Non-Fiction November 2018: Week Two (Stryker and Binnie)

Non-Fiction November is hosted this year by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rennie (What’s Nonfiction).

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.

Have you read either of these books? Are you reading with Non-fiction November in mind? Or, are you always in non-fiction November, even in the other eleven months of the year?

2018-10-30T18:52:56+00:00

22 Comments

  1. WordsAndPeace November 9, 2018 at 9:32 am - Reply
  2. Kelly @ STACKED November 8, 2018 at 8:40 am - Reply

    I’ve had the Binnie book on my shelf for a long time and need to read it, and now I think I’ll read it in tandem with the Stryker title. Great pairing!

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2018 at 10:40 am - Reply

      Binnie’s book would be a dramatic contrast in tone: it’s super readable and engaging (there are only a few pages near the end of the story where she gets into theory and intellectualizing about identity). I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Naomi November 7, 2018 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Great pairing – two books I haven’t even heard of! I have a feeling the Stryker would be very helpful. My daughter is often correcting me. (A good sign for the generations to come!)

    • Buried In Print November 7, 2018 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      Just the first couple of chapters would be good to read, even if you’re not particularly keen on the history that follows: the parts about language were very accessible and perhaps even more interesting to bookish readers!

  4. hibernatorslibrary November 7, 2018 at 10:34 am - Reply

    I admit to being very poorly read on the subject of transgender. Would this be a nonfiction book that you would suggest starting with?

    • Buried In Print November 7, 2018 at 5:11 pm - Reply

      You might want to have a peek at Michael’s comment (and my response to Eva’s comment) and consider your reading pace and what you will require yourself to remember from an initial reading, but I do think it’s a good starting point. I remember hearing an interview with a woman who published a similar volume, but about the UK, earlier this year, and it sounded good too, but I haven’t found my note yet!

  5. Michael November 6, 2018 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Nice pairing! I read Stryker’s book earlier in the year, and I also thought it was great as a reference guide. The author records so many events in such a short amount of space, though, so the book felt overwhelming to me at times. I might’ve enjoyed it more had I read it over the course of a week or two, rather than a few days.

    • Buried In Print November 7, 2018 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      Yes, I completely agree: unless you are already familiar with the majority of the content covered, I think you’d want to take some time with each chapter to let the previous one settle a little. I think there were actually only two chapters that I read in a single sitting (the one explaining the terms, for instance, as I was familiar with most of that content). When it came to the historical sections, I really had to slooooow doooown. 🙂

  6. The Paperback Princess November 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Oh thank you for this pair! I’ve added Transgender History to my list. Something I’ve been wanting to read about but didn’t know where to begin!

    I’m with you on reading these kinds of things with an American point of view but not living in the States. It’s a strange kind of, not limbo, but an kind of in between experience.

    • Buried In Print November 6, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Stryker’s book worked well when I approached it like a student who was auditing a course but not sitting for an exam, allowing a few days between chapters and not worrying about every detail. I think we both prefer NF with a stronger narrative thrust, but you’ll probably find this one just as useful as I have.

  7. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis November 6, 2018 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I haven’t read either of these books, but while we’re discussing sort-of-technical issues, did you link to Sarah’s site this week? If so, I think it got lost.

    • Buried In Print November 6, 2018 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Debbie: I must have closed that tab. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. whisperinggums November 5, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    testing

  9. iliana November 5, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    While Transgender History sounds like a very informative read, I admit I’m more drawn to the Nevada book. That’s just me always going for fiction rather than non-fiction which is why this month is such a good reminder for me to step outside of my comfort zone. Great pairings!

    • Buried In Print November 6, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

      I blame the novels: there are so many of them to begin with and, then, they go and sound so good: what are we supposed to do? Ignore them? Completely agree about the usefulness of this event for keeping at least a handful of non-fiction titles in the mix!

  10. whisperinggums November 5, 2018 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    A little test comment. Testing, testing … !

  11. whisperinggums November 5, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    I hate whinging because if I were you it would make my heart sink – but just so your technical person knows, it looks like I can’t comment on your blog via the WordPress app on the iPad nor the WordPress Comment Notification drop down on my laptop. Fortunately, this time I copied my response just in case. So, I have clicked through from that dropdown to your blog where I believe it will work!

    “I think regular contact is probably best for a challenge – but in the end we just do what we feel we can manage eh?

    And no, it’s definitely not fair!!”

    • Buried In Print November 5, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Hmmm. So it’s consistently WordPress related? Whether you are on your tablet or your desktop/laptop? You can comment from outside their management system? If that’s the consistent element, I can see why it would seem very erratic from your experience (every now and then it works but not often at all) because WordPress is constantly making tiny little changes/updates to their management system. My techy friend is a coder, so I will ask when I next see him, but I’m beginning to lose hope if the WordPress app is always in the mix of the difficulty.

  12. whisperinggums November 5, 2018 at 3:47 am - Reply

    I wrote quite an extensive response to your Week 1 post, on my iPad WordPress app, but when I tried to submit it, it went poof and I was told an error had occurred and to try again. I comment on Lisa’s and other WP blogs this way with no problems. But clearly there’s something in the air that does not want you and me to connect. I will try to get back to because I know I said VERY INTERESTING things. Haha.

    Last year I did non-fiction November in two hits, rather than week by week. I might do something similar here. With these pairings, are they supposed to be books you’ve read this year, or just any pairing that you think would work. Last year, I did the latter – both books I’d read but not both in 2017?

    PS I enjoyed your pairing.

    • Buried In Print November 5, 2018 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      Last year, I interpreted the week’s theme the same way you did, that it was more about making a better match than being limited to what you’d read in the given year. This year, I just happened to have read Binnie’s novel in the same year, so it worked out anyway.

      I’m sure that the prestigious and lofty comment you originally left was Pulitzer-worthy, and I regret that the ether-deities seem so committed to disrupting our bookish friendship: it doesn’t seem fair!

      It’s hard to say what makes a challenge work better – the regular contact each week or the more sporadic but more indepth coverage. I can see benefits to both.

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