About Books #77: Gender Queer – A Memoir

Sometimes a book hits you in the weirdest way, and that can make it really difficult to review said book. Not because it was a good book, or a bad book, but… How do you review someone’s life? Or at least, their take on it? Let’s just make it very clear: Gender Queer? It absolutely opened my eyes.

I was offered an ARC by Edelweiss in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

The Story

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here.

Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears.

Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be non-binary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

The Opinion

Maybe one of my favourite things about Gender Queer, is how simple it makes really big, complex emotions. Through the course of several, rather short, comics, Maia Kobabe shows in what ways e has been confronted with the fact that e did not adhere to the heteronormative, cis-gendered norm.

Because these comics are quite self-contained, they offer these truths in easy digestible chunks. This allows for an easier understanding of the different elements which can play a part in coming to the realisation that you are not the “same” as the version of people that is most often depicted.

As many people will undoubtedly do, I came at this book from an outside perspective. Maybe it’s because of that, these little “chunks” actually ended up producing an extra effect. It wasn’t until I’d read the entire memoir, that I could effectively put the whole story together. It’s at this point that the bits and pieces of understanding got their biggest effect.

While, as most people online, I was aware of the concept of being non-binary and a bit more familiar with asexulaity? I could also remain unaware of the many ways in which “my normal” is pushed down on so many people. A deeper understanding of exactly what it can mean, and of how this can influence someone’s life? That’s something that no passing anecdote can explain as well as Maia did in Gender Queer.

While this memoir can easily be interpreted as a guideline, an explanation or even a pamphlet? More than anything, this is just a beautiful narration of Maia’s journey – and if anything, like any book I like reading? It kind of made me want to read more about eir life!

The Rating

As I said, this was a really difficult one to rate. In general, though, I try to keep my 5 starts for those books that absolutely change my point of view on something – the world, for example. Given that this book did exactly that? I honestly could not give Gender Queer anything but 5 stars! (Find it on Goodreads)