On Love, Identity, and Family: A Micro-Interview with Chloe Vassot

The biggest questions in life are the hardest to tackle, but that doesn’t stop Chloe Vassot from trying. Her essay, “To Be Loved,” recently won Porter House Review’s Editor’s Choice Contest, and it is easy to see why. This deeply personal piece is filled with intimate imagery and storytelling befitting of its core questions: how is love defined, and how does its meaning vary across environments and experiences? Vassot examines these questions through a queer lens, drawing upon reflections on family, faith, and personal growth as she guides us through her life. As a queer writer myself—one who also grapples with the murky nature of love—I found this essay to be deeply poignant and stirring, and the ending stayed with me for days. 

Kit Cura: What first inspired you to write “To Be Loved”?

Chloe Vassot: That’s a good question! I’ve never really talked about my process. Generally, what starts me on a piece is a specific line or image. For this one, I was specifically thinking about the word “love” and how it’s used. During undergrad, I was reading a lot of feminist work and theories of “radical love,” and that was what first got me started.

Cura: How did you select specific scenes and stories to include in the piece?

Vassot: I think a lot in color. The scenes all have a color in my brain. And I try to smooth them out and see what fits and what’s consistent. It’s very hard for me to look back on and remember the choices I made; it’s more of a feeling. 

Cura: How did you feel throughout the writing process? What emotions arose through the memories you wrote down and reexamined?

Vassot: A lot of the emotions weren’t new, so nothing was really surprising. I do try to intentionally re-feel what has happened, but after that first draft, the editing becomes a bit more distant.

Cura: As a queer writer, how does your identity affect the way you write? Are there topics you tend to embrace or shy away from? 

Vassot: I feel very lucky to be a new writer in a time where there are so many great examples of queer writing. I don’t think it really affects what I do or don’t want to write about. What drives me is confusion and the want to understand. Luckily I’m confused by lots of things, so there’s lots of material!

Cura: Who do you write for?

Vassot: I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I think primarily I write for myself, trying to work through my own confusion and feelings while remaining conscious of the person I think would want to read my thoughts. I am also thinking about the writers that I admire, whose content have pushed boundaries and surprised me. 

Cura: Who are some writers you admire?

Vassot: My favorite essayist is Melissa Febos. Mary Oliver, I think about her quite a lot. Eula Biss. I actually began writing through journalism, so I’ve read several journalists, but that list is very long. 

Cura: With nonfiction, sometimes looking at the past with this level of intensity can be painful. Do you ever find yourself wanting to go back and protect your younger self?

Vassot: I’ve never thought about that. Maybe it’s because I don’t really have the sharpest memory—I’ve never had the ability of recollection. I don’t think it’s useful to wish things would’ve been different. I think that idea leads down a path of regret and questioning, which I don’t think is helpful. As a nonfiction writer, it’s about understanding and bringing some sort of empathy to the past rather than wishing for change.