Book Review: Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Because the topic was so meaningful, this review contains more reflection on my own experience and identity than I typically include in my reviews.

I often think I live in multiple words: Real life, the Twitterverse, and the fictional worlds of all the stories I write. In real life, very few people I know truly understand the concept nonbinary. In my bubble of the Twitterverse, I interact with all kinds of writers and artist who use gender neutral pronouns and identify as something other than man or woman. I love the LGBTQ+ community I’ve found online, but I have made little to no effort to seek similar people in real life because I question if I really belong there since I’ve never been in or tried to be in a same-sex relationship.

Non-Binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity showed me that I am not the only Non-Binary person who has wondered what communities they really belong in. While there was no one memoir where I thought, “this person story is just like mine” many of the stories echoed and validated different aspects of my existence and opened my eyes to how varied the non-binary experience is.

And really, it probably would’ve bothered me if someone’s experience had been almost exactly like mine because part of my identity has always been that I am odd and unique.

Each essay was beautifully written, honest, and engaging. I don’t remember a single moment where I got bored. Even the introduction held my attention.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it included voices from all across the spectrum of nonbinary people.

In my internet bubble, the most visible nonbinary people are like me: white and were assigned female at birth (AFAB). Many, but not all, are middle class or close to it. Me and many of the authors in this book agreed that this is the most visible portion of the non-binary spectrum, but it only represents a small portion of nonbinary people

Non-Binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity not only included people like, but it also boosted the voices of those who were assigned male at birth (AMAB). It included people of color– Black, Asian, and Latinx authors.

Some essays touched on sexuality, but others didn’t. While many of the authors in this book once identified as butch lesbians, I was happy to see some, who like me, never were attracted to CIS people who shared the same assigned gender. This is one of the things that always makes me question whether or not my identity is valid. However, reading the essays in Non-Binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity that echoed this experience reminded that my non-binary identity is still valid, and it is not at all related to my sexuality.

Because of the range of experiences encompassed in this book, I think most nonbinary people will be able to see echoes of themselves and their experiences show up in this book.

However, I think it is something I hope is widely read by CIS people, by people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Each narrative is crafted in a way that will show CIS readers what it means to be non-binary.

When I started reading Non-Binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, I was almost certain it would be something I could assign for my students to read. However, like most collections of essays, there is too much on the same topic to read in one semester. No matter how good the writing is, a whole book of essays on the same topic always seems to result in my students losing interest before we get to the end, and if I were to assign the book and only read a portion of the essays, they would complain about having spent money on a book we only used part of. The later might not be an issue if I could get them to see the value of the book, so using it isn’t fully out of the equation yet.

No matter who you are, if you want to learn more about what it means to be non-binary, please buy and read this book.

Waking the Cape

A brief foray into creative non-fiction:

Waking the Cape

By Sara Codair

The smell of bacon and low tide permeate the air. I breathe deep, savoring the warm, salty aroma. The early spring air still has a bite to it, but the sun soothes the sting as it warms my skin.

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Chapoquoit Beach, Falmouth

Its quiet still – only a few cars out polluting the illusion of pristine air. The music of songbirds and gulls is still the dominant sound. Afternoon winds have yet to stir the ocean, so sparkling sunlight dances across the silky, aquamarine liquid.

 

I sip my tea, letting the bitterness of over brewed leaves distract me from the displacement I feel. Years ago, I could have called this place home. But home is two hours to the north now, on a lake, in a house that was someone else’s childhood get away. They sold it just like my parents sold the cottage.

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The Cottage

The people who bought the cottage tore it down and replaced it with a monstrous McMansion. It certainly isn’t the worst one on the street, but it is nothing like the little shacks that used to populate Monomoscoy Island.

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The view from The Cottage

In some ways, my grandfather was unknowing ahead of his time, building with salvaged windows and floors. None of that aesthetic is preserved in the house that stands in its place. Brand new windows, cementitious siding, shiny rocks and pvc trim have replaced the weathered brown shingles, mismatched windows and church floors.

 

I was kinder to my stolen oasis. Rot forced us to rip out old floors, but the ones we replaced them with were rustic with the same width boards. My husband spent weeks reconstructing the interior of cabinets and walls so we could preserve the old paneling and faces. Sure, we ripped down the white vinyl siding, but we replaced it shingles more like what would have covered the house when it was built in the early 1900’s. Some claim that it would have been easier to tear it down than fix it, but I wanted to preserve the house’s spirit, not break it.

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My lake-front yard, summer 2015. The boat at the dock is the one flipped upside down in the above photo.

Later in the afternoon, I’m “home” at the house my husband and I have lived in for two and a half years. I’m on the porch. The only thing we changed in this space is the furniture. It has the same indoor-outdoor mini-golf carpet, the same green and white paint and the same screens.

 

Small waves lap at the sandy beach out front of the house. Voices and the hum of a few boat engines float across the water, competing with birdsongs for my attention. My cat is perched above a speaker, trying to hunt the black birds, occasionally talking back to them with trills and chirps.

There is no cold bite in the air, just the afternoon sun warming my face. It’s getting lower, bathing the sand and water in gold. I have dirt under my fingernails and sand on my feet. There is no salt in the air, but the grilling meat makes my stomach growl.

It’s not the cape, but its mine. My roots are finally starting to break through the soil, drinking up the soul food only the earth can feed me.

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