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 and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary 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.
I learned the term asexual sometime in 2015 and more recently, gender queer. It wasn’t earth shattering or life-changing. It was more like something clicking into place with the knowledge that that disinterested state you have known all this time has a name. If this graphic novel was released much earlier, that light bulb moment would have come sooner too.
In my country, the term gender queer is relatively unknown. If you are not hetero, it’s either you are a gay or lesbian. People confuse gay with trans, even the gay guys themselves almost always have the idea that being gay means becoming or acting like a woman. Those who prefer to act masculine are referred to with derision as ‘pretending to be a man’ or ‘not a real man’. Lesbians were also expected to be butch and lipstick lesbians are not common. Much of my experience with gender queers are those born biologically male and would be automatically tagged as gay. Maia Kobabe would be tagged as lesbian and it would take a very lengthy explanation to make people understand. There are no guarantees they will.
This memoir will help open minds. It explores gender identity and self. It also talks about love and family and how having a sibling who just gets you could make all the difference in the world. It chronicles the difficulties and horrors a gender queer person goes through. It is raw and very honest, sometimes painfully so but always with a touch of humor and optimism. In itself, it is a highly enjoyable graphic novel with interesting illustrations and has an ending that leaves an opening for a sequel just in case.
I highly recommend this to everybody.
I received a copy of Gender Queer: A Memoir from Lion Forge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Love Spell – Mia Kerick
Chance César is fabulously gay, but his gender identity—or, as he phrases it, “being stuck in the gray area between girl and boy”—remains confusing. Nonetheless, he struts his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug-in-all-the-right (wrong)-places orange tuxedo as the winner of this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon Festival. He rules supreme at the local Beans and Greens Farm’s annual fall celebration, serenaded by the enthusiastic catcalls of his BFF, Emily Benson.
Although he refuses to visually fade into the background of his rural New Hampshire town, Chance is socially invisible—except when being tormented by familiar bullies. But sparks fly when Chance, Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper (Jazz) Donahue, winner of the Pumpkin Carving King contest. Chance wants to be noticed and admired and romantically embraced by Jazz, in all of his neon-orange-haired glory.
And so at a sleepover, Chance and Emily conduct intense, late-night research, and find an online article: “Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love With You.” Along with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure, it becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.
But will this “no-fail” plan work? Can Chance and Jazz fall under the fickle spell of love?’
Chance Cezar (love the name!) is out and proud but doesn’t know which gender box to tick. He and his best friend, the quirky Emily, embark on The Plan to make Jasper “Jazz” Donahue fall in love with Chance based on an online article, “Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall In Love With You”. Such titles always gets an eye roll and should be taken with a heap ton of salt, IMHO, despite the words “scientifically proven”. Why two seemingly intelligent teenagers bother with such articles is beyond me but books featuring hapless people following how-tos has a good track record with me and Love Spell is one of those books.
Chance is sooo OTT! He sports orange hair, is capable of rocking both stilettos and chucks and isn’t afraid to wear make-up and mix his own perfume. It took a few moments but when I finally got used to his talking style, I found it funny enough to elicit a few chuckles especially combined with the epic fails his and Emily’s strategies turned out to be. Like wooing Jazz with a megawatt smile only to have gummy bears stuck in his teeth (eew!) but, if a guy voluntarily pokes his finger in your teeth to get it out, you know he’s really that into you.
Love Spell is a YA story and it’s one of those that have the YA main character worry about his sexuality or in this case, gender identity. I know some young adults might have this concerns and it is an important issue that should be addressed but I’m kinda tired of having it in almost every other YA LGBT book I encounter (looking at you, Simon). I don’t think young adults would want to read about sexuality and gender identity being an issue all the time. I know my younger self wouldn’t want to because I want my stories to treat being queer, genderfluid or ace as normal.
What kicked this story up a notch was Jazz. He is a really sweet guy and a responsible big brother to his kid sister. When he finally had enough of Chance’s BS and decided to be upfront, it was all very squee-tastic! But then, to my surprise and dismay, the story ended just when it was getting really good. Nooo! Where’s my epilogue?!
Overall, Love Spell made me laugh, cringe and root for Chance to go, get that boy! Waiting for him to get a clue at how ridiculous his maneuverings were was equal parts exasperating and funny but Jazz was worth it and more. I would have preferred Chance to worry less about his gender and focus more on other things, like getting into a good college just like how Emily is determined to get into her dream school. However, I mostly had a good time with this book and I recommend it.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
I received a copy of Love Spell from NineStar Press
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love