Sunday, March 20, 2022

Gender Queer is a phenomenal graphic novel (quick review)

Book cover for Gender Queer which depicts a young adult looking at their reflection in a lake of themselves as a child.
    Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, is a phenomenal, touching, and elegantly written graphic novel about a gender non-conforming/non-binary person who is also asexual. It is rare enough to get solid representation of and by someone in the non-binary community, but perhaps even more important is the exploration of asexuality and the intertwining dysphoria that accompanies both aspects of the author's experience.
    It covers roughly the first 25 or so years of the author's life, as E [note: E uses Spivak Pronouns] goes from a carefree early life to increasing pressure by the outside world to conform to (and confirm Eir) social gender norms. In addition, the treatment of menstruation, gynecological visits, body dysphoria, and so much more is laid bare for non-binary/asexual readers looking for an image of themselves in media, and for those looking to better understand non-binary and/or asexual experiences.
    One of the things about this graphic novel that was most impactful to me was the somewhat dispassionate (and I mean that as a compliment) style of both the writing and art. There is nothing performative, nothing trying to make some grand point, nothing overly emotional in the presentation. This is almost a journalistic memoir in it's clear, simple retelling of various experiences in Eir life. Rather than undermine the value and insight of the memoir, that style serves to make the actual insight more profound because it is not presented through any intense layers of emotion that might distract or detract for some readers. I found it to be incredibly moving, insightful, and beautiful and the style of both art and writing served it extremely well.
    Many of you may have heard or come across Gender Queer in that conservative media has been bashing it as pornography. It is not. There are some moments where sexual acts are depicted, but they serve as points for unpacking internal experiences, sensations, feelings, and understandings of self. They most definitely are not depicted pornographically or for any eroticism or titillation . Like I said in the paragraph before, the whole thing has a slightly dispassionate, journalistic quality, further emphasizing that this is not porn. 
    Worryingly, even the New York State Education Department came out against this book recently in a disappointing way when the pulled a twitter post from the state librarian championing this book and its personal meaning to her and her child. [Tweet posted below this review for posterity because it has been removed from twitter]. Lauren Moore is the head of all libraries in the state, not just school libraries, but public libraries, research libraries, state university libraries, and was absolutely correct to give this graphic novel a personal shoutout because it is most definitely appropriate to adult, teen, and maybe even some younger readers. It is so disappointing that the government can't even respect freedom from censorship and the LGBTQ+ community in what is supposed to be a liberal state. (And for those who know me, I am risking my job over this post because NYSED was not pleased with me when I wrote to them directly with my concern over their response and statement, but that's a story for another day).
    So although this review is coming out well after the graphic novel was published, I wanted to respond to the March 2022 dust up with New York State and give this graphic novel another bit of positive press. It is a truly beautifully written, drawn, and observed memoir about two underrepresented and frequently misunderstood aspects of the LGBTQ+ continuum. I highly recommend it.
Tweet from Lauren Moore stateing "I chose "Gender Queer: a Memoir" by Maia Kobabe. I'm grateful for books that let my kid know they're not alone."
What a beautiful statement that should have been entirely non-controversial.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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