SHELF-AWARENESS -- Artist Maia Kobabe is genderqueer and uses
pronouns e, em and eir. In the gorgeous and candid graphic memoir
Gender Queer, e illustrates an aching journey toward
reconciliation with being nonbinary and asexual.
Kobabe grew up in a progressive home, with parents who didn't enforce gender roles, but such things are socialized early in places like school and neighborhoods. The dysphoria e experienced became more acute with age; e frequently felt out of step with eir peers. There were awkward Tinder dates and excruciating Pap smears. All the while, Maia searched for an explanation, a language to assign to this internal trauma and confusion.
Midway through the book lies a two-page spread of weighted scales. Each side of holds a gender assigned at birth, as a frantic Maia piles pronouns, clothes, hair style, hormones, etc., on the other. "The end goal wasn't masculinity," e writes, "the goal was balance." Had e been assigned male at birth, e would be playing with makeup and nail polish every day.
Kobabe's drawings, colored by sister Phoebe Kobabe, casts eir life and truths in splendorous, vivid light. And the relationship between the siblings on the page is one of Gender Queer's sweetest elements. Often scared of what lies ahead, Maia confides in Phoebe, a lesbian, about eir queer hopes and fears, and is met each time with the gracious enthusiasm of a sister who has eir back: "I lucked out so hard in the sibling lottery." A challenging yet heartwarming memoir, Gender Queer succeeds on all fronts. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (STARRED) -- Gr 9 Up-Kobabe, who uses the pronouns e, em, and eir, was assigned female at birth but never felt that this designation fit. As e grew up, e learned about the spectrum of gender designations and settled on nonbinary as the best descriptor. E came out to eir family as nonbinary and asexual and found that eir family supported em however e identified. In this memoir, Kobabe chronicles eir life from the time e was very young through eir coming of age and adulthood. E describes common situations from the perspective of someone who is asexual and nonbinary: starting a new school, getting eir period, dating, attending college. The muted earth tones and calm blues match the hopeful tone and measured pacing. Matter-of-fact descriptions of gynecological exams and the use of sex toys will be enlightening for those who may not have access to this information elsewhere. VERDICT A book to be savored rather than devoured, this memoir will resonate with teens, especially fans of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and Mason Deaver's I Wish You All the Best. It's also a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand.-Jenni Frencham, Indiana University, Bloomington
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY -- This heartfelt graphic memoir relates, with sometimes painful honesty, the experience of growing up non-gender-conforming. From a very young age, Kobabe is unsure whether to claim a lesbian/gay, bisexual, or even transgender identity: "I don't want to be a girl. I don't want to be a boy either. I just want to be myself." Kobabe comes of age having to navigate expressions of identity such as clothing and haircuts, with fraught attempts at romantic and sexual entanglements. Eventually, Kobabe's supportive sister concludes: "I think you're a genderless person." (Kobabe: "She knew before I did.")