Part of me is like, “You should re-read the book before posting this. You know, so it can be like a real review.” Another part of me replies, “But I know how to write a real review. I have literally written real reviews before. I don’t want it to be a review. I just want to talk about it.” But then I’m reminded by that nagging third part of me that, for whatever reason, I do not remember books very well, and that will have to be okay.
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe is the good book, and the reason I’m talking about it is not because it’s being mega-challenged across the country, but because I attended a Zoom author chat last week (through Bluestockings) where Kobabe and Kori Michele chatted about the upcoming Gender Queer deluxe edition.
A few things I like about Kobabe: E is from the North Bay Area, just like me. E seems like an incredibly nice person. And eir work is at once meditative, thoughtful, and deeply personal, but in ways that make it even more welcoming for an audience? I know that memoirs don’t just spring out of nothing, that they’re meticulously planned and proofed and edited and rearranged until the final product emerges, but Gender Queer is so brilliant in how straightforward it can be: This happened; this is why it is important; here is some beautiful art to match.
On a personal level, of course, I can relate to Gender Queer in such a way that I underwent some deep introspection after finishing. (I read it in 2021, one year after I told the internet I was nonbinary and asexual, but it’s been out since 2019.) Again, I would love to be able to point to a specific passage, but the memory part of my brain simply doesn’t work that way. (I got a degree in psychology ten years ago and here I am saying “the memory part of my brain” as if it doesn’t have a name. Anyway.) I do remember reading Gender Queer and going, “Excuse me! E just put something into words and images that my brain had never clarified for me in this way!” and that just happening over and over again. I remember feeling jealous not just that e was out, but that e grew up in a community where e was far from the first queer person e knew. But to me, overall, eir journey felt relatable, even in the parts where it didn’t.
Fuck, I have to read this book again ASAP. I feel silly talking about it based on how it made me feel and not based on like, content or substance. If you don’t own it, or there’s a wait for it at your library, then you can find it on Hoopla, which your library card might give you access to.
Speaking of Kori Michele, the moderator of the talk I attended last week, they and Kobabe wrote a mini-zine together about their experiences of being nonbinary. You can read it here, or maybe buy it from Kobabe’s Etsy when it’s back online next month. I also really like Kobabe’s comic about breaking down the gender binary through the means of folk dancing, and eir zine Kpop in the Time of Covid. (These are just a few of the ones I’ve purchased for myself — e makes them accessible to everyone online, but the hard copies really are worth more than what e charges for them.)
So, yeah. A good book. A good author and illustrator. A good person to listen to speak for an hour and a half over Zoom. Five stars, strong recommend, etc. Gender Queer changed my life.