What Makes A Monster? Lakewood Author Alex DiFrancesco On 'Transmutation'

Headshot of Alex DiFrancesco and cover of "Transmutation"
Headshot of Alex DiFrancesco and cover of "Transmutation" [Christina Ramirez]
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Alex DiFrancesco explores monsters — mythical or otherwise — in their new collection of short stories, “Transmutation.”

“Many people that we consider monstrous are just on the margins of society,” said the Lakewood author. “My sympathies really went to monsters. And most of these stories show that. But then there's a few other ones where the monsters are just monsters.”

“Transmutation,” begins with a story about a trans teen seeking refuge in Lake Erie lore. At home, the mother’s boyfriend shows open disdain for the teen, who is left to navigate both a gender transition and growing up largely alone. Another story centers on the disappearance of a housekeeper and the unspoken role the host family played. Throughout the stories, DiFrancesco writes about people whose gender identity, race or sexuality place them outside of their communities in one way or another.

“I find it hard as a person who walks through the worlds and faces a fair amount of discrimination and my own trauma and suffering not to put those things in my stories,” DiFrancesco said. “I certainly don't shy away from them.”

Several of DiFrancesco’s characters also experience positive changes in their lives and relationships.

“We all have pain and we all have suffering, but we also all have infinite ways to reach out and build a community and find other people who understand our pain and suffering and find ways to mitigate it as much as we can.”

The collection ends with “The Wind, the Wind,” inspired by Leonard Cohen’s “The Partisan,” which the songwriter adapted from a song about the French Resistance in WWII.

“I think that it's probably the most poetic story in the collection,” DiFrancesco said. “I also like the idea that we are carrying our monsters, and at some point, our monsters carry us, too, which is pretty deeply embedded in that story.”

“Transmutation,” published by Seven Stories Press, follows DiFrancesco’s 2019 novel, “All City,” about an environmental crisis in New York City. In addition to writing, they work in public relations and teach classes with Literary Cleveland, the nonprofit supporting area writers. DiFrancesco also spent many years in the service industry as a pastry chef and a server.

During the pandemic, DiFrancesco penned a collection of interconnected short stories about fine-dining servers working in a Manhattan apartment building where David Bowie lived in 2000.

“That is now with my agent, and we’ll hopefully be trying to get it out to the world soon,” DiFrancesco said.

Mac's Backs-Books will host a reading with DiFrancesco at B Side Lounge in Cleveland Heights August 7 at 5 p.m.

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