It’s a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction with a different prompt and a different host each week.
Week Two is hosted by Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves) and requests a Fiction / Nonfiction Pairing.
I’ve chosen Imogen Binnie’s 2013 novel Nevada and Susan Stryker’s Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution (2nd edition, 2017).
There could have been countless other pairings on this subject. Recently there have been articles in The Paris Review and The New York Times which helpfully appeared to add titles to interested readers’ TBR lists.
The Paris Review considers the development of a trans literary canon here.
And The New York Times has reading suggestions here as well (with a shout-out to Binnie’s novel).
Susan Stryker’s Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution (2nd edition, 2017)
The resource section of this volume is terrific, suggesting everything from academic sources to feature films to websites. But perhaps even more importantly, the breadth of material reveals the extent of the author’s familiarity with the content. In just six chapters (Contexts, Concepts, and Terms; A Hundred-Plus Years of Transgender History; Trans Liberation; The Difficult Decades; The Millennial Wave; The Tipping Point?), readers cross decades and eras. Less commonly crossed are borders, with some exceptions (medical studies in Germany history, for instance), but although I do not live in the United States, I still found this volume of interest and importance. As someone who came of age when there was a solid ‘T’ in LGBT, learning about the struggles involved to move from LGB to LGBT was of particular interest, and the intersections with a variety of shifting and changing identities in the millennium were explored in a detailed and nuanced fashion. (The definition of terms, for instance, includes everything from dictionary definitions to common usage, stopping short of slang.) Overall, the tone is formal without being academic, although a reader’s guide and the expansive notes would undoubtedly be appreciated by students as well as curious casual explorers. Although succinct and detailed, there is room for observations which remind readers of the complexity of these issues, as when, for instance, readers are reminded that an event like 9/11 in the United States affected members of this community with an increased attention to documentation overall (particularly in regards to travel). And, unsurprisingly, the impact of the Trump administration is considered in the final chapter.
Imogen Binnie’s Nevada (2013)
This slim novel tells Maria’s story in an immediately inviting style. Not that Maria thinks there’s much to discuss. “Trans women have the same exact shit that everybody else in the world has who isn’t white, het, male, able-bodied or otherwise privileged. It’s not glamorous or mysterious. It’s boring.” But she does recognize the importance of telling her own story, of having stories like hers there for the reading, for the listening. “She’d stay up all night, night after night, gushing her feelings all over the Internet until she figured out she was trans, transitioned, and would up having the exact same problems as every other messed up, emotionally shut-off person in New York.” She walks a fine line between the specific and the universal so that a variety of readers will find her story engaging.