Genre | Graphic Novel Memoir
Page #s | 240
Publishing Date | May 2019
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 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.
Graphic novel memoirs are one of my favorite genres (see also: Spinning by Tillie Walden, Flamer by Mike Curato, and The Fire Never Goes Out by Nate Stevenson), and Gender Queer is one of the best. Kobabe chronicles eir winding gender journey with poignant honesty and an attention to detail that highlights the fact that it’s often the small moments in life that shape our understanding of ourselves.
For anyone outside of the binary, this book is a breath of fresh air. In a world made for labels and boxes, it is incredibly disorienting to find oneself outside of the prescribed spaces. Tellingly, Kobabe points out that in avoiding societal boxes, e made eir own, which were sometimes equally unhelpful. One of my favorite stories was the realization that, because e is AFAB, e gravitated toward masculine outfits and hair styles. But when e dressed up as a man for Halloween, it gave em an allowance to lean into sequins and sparkles. It was a joy to watch Kobabe find eir fashion at the end that is a unique embrace of masculine and feminine styles.
Within the book, Kobabe makes clear that some of the most impactful moments for eir self-esteem was when e had access to education and representation that normalized what e experienced. E has passed that gift on to queer readers, who will find themselves reflected on these pages, and to cis readers, who will have a personal story to lead them toward empathy and understanding.
Who Do I Recommend This Book To?
Gender Queer is a quick, deep read that is perfect for anyone who values honest reflections and well-told memories.
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