Part 1: “Gender” books
While writing this I realised I never got around to the book reviews for last year.. haha. Here they are together. This year I read slightly more “theory” books, particularly Audre Lorde, but overall still very light reading. I made a start on Judith Butler’s Undoing Gender and some stuff by Sara Ahmed, but I’m still not quite there on my slow descent into academe yet. Stone Butch Blues is also on my to-read list.
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
Edited by Kate Bornstein, S. Bear Bergman
If you only read one thing, read this. This is the first book that I ever wrote on (I used to believe in keeping my books in pristine condition) because I had so many feelings, and I needed to underline things that I FELT so deeply. This collection of essays is what finally convinced me that there is no wrong way to be any gender. Reading this book helped with so much of my gender related angst. It is diverse and honest and funny and true and vulnerable and encouraging and lovely.
Gender Failure – Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon
Parts of it are also available on youtube in spoken word form! Here. I cried a bit reading this. Especially relatable to those of us who grew up struggling with girlhood, and then not quite fitting into the other major gender. It put words to a lot of what I had been feeling and was not yet able to articulate. I’ve quoted from this book multiple times elsewhere on this blog.
Exile and Pride – Eli Clare
This book was my first encounter with disability activism and politics, as well as writing about being rural poor. Clare’s writing is clear and compelling, at once both personal and political. The chapter on the history of freakshows and the word “freak” was especially illuminating. While their circumstances are different from mine, I related to the displacement of not belonging to “mainstream” (white, urban, western, middle class) queer culture and not having those parts of me recognised by queer culture, while not having queerness be recognised in my place of birth; being neither here nor there, in permanent exile and having no home. CW: abuse
Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde articulates things with cutting precision, still so relevant all these decades later. Her words on the uses of anger against oppression, the importance of not being silent, of language, give me strength.
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
Edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
I love collections of essays, and getting to hear from a myriad of voices. This collection focuses on passing, and the various ways we all pass or fail to pass.
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You – S. Bear Bergman
A very enjoyable and relatable collection of essays about being genderqueer.
Tomboy Survival Guide, Loose End, and others – Ivan Coyote
Ivan’s essays are wry and sharply observed. I imagine Ivan as the gruff, slightly intimidating, Canadian nonbinary parental figure / role model person in my life.
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws – Kate Bornstein
Gender Outlaw was published in 1995, way before The Next Generation. An interesting read ahead of its time. Kate is eccentric and excellent. Read Alternatives if you would like to receive permission to give less fucks.
Part 2: Some of the non-gender books I read recently which made me cry tears, unless otherwise stated
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
A lovely, enjoyable read about human connection. Actually a similar structure with Everything I Never Told You (main narrative in the present + flashback chapters). I also read both these books in the large print edition. Useful for legibility while crying.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
This reminded me of The Solitude of Prime Numbers. On the everyday tragedy of the tiny ways we misunderstand each other, with excellent and subtle treatment of themes of racism and sexism. The writer really captures the ways that these forces operate in real lives, and how we respond, and how they pull us apart. Also, the writing. So good.
A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
A children’s book about grief. I cried, and learned, a lot.
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Okay I didn’t cry reading this one. It was generous and funny. Amy presents herself to us without the protective outer layer, lightly, with wit and warmth and charm. Reading the book felt like having a friend in the flesh. John Green’s tribute to Amy here.
My Brother’s Husband – Gengoroh Tagame
I’ve never read manga before now! Tagame, who usually writes more hardcore stuff, has written this beautiful (family-friendly) series about the violence of quiet, subtle homophobia that can be just as harmful as explicit bigotry.
And The Walls Come Crumbling Down – Tania De Rozario
Beautiful personal essays on love, family and home as a queer woman. One of my two favourite pieces of singlit.
Ministry of Moral Panic – Amanda Lee Koe
I didn’t cry at this one either! But it was ridiculously good.
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
I haven’t actually read this but I saw the musical and basically ugly cried the entire time. I hate that this list is basically a list of all the times I cried this year. Did I read nothing memorable that wasn’t sad the whole year? Am I just very emotional?? I don’t know!! I am so done with this list now! Goodbye!