two, queer, and uncertain of what lies ahead. With trademark wit and a well-honed voice, Guisinger delicately guides readers through a shifting landscape of reckoning and renewal. Brilliantly written and beautifully rendered, Shift is a moving, lyrical inquiry into the poetics of liberation, of what it means to risk it all to become who you always were.   

-Tim Hillegonds, author of The Distance Between

What I love most about this smart, edgy memoir is how it celebrates love, in all its permutations, how in it, who we love and how are more important than what we are called, than what we call ourselves. It imagines a world which accepts that to be human is to shift, where a foreshortened marriage is not a failure but a limited success, where it is possible to find safety, self, a path through our altering personal geometries to a place where we can love intelligently, with candor and without masks.

-Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country

Each sentence in this book is a delightful jewel, and the sum of these sentences asks, ‘What is time? Am I the selves I was, who I pretended to be, and the selves that have grown into the present?’ Guisinger tracks love and days as they wink and flitter within and beyond timelines and roles, creating a breathtaking quantum nonfiction portrait.”

-Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys

Using the poetics of mathematics as her touchstone, Penny Guisinger has woven a captivating tale of love and desire, harmony and dissonance, fracture and repair. This book is a window into a critical point in queer history, when gay marriage was legal in some states but not yet all, a story told by a woman who did not discover she was gay until several years after she was a mother married to a man. Read this book. It’s like nothing you’ve ever read before.

-Jennifer Lunden, author of American Breakdown

In Shift, Penny Guisinger takes us on a lyrical journey to self. And it’s a beautiful story: a young teen groping for identity–a queer identity–grows into a self-possessed, independent woman negotiating family and friendship, career and romance, mind-work and hard physical work. By turns harrowing, hilarious, erotic, wise, and calm, honest and cagey, poetic and profound, Shift is a joy to read, and Penny Guisinger a delightful storyteller and thinker. Don’t start the book late at night, you’ll get less sleep than Penny during a first lesbian encounter: Yes, those are birds singing, and we’ve spent the night in bliss.

-Bill Roorbach, author of Summers with Juliet, Lucky Turtle and Beep

As with a walk along the lengths and curves of a mobius strip, Penny Guisinger didn’t complete the path of this story the same person she was at the start. Nor will you. Step into this keenly illustrated life of a girl, writer, musician, outdoorsperson, woman, wife, mother, and, lastly, wife with a forever wife. Marvel how it all resonates along the music theory, art history, physics laws and map of the cosmos so artfully placed. By the last page, take in the full-picture of honesty and difficulty and humor and beauty floating before you, and below it, a life firmly, finally, fittingly in place. Congratulate the author on the rare accomplishments of writing a seared-to-heart-and memory-and-soul story, and of finding who she is and where she’s meant to be.

-Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of This is Paradise

I love going to my bookshelf and finding a book that I know a specific person will, hopefully, equally love. But I have a small portion of books that I refuse to give away, books I return to time and time again. Books that, if not on my shelf, would make me feel anxious. Empty. And so I buy the book for someone, leaving my copy alone and just for me. Penny Guisinger’s Shift is one of those books. The specificity of this memoir—its depth, its nuance, its balance, and its story—grips you and doesn’t let go. I loved every word. Penny writes with such grace and honesty and love that you too won’t want this book to leave your bookshelf, let alone your hands. Shift is a stunningly powerful memoir.

–Morgan Talty, National Bestselling author of Night of the Living Rez

SHIFT is the story of hard-won love, told with an honesty that includes heartbroken children, sexual euphoria, and the crooked road toward remaking a family. Guisinger’s quirkily wide-ranging interests—from food to physics to the basics of guitar playing—enrich the reader’s experience in big ways.

–Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys