Chachi D. Hauser’s essay collection It’s Fun to Be a Person I Don’t Know is a powerful exploration of identity, privilege, and place.
Chloé Caldwell wrote of the book:
“Chachi Hauser’s book has an exploratory and kaleidoscopic style I found delightful. Hauser is more concerned with exploring the questions than having the answers. Thoughtful, sensitive, and lyrical, the book feels like a fever dream in the best possible way.”
When I began writing my first book, my initial intention was to write a collection of essays about Disney, each structured around a different ride at Disney World. Through these essays, I wished to reflect on the many ways in which Disney stories have affected how I view gender, art, family, and more, having not only watched all the movies and frequented Disney World as a kid (like so many), but also having grown up in the Disney family.
However, in the process of writing the collection, the book began to be about love—soon, the “Disney essays” were broken up by interstitial essays about a significant relationship I was in at the time, and the decision to open that relationship. Though I tried desperately to fight it, Disney has always had a huge effect on the way I’ve viewed romantic relationships, so this evolution of the book’s focus felt like a natural one. How could I ever shake my childhood enchantment with those spells cast by true love’s kiss? “Coming-of-age” into my twenties in New Orleans, could I imagine another way to love? I would try to. The book ultimately tells a love story (not a typically Disney one) and so this playlist is like that love story’s burned-CD mixtape, played over and over in a lustful teenager’s Discman.
Music was critical to my writing process; I mention so many songs in the book that it was difficult for me to narrow them down to this list. These songs are present not only in a literal sense, within the scenes of the book (songs that the characters dance to, sing along to, etc.), but also exist in the rhythm of the sentences themselves; I listened to this music over and over as I wrote. I have compared my writing process for this book to documentary film editing, so perhaps this playlist could also be considered the score. Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy this strange, eclectic mix.
“He Lives In You (Reprise)” by the Original Broadway Cast of The Lion King
This song was performed at the memorial service for my grandfather hosted by the Disney company soon after his passing. In the darkness of a big theater on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the song was sung live by the man who originated the role of Mufasa on Broadway. I always thought it was a weird choice, or at least a little too on-the-nose—a song about the great dead kings of the past looking down on their descendants, guiding them, continuing to live on in them. Honestly, the idea of this type of surveillance of my life by my grandfather (who I didn’t know very well and I differed from in many ways) was a bit terrifying when I considered it that day at the memorial and still haunts me when I listen to the song now, despite how much I have also come to love it.
“Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn
When my then-boyfriend called to tell me he’d finally made our open relationship less theoretical, having slept with someone else for the first time, I hung up and blasted this song on my laptop, dancing wildly around my room like Robyn in the music video because I was the ‘girl’friend who was being called and it might have, in fact, been my fault—I was the one who’d wanted to open the relationship in the first place but suddenly I wasn’t so sure.
“Crescent City” by Lucinda Williams
This song is about my first true love: New Orleans. Having grown up in New York, I moved to New Orleans in my early twenties, longing for an adventure. No matter where I go, I will always be drawn back into that swampy bowl of a city.
“Down by the Riverside”by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
This is a really wonderful rendition of the song that the brass band always plays when the Saint Anne’s walking parade nears its end, on the bank of the Mississippi River, on Mardi Gras day. When this song begins playing, the revelers remember that this celebration is really a funeral, and some folks, who’ve carried the ashes of their loved ones all day, begin to throw them into the muddy water, at last laying down their burdens, down by the riverside. The song is at once joyous and sorrowful, like Mardi Gras day, like the city itself, like love.
“(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
No matter how punk or badass or whatever else I’ve thought I was, the truth is I have waited my whole life to find a love that felt like this.
“We Found Love” by Rihanna & Calvin Harris
“Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker
This is a song about a woman who waited so long for the fantasy of a great love to arrive that her life ends up passing her by.
“You Can Fly” from the French version of Disney’s animated Peter Pan. The one I mention in the book, “J’ai Des Ailes,” is actually the first version—in making this playlist, I learned that they went for a more accurate translation in a recent dubbing of the film, changing it from I have wings to you fly (“Tu t’envoles”). When I fell in love with a French speaker, I realized that, while he’d watched all of the Disney films growing up like I had, he’d seen them in his native tongue—to him, there might as well never have been an original English version. I find this fascinating, the incredibly wide reach that Disney has, how many vastly different childhood homes these films have found themselves in, due to the power of translation. In my book, I write that love is always an act of translation; I wonder, then, if this is how Disney convinces the world of their love.
“Body Like A Back Road” by Sam Hunt
A few years ago, I heard a group of pre-teen girls singing this together on an endless wait, a line curling in on itself again and again, for a ride at Disney World. I smiled to myself because I have a secret, deep fondness for this song. It makes me think of driving on raised highways over swamps, alone and switching through the stations, landing on a country song and—despite being a native New Yorker and spending my life thinking I hated country—ultimately not turning the dial. We can be so many different selves in one lifetime.
“A la Folie” by Juliette Armanet
Three years ago, when I first heard this song, sent to me by a new lover, I didn’t understand the words. I didn’t know how much it spoke to that moment, when love really did drive me to madness. A madness I didn’t know at the time would ultimately lead me to being able to understand the song, now, having learned a new language because it was his.
“When You Were Mine” by Prince
A great love song for people who are into people who are into other people.
“Deeper Than the Holler” by Randy Travis
A fantasy, a love for someone who came from that swampy place I love, who I thought I might spend my life with in that city we both called home.
“La Ritournelle” by Sébastien Tellier
Another fantasy, a love for someone who came from across an ocean. He played this for me on piano once and I wanted to follow him anywhere, even far away from home.
“How Far I’ll Go” by Auli’i Cravalho from Moana
To me, this is the best type of Disney story—the young girl who longs to explore, who wants to know what’s beyond the horizon and, even if her family or society discourages her against it, even if she’s terrified, she will chase it, and that attraction to adventure will be the impetus for the movie. I want my life to be this kind of movie, a story in which it’s not only love that is capable of pulling me over that border, but also a strong desire to know what is beyond the life I know.
Chachi D. Hauser is a filmmaker and writer. Her essays have appeared in Hobart, Prairie Schooner, Third Coast, Crazyhorse, and the Writer’s Chronicle. She lives in Paris.