Eli Claire’s Stones in my Pockets, Stones in my Heart is a beautiful but complex chapter in one of his novels, Bodies. This chapter speaks on his experience growing up as an assigned female at birth person, and how he never fully felt that he fit into that assignment. He also speaks on the abuse he suffered through his father continually raping him as a child. The title of the chapter is a recurring theme where Claire describes how he used to collect stones as a kid. He creates this metaphor but seems to leave the meaning up to interpretation by the readers.
While reading this chapter of his novel, my first thought when it came to his metaphor of stones was how in Judaism, when a person dies, we place stones on their graves. There are a few reasons why or interpretations; to keep the person’s soul down on Earth, to keep demons from entering that grave, and because while flowers are beautiful to place by a grave, they eventually die. Reading Stones in my Pockets, Stones in my Heart through that lens creates a large meaning to Claire’s metaphor. That meaning is, even though Claire suffered a lot as a child from the abuse he received from his father and growing up feeling uncomfortable in his skin, the stones that he collected were a way to keep him grounded. As well, they were a shield or a piece of armor that he felt would protect him from the outside world.
Claire tells a story of when he was younger he had a caricature drawn of him at carnival. When his mother eventually ran into the artist, they both learned that the artist had “mistaken” Claire to be his mother’s son. After hearing that he would “smile secretly for weeks…” and “reach down into my pockets to squeeze a stone tight in each fist.” Those stones were important to him and he used them to express his emotions of happiness by carrying them around with him and, like he explained in that one story, squeezing them, similarly how Jewish families show their love a grief through the stones they place on their loved ones’ grave.