Nevada is the darkly comedic story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she'd carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a journey that will most certainly change her forever.
Imogen Binnie wrote a monthly column for Maximum Rocknroll magazine for about nine years, as well as the zines The Fact That It's Funny Doesn't Make It A Joke and Stereotype Threat. Her novel Nevada was a thing, then it went out of print and it was less of a thing, and then it went back into print and became a thing again. She wrote for the TV shows Doubt, Council of Dads, and Cruel Summer. She also wrote an adaptation of the film "Love, Actually" which was set in Burlington, Vermont, in which all the characters were trans, but apparently it would violate "intellectual copyright law" to try to film it, so she posted it on Twitter. She also did a podcast called Imogen Watches Classic Films for a few years. She probably lives with her family somewhere.
A romp! Fun and conversational but also goes pretty deep and dark. I think she succeeds at a goal of writing about A trans experience rather than Thee trans experience. While transness is at the fore the whole time, the characters aren’t representing anyone other than themselves.
Earlier this year, when I first started to try to get people to understand what I meant when I said that I was transgender, I searched high and low for any texts that I could give people to describe the dissociation from my body, the self-loathing I carried with me everywhere, the complete sense of helpless panic mixed with the certainty that I needed to do something. I wanted to find just one text that could express all of that and help others understand why I'd undertaken, why I had very much needed to undertake, such a drastic process. I had a lot more optimism then. These days I don't really care if people understand me so long as they respect my wishes and don't call me by my old name, male pronouns, or "it." Real world interactions with people almost always lead me to lower my expectations.
So imagine my delight when people on the message boards I belong to started talking about a new book that finally "got" it. Words written from the heart of an eloquent trans woman who was able to finally express all of the things we'd been struggling to get across to people, words that helped this subculture of which I'm a part begin to define ourselves in language we all understand rather than relying upon clinicians and sociologists to observe us and make notes, like so many books on being trans have done already (I'm looking at you True Selves and My Brother, My Sister).
Instead, here was a fiery punk rock girl revealing the full tumult of living as a trans woman. Not just the before-and-after fixation that so much of the press likes to focus on, but the messy little details that are nearly always overlooked- like how do begin to navigate the world as a single woman, how do you begin try to work past being being physically present but mentally absent from nearly every social situation, how do you ever leave behind the pain and hurt of all those years fighting against yourself and manage to live a more open life? And to do so with whip-smart prose and a style that crackles with intensity and wit is all the more appreciated. Imogen Binnie is no mere niche author of a subculture only beginning to create its own culture, but a writer of superb skill (seriously you all should read some of the articles she's written for Maximum Rock 'n Roll) who I hope will become a household name as she continues writing.
Nevada is the story of Maria Griffiths, a trans woman living in Brooklyn who has just been simultaneously dumped and fired and is feeling quite adrift from her life and has no idea how to move forward and so steals her girlfriend's car for an impromptu roadtrip to the Pacific. Along the way she meets James, a boy working in a small town Wal-Mart somewhere near Reno and realizes that he's like she was at 20- lost, trying to present as a man but failing at it, stuck in a relationship he kind of just fell into, and hiding it all under a thick haze of marijuana. As she helps James face the specter of his own dysphoria and take those first painfully hard steps of admitting that he's maybe/possibly/probably trans, she also gets a chance to process through the ruins of her own life and realize the things that she's also been avoiding.
I wanted to write this review without falling into the mire of autobiographical reflections and over-sharing of very intimate details of my life because I feel as though I've done too much of that far too publicly this year and I'm kind of feeling pretty self-conscious about broadcasting it like I did and kind of really tired of thinking about myself on a constant basis. Yet the more of the book I read, the more I realized that it's impossible to extricate myself from this review because, more than anything, reading Nevada was an exercise in finding parallels with my own life. Barely a page went by where I didn't find myself nodding along with a thought a character has, wincing in shared dismay at an unfortunate event, and finding my eyes grow moist with tender recognition when the action moves out of Brooklyn and into the barren wastes of Nevada and we meet James, whose entire storyline reads as a fictionalised retelling of the three long and dark years I spent living in Tucson.
That's a big part of the value of this book for me. Until recently I didn't know many trans women and none well enough to where I felt comfortable asking about the very personal aspects of living that fill our days, so questions like "am I the only one who has to pretend that they're not having sex with another person in order to get off" or "how is it that I can argue vehemently for the rights and freedom of others but find it impossible to vocalize anything about my own personal wants and needs" or "why does this misogynistic porn seem to be one of the few things I find enticing" (btw: this book is worth reading if only for the chapter in which Binnie conclusively kills off the dated and oppressive concept of autogynephilia) were all just big question marks that I chalked up to "I'm crazy" instead of "I'm trans." Reading Nevada, though, really brought home to me just how similar my own road to accepting that I'm a trans woman is to nearly every other trans woman I've come to know. I may not be a beautiful and unique snowflake of dysfunction but I am also not alone. Which, when you've spent so many years fearing and hating yourself for things you can't wish, smoke, or drink away, is an incredibly relieving thing to find out.
For example, I spent most of my adult life thinking that I couldn't be trans because I didn't fit the constrained and narrow view of what I thought, of what society tells us, that trans girls are. By which I mean the outdated and discredited Harry Benjamin Standards of Care that dictate that all trans women always present as super femme, always sit down to pee, and if they find women's bodies attractive well, they couldn't be lesbians, they're just perverted men. I could never fit into that definition and lacked any other examples as to how I could approach my own femininity so could never make the mental leap from seeing others being fulfilled by properly experiencing and expressing their gender to imagining myself so fulfilled and it tore me apart whenever I'd think about it, which was pretty much constantly. To avoid having to think about it I would just shut down and not process. I drank whiskey like water, smoked enough weed to fund an entire Mexican drug war, and hid in my apartment obsessively reading pretty much anything that fell into my lap (hence my Goodreads account being the social media site I've belonged to the longest), hating everything, and dissociating from my every day existence as a boy. Yet here it turns out that all of the fucked up weird shit that I did to cope or to process or to deny is pretty much a checklist that nearly every other trans woman I have come to know has done as well.
Which explains why every trans woman I know who has read it says that if you want to know about being trans, read Nevada. This is an important book, for me personally, for trans women as a group, and for a society raised on caricatures of trans women like Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill or the sexually predatory trans woman who wants nothing more than to trick a man or a lesbian into sex (seriously, how do people not understand just how very sexually dysfunctional most of us are?) that has no idea how to consider us as complex multi-faceted people.
I liked the messiness and realness of this novel. Nevada follows Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City who’s stuck in dissatisfying relationship with her girlfriend and in a somewhat dead-end job at a local bookstore. When she finds out that her girlfriend lied to her, Maria realizes that she may need to strike out on her own to figure out a more complete and realized life for herself.
The first half of Nevada felt particularly strong. Maria has a distinct voice that is funny, relatable, and uniquely her own. Imogen Binnie does an excellent job writing about Maria’s internal experience of and reflections about gender, without the novel feeling like it’s purpose is to educate cis people about trans people’s experiences. I appreciated that this novel wasn’t a coming out story and was more about Maria’s adulthood and her struggle to find meaning, contentment, and safety within it.
The second half of the novel, the road trip part, came across as a bit too unstructured and meandering to me. The interesting and moving reflections and struggles related to gender continued, though the precision of the writing in the first half dissipated for me. Overall I’d still recommend this book to those interested in trans literature. It’s affecting and I can see why people call it a classic within the genre.
I think the only other book I've ever read in one sitting was Animal Farm and that was just because that book is really short and easy to read. Reading usually makes me fall asleep, even when I'm really into it. I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning reading this book and I'm too wound up to sleep even though I finished it. I've never liked anything the way I liked Nevada. I swear I'm not being paid to say that. Holy shit. *full disclosure: it wasn't technically one sitting. I stopped to make dinner and tried to go to bed at one point, but couldn't. Maybe don't read it until you're sure you can afford to stay up all night.*
Really did not enjoy this book; it read kind of like someone tried to make their Tumblr blog into a novel.
There were many thoughtful insights on gender, sexuality, and transgender issues, which made it all the more disappointing to me that Maria, the main character, was unlikeable and tacky -- which may have been the point, but by the end of the book I was so tired of her self-aggrandizing buzzword-y monologues that even examining her from the angle that her growth has been stunted from everything she internalized due to her transition did not redeem her for me. There was far too much "telling" rather than "showing", and cringeworthy reliance on modern Internet jargon and meme-esque namedrops.
Plus, the fastest way to irritate me is for queer narratives to devolve into INDIE QUEER PUNXXX. I mean, I get why the LGBT community often intersects with various subcultures and copious drug use, but it's honestly as grating to read about as it is grating to be around in real life. In the book's defense, that is purely a matter of my personal preferences and experiences.
The author's extensive knowledge of gender and queer issues would be better expressed in plot and characterization, rather than in aggravatingly and unrealistically contrived monologues from the main character.
It's a pretty intense feeling when you start reading a book, and you realize that for the first time in your life you can relate to the narrator in a way you've never related to one before. I read a ton of novels, and this is the only time I've encountered a post-transition trans woman narrator. And that makes me feel incredibly good and incredibly bad at the same time. This isn't to say that I identify completely with Maria. Far from it. In fact I would say that I vacillated between wanting to hug her and wanting to yell at her. But to see such an integral part of my identity reflected in a character, to have her say/think things that made me feel jubilant, pensive, or just completely fucked up, was an amazingly powerful experience for me. And to see aspects of my past self reflected so starkly in the character of James made my heart break, for him and for younger me.
I haven't been this deeply emotionally affected by a novel in...ever? It was the equivalent of two months of therapy crammed into 4 days and 250 pages. I'm sure I'll be processing some of this stuff for a long time.
Here's my request to any cis- (i.e. non-trans) gender people reading this review. Please read this book. Not because it's an amazing, fun, heart-wrenching read (though it is). But because you probably haven't read a novel with characters like this in it ever. At least not trans characters written by a trans author. This might be the first of it's kind. I hope not the last.
For a while in the 10's it felt like every single person who read books had read NEVADA. Except me. I always meant to get to it, but I am very bad at making time for backlist reading. Luckily FSG's reissue means I had an excuse to finally get into it and I'm very glad I did.
I totally get why this book had such an impact on people. The early 10's were extremely heavy on Trans 101 in the larger societal discourse, this book came out before people had Laverne Cox on their televisions as the first trans woman character played by a trans woman actress they'd actually seen on tv. It was, as you say, a different time. But NEVADA is not from a different time. I mean, it technically is, Maria is around my age and I enjoyed all her memories of the early internet and such, but the themes of NEVADA are light years ahead of 2013 when it first came out. It could come out today and we would all find it very relevant. Same probably goes for 10 more years down the line. It is precisely because it does not worry itself with Trans 101 that it works so well.
I love how much of a mess Maria is, without feeling like that overdone Oh Look I'm 30 Years Old In New York And I'm A Mess novel. Binnie's writing is extremely realistic, in that some of the sentences could have come out of my own thoughts. I liked how clear it is that it is just not good in Maria's head, how much she has used the rhythms of her life as distraction. But when we finally get a change it does not feel like a relief, like now everything will get better. Instead we are all like, "Oh no, Maria, this is a bad idea." Binnie loves to start a trope for you but not finish it the way you're expecting.
The new version has an Afterword that I quite enjoyed, where she lays out in part what she was going for, wanting to show us Maria, who is all fucked up post-transition, and James, who is all fucked up pre-transition to be more clear about how those parts of your life are still connected. I understand why people don't like the second part of the book, but I found it really affecting. James's refusal to admit what is going on in his life reminds you of Maria, as different as they are, you see how much they have in common. Often in fiction with trans characters, it feels like there is this clearly laid out path where all you have to do is just be honest about who you are and then everything will get better. And Binnie insists on not framing everything around that. She sees a throughline between the ways it is hard before transition and the ways it is hard after, how it doesn't just all get left behind. A lot of books would have given us Maria finally growing and maturing when she takes on the role of mentor, but Binnie has Maria get kind of freaked out by the whole thing. I loved that. Though, you know, the Afterword coming at the end means you think you have a couple more chapters left when you actually don't. Ah well.
I'm glad this novel was so well received and I'm glad it's getting new life. I'm glad I finally got to it.
This review will contain spoilers. I'll spoiler-tag the worst offenders.
I read this book in less than a day. But for all that I devoured it, I can't decide what I think of it.
It is probably the first novel I've ever read that was written by a trans woman, or was about trans characters. So I found a lot to relate to, possibly divorced from any objective measure of the quality of the book. A lot of things hit close to home, here, and I can't be objective. I'll do my best.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the stylistic choices. The book is written in third-person limited, present tense. The narrative focus shifts a bit from chapter to chapter (especially in the back half of the book), and when it does the style of the narration also shifts to match the personality and attitude of the character in focus. Which is a trick I expect with first-person perspective, not third. So it stands out. As the book progresses, though, you start to get the sense that this is intentional, because the characters are so emotionally detached from their own lives and experiences that they metaphorically experience the world from a third-person perspective.
The other thing that jumps out, stylistically, is the lack of quotation marks. Dialogue is not marked separately from narration or internal monologue. Dialogue tags are used, but they are simply in-line with the dialogue, like so:
Hold on, Maria says, trying to give the impression...
It is an interesting stylistic technique, and again, seems to be intentional, because it makes the narrative parallel the interiority of the characters. In this case, the fact that their thoughts and their own words and the words of other characters blend together so that they don't really know or care where an idea comes from or whether it was said out loud. In other words, they are deeply dissociated. Or, as the characters put it more than once, 'checked out'.
This is key, and it clarifies the use of third-person limited perspective. Because the narrative, despite being third person, includes a lot of interstitials and colloquialisms and blends with the thoughts of the characters in a way that makes it clear we are really reading first-person narrative at a remove. A prime example:
Pardon me, my lady, he says in this Upper East Side drawl or something.
And the narrative style changes drastically when we shift perspectives. Maria's narrative is prone to long monologues about queer and gender theory, which is, among other things, used to deliver the novel's low-context exposition. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Maria really does think in long monologues about queer theory, because she speaks in them, too. The book goes out of its way to lampshade this, to make it clear the expository sequences were intentional.
And, well, to be honest, I sometimes think in long monologues about queer theory. So there's that.
The characters are realized well. There are a lot of very human moments. Nobody is perfect, but nobody is totally unrelatable. The book is clearly aiming at realism, at portraying trans experience in a way that actually has bearing on the real world. And that is an excellent goal, after so many stories about trans people - even the ostensibly supportive ones - just spout the same tired stereotypes over and over. (I'm looking at you, Transamerica. And you, Hit & Miss)
And largely, the book succeeds at this. The structure of the story is clearly intended to parallel the Great American Road Novel trope - someone drives/walks/rides/pogos across America on a quest to find themselves. And it does so very consciously - Maria drives across America because she's read too many Great American Road Novels and thinks that it is The Thing She Needs to Fix Her Life.
Which, of course, is bullshit. Running away from all of your problems doesn't magically give you clarity into solving them,
I've never read a book quite like this one- it's like a combination of You and American Visa with trans vibes but it works.
Our main character is Maria, a trans woman who's stuck in a dead end job and a meaningless relationship. The first half of the book discusses their break-up while the second half is about her journey to the West Coast. However, don't be fooled, this isn't a road trip kind of book, it's more of a stream of consciousness study. The plot is not nearly as important as the experience it shares.
The writing is most definitely one of the strong parts of this book. Binnie writes sharply. I highlighted like half of the book because it's all just so smart and eloquent but not condescending. Maria's internal voice is prominent and relatable from the beginning. Despite the fact that the plot isn't very fast paced, I couldn't stop reading this because I just wanted to know more about Maria, I wanted her to be okay.
I kept thinking about Abigail Thorn (PhilosophyTube) saying that there's a difference between how trans women are written about and how they talk about themselves. Binnie delves deep into the struggles of trans women but it's not a perspective usually talked about. No tragic childhood, no surgery stories. Instead, she discusses a type of mental stagnancy, growing so used to pretending to be someone else that you're unable to be yourself, a numbness of sorts. Spending time passing as a woman before realizing that no one teaches you how to survive as a woman. Dealing with sex as a trans person, dealing with sexism as a woman.
Binnie discusses the escape into theory. That is, the ability to explain eloquently queer and feminist theory but to struggle to express your own desires as a queer person. I loved this analysis because I felt like I could relate. It is easy to find comfort in big ideas as a way to evade dealing with the very real issues of life. This is portrayed so beautifully in this book.
Much of the book is dedicated to analyzing the debate about trans women vs cross-dressing men. I don't want to spoil anything so suffice to say it was fascinating to see Binnie's development of these ideas. She really digs into these questions of gender as a performance.
The symbolism of this book is wild. Heroin and weed, customer service jobs, bicycles, queer theory, punk scenes, if I had like another hour, I would absolutely go on a very long analysis of how each one of these makes this book delightful to read. Alas, I have a paper to hand in in 7 hours and I haven't quite started but fuck it, covid burn-out is real and I respect it.
To conclude, this is more literary than books I usually enjoy but I think this book could find a broad readership. It's an #ownvoices book that truly manages to frame the conversation well while also just being a really solid piece of literature that stands up on its own.
What I'm Taking With Me - This is the trans woman version of Elliot Wake's brilliant Bad Boy, I will die on this hill. - I loved the chapter with Maria's girlfriend, such a great twist. - So many punk vibes - The trans woman experience is so incredibly far from anything I've ever experienced, I just - I've been delving into identity politics recently and I'm not sure why this is happening now
------ I also want to abruptly steal someone's car and travel across the country because of a trans identity crisis, this book is such a mood. Review to come!
You should read this because you are probably an insensitive patriarchy-reinforcing asshole like me. You should read this because you have made or stood by and listened to transmisogynistic statements and not even thought twice. You should read this because you exoticize otherness and somehow think that trans women (or anyone else for that matter) are (/is) not as boring or complicated or rich in inner life as you. You should read this because this is a rad novel with a more than under-represented viewpoint that could only make you less of an asshole to have begun to understand. You should read this because there is cussing.
Disclosure: I knew the author for a few years in college when we lived in the same house.
when i picked this up i had no clue that it had originally been published ten years ago and honestly, i would not have been able to tell. maria was such a magnetic character and i love how she was unapologetically still figuring everything out. i feel like there are so many opportunities for understanding or relating to maria no matter who reads this and those are my favourite kinds of stories! love love love
3.5 stars on this. I'm really glad this book is out there, I'll say that first. It was pretty awesome to read a book that I could relate to so well in terms of the politics and such, though at times those politics were a bit didactic and smug. I wasn't the biggest fan of the writing style--for the first 50 or so pages I felt completely irritated by the number of times "like" was used. Then I pushed through that. There was a lot of "telling" about how the characters felt, though that was probably part of the point. The main character is so out of touch with herself, and the style reinforced that distance for me as reader, but I felt disconnected from the story as a result. Definitely worth reading, though.
4.5 // Wow, I loved this. Halfway into this book, I bought a copy for a friend (always a great feeling when you come across a book that you immediately want to put into the hands of someone you know).
Binnie has a conversational style that makes you nod along as you turn the pages. It’s rhythmic. My only criticism is that some of the monologues in the second half were a little info-dumpy and Wikipedia-esque. Those parts strongly contrasted with the rest of the book, which conveyed the same thoughts/themes in a more casual/informal/somewhat breezy way. Themes on trans identity, transitioning, transphobia, genderqueer, sexuality, sex, growing up, restlessness. The ending is abrupt and unresolved, and that choice sticks the landing!!
Maria and James will continue to live rent-free in my mind.
The characters were too stoned and/or checked out for me to make any sense. Beyond a point, beginning sentences with 'like' or writing dialogue without quotations becomes repetitive and tedious to read.
Yay for trans person writing relevant trans stories Nay for the style of writing
4 Stars for Nevada (audiobook) by Imogen Binnie read by the author.
This is a interesting glimpse into the trans world. Maria, who made it to New York and transitioned years ago is unhappy with her life. She turns her life upside down and steals her girlfriend’s car and heads west. She runs across James in Star city Nevada. He is also questioning his life and secretly questioning his gender. Maria recognizes what James is going through and tries to mentor him but she really isn’t in the right mindset to help James.
i hated everything about this book. i hated that the only time trans men were brought up was to absolutely shit all over them and talk about how they're the more privileged class of trans. i hated the style of prose, which was stilted and awkward and poorly executed for the direction that the author was clearly trying to go towards. i hated every single one of the characters, all of whom were ridiculous and so far up their own asses that any other character trying to make them see the light was hopeless. maria is the kind of person i'd punch if i had to listen to speak. oh, maria, woe is me, my life sucks but the internet agrees i'm the trans queen so i'm allowed to laugh at the closeted trans person i've decided to use as my life epiphany. oh, woe is me, i'm going to somehow "CASUALLY" use heroin - but don't worry, because i'm the Queen Trans, i'm never going to get hooked, despite it being one of the most addictive substances in the world. also, i'm going to casually drag random people i meet into the heroin cycle for ???? literally no reason. but i'll do it casually and it'll never be a big deal as a plot point. and then can we talk about the fact that 80% of the book wasn't actually a book, it was a fucking rambling mess of monologue about some deep-far feminist bs that had nothing to do with anything, because the author is still trying to masquerade this as a narrative novel so she can't actually go deeply enough into the trans essay she clearly wanted to write, to actually explain or teach any of the topics she tangentially mentions twelve thousand times.
i hated every second of this book, and i'm angry that i spent the time in finishing it.
The writing is atrocious. It's like reading a sixteen-year-old's blog. The plot was dull. Nothing interesting happens. No prose, no plot. This leaves us with character. Presumably the dreadful narrative voice and absence of plot is considered excusable because it's a real person revealing their heart and soul. Nevada fails in this regard too. Nothing is revealed. Every time Maria comes close to sharing something real, something ugly, something brutally honest, or embarrassing, or difficult, Binnie flinches, and escapes behind an ink cloud of evasive language. 'Whatever, or something, who cares'. This story is made with the kind of dishonesty and self-deception a writing teacher would grade with a zero, with the words 'Bullshit! DIG DEEPER' scrawled beneath in red ink. I'm dismayed to see that nobody is willing to give her this kind of feedback. What do you think caused your GID? What exactly is it you're shutting yourself off from? How do you feel about yourself? Binnie doesn't come close to answering any of these questions, if she even tries at all. Instead we get a lot of canned theory and shallow observations. I get the idea that this may be a level of introspection that Maria is unwilling or unable to perform, but then the task falls on the writer to tease it out of her, whether through the plot or by putting it somewhere 'between the lines' so to speak, and Binnie just doesn't seem to have the skill as a writer to make it happen. I was disappointed by her lack of courage.
Loved this book. Particularly interesting to me is how transparently and complexly Maria, the protagonist, takes on a kind of pedagogical role -- for both James and the general reader -- these "teaching moments" are complicated by anxieties and critical awareness of the diversity of trans experience, and don't read as didactic or prescriptive but as straight-up radical infosharing; the book is very aware of itself as a counternarrative. Very glad this exists in the world.
It’s likely impossible (especially given the day and age we live in) to say you didn’t like a book about trans people and not be accused of transphobia. But let me try, anyway, I didn’t really like this book. I understand its appeal, it’s supposed to be the granddaddy of all transliterature - and it’s a teenager of a granddaddy because the field is so young, the book is only about 15 years old and set 20 years ago, at the time of this review’s publication. Nowadays, that the trans conversation is much more prominent, from tv shows (Transparent) to blockbusters (the new Matrix), the publishers jumped on their opportunity at relevance and rereleased this book, complete with essay length afterword by the author. I did like the afterword, it stands to mention. Considerably more than the book itself. In it the author, among many things, says something like she often ends up kind of hating trans characters in literature. Well, guess what? The main protagonist in Nevada isn’t really likeable. Not hateable as such, just not likeable. There are two of them, technically. The book is split up between a post-transition 29-year-old transwoman and a 20-year-old potentially pre-transition stoner. The older character lives in NYC, the younger in Nevada, but the two eventually meet (in Nevada) and the older one proceeds to try to mentor the younger one. The older one is tediously self-involved, obsessing every waking moment over being trans, emotionally shut down person who rides her bike, works in the (unnamed) Strand bookstore and contemplates her moribund relationship. She’s terrible at both her job and her relationship, not that good of a friend either. Too self-obsessed. Nothing compelling here. The kid is a stoner in a small town with no future outside of a Wal-Mart career and an obsession with women’s bodies and clothes. The kid gets fascinated by the other character when she blows into his dusty nowhere town, but comes to find out that maybe not all she says is relevant to him, because, you know, advice is like that. The novel is meant to have this hyper-realistic awareness of its time and of its character’s struggles, but mostly it comes across as young and striking in a gutterpunk way, like you can’t help but notice it but for the wrong reasons (mostly smell and dirt). It isn’t terribly written as such and I can appreciate the significance as far as pure representation and visibility goes that it must have had for the trans community, but as a narrative work of literature it leaves a lot to be desired. At least, it reads quickly enough. Thanks Netgalley.
Reading Imogen Binnie's "Nevada" fills me with the kind of nervous excitement I get when I go to a great panel or am having a wonderful conversation with a new friend - part of me can't wait to find out everything that happens, but a larger part of me doesn't want to finish a book that speaks so intensely to my heart. I feel like for the first time I understand when people say a "fresh voice" - Binnie's prose is so real and believable and yet is like nothing I've read. I find myself falling in love with Brooklyn all over again. She seems to both write things that have been in community conversations for years, but then to add new insight in surprising and wonderful ways. I can't put it down and I don't want it to end.
LOOK, all through this book i was like, this is going to get 5/5, i love this so much, oh my god, it's the cool trans girl holden caulfield i didn't know i needed but really did. but then. i got to the end. which wasn't even really an end? and i'm sure there's a point to that, whatever, i know very well what an open ending is, the author surely had some grand intention or other. but my reading experience isn't about authorial intention and so i feel kind of snubbed. but what came before that was great and i still recommend everyone to read this, i just had to say this because i was so prepared to really lay out my love for this book, and the ending kind of disappointed me. read it though, it's worth it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I really enjoyed this book 😃 I found it quite a swift read, tho I benefitted from accessing it as an audiobook, read the author 😃♥
for me it had a momentum that carried it along, and felt quite fast paced - in energy more than 'action'.
it's very funny, tongue in cheek, and very (deliberately) "whatever" 😉😆 yet also very real/serious in its content too - great to present and carry the ideas within this humour and energy.
it's really interesting in the way it explores gender and sexuality, and navigating relationships as part of that complexity... sometimes it reads as a presentation of ideas and opinions/politics about gender/gendered experiences (with Maria particularly as delivery of these ideas), othertimes more fluidly like the novel it is. Maria's monologues are kinda flagged for what they are within the novel too, so conscious layers around this on the author's part I think 🙂
it rather brilliantly deconstructs autogynophila... both wrt its problematic reinforcement of trans women being men, and of women not having sexualities.
there's quite alot I appreciated within the story about being present in your body generally, and during sex with another... and how complex it can be at times to inhabit one's own body as a trans person, trans woman... and/or simply as a gendered being.
the two main characters are in twenties and late teens... and it could make a really good young trans adult book... but it's maybe got too much sex, kink and drug use in it to be officially shelved as such 😆 I thought the story even explored the possibility of the character in their twenties as a potential mentor for the character in their late teens... tho that didn't actually pan out especially well in practice, I think deliberately and interestingly so 😉 the older/main character definitely has alot of their own shit to process and sort out 😆 so hopefully maybe a adult novel that canny teens will find when they need it 😉
I really liked how appropriately openly and inconclusively it ended 😃
kinda like a road trip to nowhere, and everywhere at the same time - the journey being more/as relevant than the destination 🙂
and I VERY much enjoyed the afterword - hearing some of the context within the authors life and around the time the novel was written (and abit before and since).
I LOVED the critique of "transition" within cisheteronormative use, compared to trans people's lived experience. this is something I think about alot myself, especially the very colonialist Anglo-Euro model of 'transition' that dominates currently. the brilliant presentation of the ideas of 'before' and 'after', embodied by Maria and James... and how it's really not that simple.
In 60 brief chapters, in tight third-person narrations, first that of Maria, a trans woman, then of James, a decade younger and possibly a trans woman who either has or has not fully considered this truth about himself, this is a funny, melancholic, sharp-toothed, originally-voiced and rarely cynical novel. Plot is not the point here, there's not much of one, but it doesn't matter. There's a romance that ends but neither Maria nor her cis-woman girlfriend seem much to care, a road trip Maria takes that doesn't go far, there are no epiphanies, no deaths, no suicides, only, eventually, maybe a desire to help another, James, whom she immediately identifies as trans when she meets him in a Walmart in Nevada, where he works, and assumes he is fighting his nature, fighting against what she learned long ago about herself, and what she's learned since; it's a novel about a trans woman without showing the medical transitioning, she's a woman taking hormones who has not had - and may never be able to afford - bottom surgery - (and the point well made and important is that a trans woman is a woman regardless of the various aspects of her particular transitioning) trying to figure out who is she as a person, why she's stayed in a dead-end job at a Strand-like used bookstore in downtown NYC, being around people who knew her before, who used to call her by her dead name, how she might access her emotions, why she always tunes out, shuts down, why her favorite thing might be to leave, to be on her own, how it intersects with her upbringing in rural Pennsylvania knowing there was something different about her from a young age, unaware what she felt was felt by others, knowing no one else who was trans, not even having a name for it at first, all the socialization she absorbed, her focus on not making others uncomfortable, interrogating along the way white male privilege, white privilege, the politics and confusions among the myriad groups that coalesce around gender and/or sexuality, written in a breezy style that carries the reader along. There's a blog-like feeling to the writing, many uses of "likes," an informality that fits well with Maria's nature and character. Occasionally it is didactic, but I found that both compelling and educational. Published originally back in 2008, I think, and reissued now, the novel has not aged much at all, and the afterword was a good addition. This is one woman's story and Maria declaims repeatedly this is only her story, not that of all trans women. Her rollicking and charming nature, her navel-gazing, her debunking of various perceptions about trans women, and the novel as a whole, was delightful, fun, heartbreaking but also affirming, a novel that centers the trans woman qua woman and that does not cater at all to the cis-world gaze.
7/21/22: I loved revisiting this, esp with the excellent new afterward from the author, in which she informs us exactly how this book came to be and the effects it had on her life and career after its original publication. Highly recommend reading/rereading!
Imogen Binnie is an exciting new novelist and her book feels very necessary – so necessary I've already added it to the top of the small pile of trans-themed books I’m always pestering people to read, particularly the many sex therapists with Trans clients who I happen to know. While Nevada gets a bit polemical at times I never cared because Binnie’s voice is so punk-fresh, lively and conversational that I was always entertained, often laughing out loud, even as she was schooling me on what it’s really like - you know, what it's really really like - to be born in the wrong body and the incredible amounts of time, money, psychic energy & general blood sweat and tears it requires to remedy the mistake and transition. I also really appreciated her protagonist Maria’s passionate, sensory-overload monologues on such issues as the differences between trans-women and trans-men in the realm of Privilege (guess who experiences loss of privilege and who gains? Go ahead, guess) and the general sense of wrongness of having to exhaustively prove one's credentials to others before being allowed to make the desired life alteration(s) - which is not to say I don't understand the necessities of healthcare professionals Being Procedural, it's just great to hear from the other side, the side that has to actually make a go of life, one way or another, transition or no transition. I really felt the gravity of that. So yeah, the book is just loaded with ideas and energy and it all goes down great, finishing off on an elliptical note that left me wanting more and left me thinking I may be holding a new Classic On The Subject here in my hands. So there you are, Rob Says Read This.
I first read this about four or five years ago and it instantly became one of my favourite books. Re-reading it as a washed-up punk with a day job, however, makes it hit even harder. Binnie has a way of making the nuances of punk politics, queerness, growing up, feminism, disassociation, having a shitty retail job and depression extremely funny, even when they don't feel that way while you're living through them. I especially love the characterization of Maria and James and how they feel like authentic, messy humans working through their shit instead of ideological tokens to make a political point. And I'm always a sucker for an ambiguous open-ending. Please write another novel Imogen!