by Maia Kobabe
colors by Phoebe Kobabe
Oni Press, 2019. 240 pages.
Review written January 30, 2022, from a library book
2020 Alex Award Winner
2020 Stonewall – Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award Honor Book
I decided to put this book on hold after a person called me from the other side of the country and yelled at me because they said our library carried pornographic materials, speaking of this book in particular. (A different branch had used an image of the cover in a display.)
Now I’ve read the book and, reader, it is not pornographic. Our library has the book in the adult section, and I thought that was them avoiding controversy, but I see that the awards it has won are awards for adult books. Amazon lists the age as for 18 and up. The Alex Award is for adult books that appeal to teens. The Stonewall – Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award is for adult nonfiction books with LGBTQ content. So I will also list this book in adult nonfiction, with the note that this book will be of interest to young adults who have questions about their own gender and orientation.
Gender Queer is the story of Maia Kobabe’s lifelong quest to understand her own gender and sexuality. And in explaining it, the reader comes to understand her perspective. We learn about pronouns and why e strongly prefers e/em/eir. We learn what it means to not feel like a girl or a boy.
It’s in graphic novel format, so there are pictures along the way. Getting eir period was a horror to em, and the comics convey that. Getting a pap smear felt like violence, and you can see that in the pictures. And the page that is most cited as pornographic is when e and eir girlfriend tried strapping a dildo to em, but e wasn’t comfortable with that. It’s a comic book drawing, and it’s not going to titillate anyone, and it’s illustrating the author’s own story, with all of eir struggle to find eir place and know eirself.
There’s a lot here that will help any reader understand transgender people of any pronouns better. E is honest and forthcoming about eir journey, and I can only imagine how wonderful it would be for anyone on a similar journey to read this and know they are not alone.
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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.
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