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Tomboyland: Essays

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,502 ratings  ·  220 reviews
A fiercely personal and startlingly universal essay collection about the mysteries of gender and desire, of identity and class, of the stories we tell and the places we call home.

Flyover country, the middle of nowhere, the space between the coasts. The American Midwest is a place beyond definition, whose very boundaries are a question. It’s a place of rolling prairies and
Paperback, 268 pages
Published August 1st 2020 by TOPPLE Books & Little A
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Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first, I resisted the word: I knew when people called me tomboy it was meant to call out my difference, that it set me apart from the other girls in my small Midwestern town. And back then, I didn't want to be different.

Melissa Faliveno grew up in a place where to be different is suspect. Rural Wisconsin is not a great place to stand out from the crowd unless it's for winning the most ribbons at the 4-H fair. But sometimes being different is a good thing, such as when one is forced to look in
Richard Propes
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picture Melissa Faliveno, author of this Amazon First Read title "Tomboyland," one day sitting in front of her computer reading these words.

I picture her laughing, perhaps wondering aloud "Who is this lunatic?"

It's a fair question.

It's a question I ask myself often and it's a question I asked myself often while reading this unexpectedly immersive, engaging collection of intimate yet universal essays exploring the mysteries of gender and desire, identity and class, and what it means when we
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Eight essays: The Finger of God. Tomboy. Of a Moth. Switch-Hitter. Meat and Potatoes. Gun Country. Motherland. Driftless.

These are the compositions that make up Melissa Faliveno’s collection of essays called Tomboyland: Essays. From The Finger of God, in which she writes of tornadoes, Faliveno takes us on a very personal, sometimes stormy expression of her own self-discovery and self-expression. The F5 tornado that ravaged the small Wisconsin town near her own town of Mount Horeb is a metaphor f
Jamie Jack
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: p-2020, nonfiction
Makes Me Happy to Be a Lifelong Left Coast Citizen

I love reading books that get you thinking, and this one certainly did. This collection of essays explores several complex and arguably controversial topics from both a profoundly personal standpoint and a broader cultural perspective. As someone who grew up on the left coast of the US, I appreciated how the author made the Midwest of her youth—a culture vastly different from the one I was raised in—come alive so vividly. Being a square peg in a
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-owned
This was an interesting collection of essays. I loved the two 'bookend' essays--"The Finger of God" and "Driftless," especially having grown up 30 miles or so west of the author's hometown. In fact, I was deeply moved while reading "The Finger of God" in particular.

However, in some of the middle works, I felt there were a few awkward juxtapositions within the essays that didn't necessarily allow for smooth transitions (maybe just for me as the reader), but I still found beauty in Faliveno's pro
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-purchased
I have a lot to say about this collection of wonderfully written essays, but I’ll try to keep it short.

Telling you I didn’t tear up multiple times while reading this would be a lie. It might be the empath in me, but you could also blame it on feeling so heard, so validated, and so understood. So much of what Faliveno writes about - her memories, her experiences - are so similar to my own life and experiences growing up. From family and what defines it, to the intersection of gender identity and
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another choice from the Amazon First Reads program...I'm off to a great start with those. Two in a row that I've really enjoyed.

While this book is ostensibly a collection of essays, it really doesn't read as such. It doesn't have the ebbs and flows that you usually find in a book of essays. It flows consistently with each essay showing her characteristic style and helping to paint an overall portrait. This portrait is as much of the soul of the land the author comes from as it is of the soul of
David Francis Curran
The author has that quality that a superior essayist needs, the ability to keep being interesting as she spins her tale. From the descriptions of tornados to the trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin (you can find said trolls on Google Earth if you got to E Main Street and N Third Street in Mt. Horeb and head east) the writing is smooth and flowing. And I love the self-deprecating humor. For example, as a leader in a religious group she says of the rules she quoted to others, '--even as I, like so many ...more
Kevin Castro Riestra
The midwestern town Monica Faliveno grew up in might well fit the popular image of the Midwest: "rural, mostly white, working-class Christian" as she herself describes it. Yet, Faliveno is not quite the "meat and potatoes" fare one might expect from such a description. Being, as I am, unfamiliar with the Midwest, cisgender, male, and heterosexual, one of the chief appeals of Faliveno's essays is the array of unfamiliar experiences and challenges they reveal to the reader (or at least to this rea ...more
Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really mixed for me, i had high expectations. Definitely recurring fatphobia, and also this strange (read: transphobic) omission around trans/nonbinary folks when discussing dating/the author's relationship to the queer community and especially in conversations around biphobia - felt really odd. Also a lot of LONG essays striving towards a journalist/reporter-y voice that felt forced. ...more
First, this book ideally should come with trigger warnings: bullying and harassment, suicide, self-harm, guns and gun violence, discussion of hunting and some discussion about slaughter (as a vegan I found these parts the hardest to get through!), and kink/BDSM come to mind as things readers may want to be warned of before they read this book.

The book, a collection of essays and personal introspection, is candid - at times shockingly so (for some people). There were times when I teetered on the
Whistlers Mom
The missing man.

Usually, when Amazon offers two Kindle First books, I only take one. But this month, there were two non-fiction selections. So I took them both and read one and reviewed it. Then I read this one and I've spent most of a month trying to figure out what to say about it. The only thing I can say for sure is this - the author writes beautifully. I just didn't always care for what she was writing about.

If I'd read only the first and last chapters of this book, I would have given it fi
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was so blown away by this essay collection. Melissa Faliveno is a natural storyteller and an extraordinarily gifted writer. So whether she's talking about tornados or gender identity or growing up in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, she writes with a sense of wonder and curiousity about the world and the people she's talking with and about her self and her own struggles with a body that doesn't always comply with expectations. She gives you access to her thinking in a way that makes you feel s ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this one! A beautifully written, timely collection of essays exploring a diverse range of topics.

Faliveno is an excellent essayist. Born in the Midwest she uses her own upbringing and personal opinions and experiences to bring to life these essays. Topics of gender expression and sexuality, Christian upbringing, feminism, rage, identity, home, belonging and more. Tom Boy Land made me think a lot. Faliveno made interesting points about where we grow up, the landscape and comm
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, woman-authored
As a queer person born and raised in the rural Midwest, Melissa Faliveno's "Tomboyland," a collection of essays that reflects on her queerness and Midwestern roots, served as a reminder that even those places we leave remain a part of who we become.

Melissa lives in New York City with her (male) partner of ten years. A queer woman who has wrestled with her gender and sexual identities for years, uses the essays in this collection to confront her longing for the Midwest and the ways of life that s
Becky Faliveno
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brave New Voice

Melissa Faliveno brings the midwest to life with her stunning debut book Tomboyland. Beautifully written and achingly honest, she courageously examines all aspects of growing up and discovering her true self. It will make you cry. It will make you laugh. It will leave you wanting more.
Janna M
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This series of essays picks you up like a tornado, whirls you through softball practice and Wisconsin's Driftless Area and gender expression, and drops you in New York City feeling homesick. Having grown up in Iowa, in the heart of "tomboyland," I am fascinated by how aptly the author describes aspects of Midwest life that are not often pointed out. Everyone else jokes about Ranch dressing, and "Midwest nice," but she points out the highs and pitfalls of small-town communities with equal reveren ...more
Laura Sackton
This book blew me away. Maybe it's because Faliveno writes about so many things that are so close to my own experience (though in very different ways). The writing is so clearsighted and intimate. What Faliveno has to say about place, queerness, parenthood, desire, gender-it's all just so good and interconnected. And her writing about the Midwest is the kind of place-based writing I love. I don't have a connection to Wisconsin, and yet I felt so immersed in her experience of it, and her Midweste ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Eventually, I would like to sit down and really dig into this book and how much I loved it. For now, I'll just say that I was not expecting to be tearing up over a book I picked up on a whim as a Prime First Read. I love essay collections. Often, I find myself reading them for technical reasons—for lessons in essay writing, rather than an experience of the form on a more emotional or intellectual level. I thought this is what I would be doing with these essays. But right away Faliveno punched me ...more
Margaret F.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest - I picked this book up because it was one of the freebie Kindle First Read books, and looked sort of interesting. I've read other First Reads before, and while a lot of them are entertaining, in general I feel like you're getting what you're paying for.

This one, however, blew me away. Faliveno is brutally honest about her feelings and emotions, and she does not shy away from difficult or "taboo" subjects. She hits on heavy drinking, sexual abuse, fetishes and kinks, roller derby,
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I am the same age as the author so I could relate to so many minor, relatively unimportant aspects of her life thus far, from childhood into high school and young adulthood. She covers so many topics, seamlessly weaving many together that seem unrelated (for example sexuality and diet—as in what one eats, not an endeavor to lose weight—) she just touched on so many subjects, and more than once she articulated something I had never attempted to put words to. She is a brilliant ...more
Marta M
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An essay book that reads like the best fiction

This month's firts reads selection did not appeal to my taste in fiction. So I took a chance with this non fiction essays book. It was a lucky chance. Probably in the top 5 of the many books I have read in the past year, maybe more.
Non fiction that absorbed me to the point that I read late at night must be very good.
I came to feel identified with the writer at many points, because I grew up in a small town where my views on life were not mainstream.
Tammy V
This was once of the free choices sent to me by Amazon for my kindle. Because it is essays, I picked it over love stories and fiction that looked rather inane.

Faliveno is a good essayist and has a style that takes two seemingly unrelated topics and weaves them together or at least wanders back and forth between them and mostly it works.

My biggest problem with the book is that it doesn't come with a warning on triggers. When I read an essay titled Meat and Potatoes I do not expect to run into exp
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The kind of read that makes you stop and savor, stop and reread, stop and wonder if you are able to continue. Poetic prose, thoughts to ponder, truth shared, beyond bearing, in the depth of its pain.
I wanted to understand your world, Melissa, even just a bit. Thank you.
Jenna Bachman
One of my best Kindle FirstReads picks.

Really compelling reflections on womanhood, identity, spaces, trauma, and others. Faliveno has a very compelling narration that really sucks the reader into every essay she writes.

TWs for sexual assault, addiction, self-harm.

Tanja Walker
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Debut

This reminded me of my childhood in Wisconsin and Iowa, before I became a transplanted Oklahoman. I may be a cisgender white straight female, but I could relate to the author’s struggles with her sexuality and her rage.
Josephine Briggs
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Melissa Faliveno's memoir of growing up . Now she is thirty-six. She is a good writer, keeps book interesting. The book contains eight essays, all different, all topics of interest.

She begins her book about a tornado the tore through her small town in the Driftless area of Wisconsin. Mount Horeb filled with carved trolls. Her town was spared, the neighboring town, Barneveld, destroyed. Several people were killed. Many years later to write her book, she interviewed a woman, whose three your old s
This book tries to tackle a wide array of topics, ranging from gender identity, sexual orientation, motherhood (and not being a mother), guns, and others.  The author writes from the perspective of someone who is originally from the Midwest, bisexual, and has lived in New York for over a decade.  As I'm also a Midwest transplant in New York, I had thought this book would resonate with me more, but it often fell flat.  The author certainly presents some thoughtful discourses on the above-mentione ...more
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could not finish this book. The author reminds me of Charlie Brown who has a rain cloud over his head but I get the deep self-examination of her self but the essays felt like deadweights and seemingly never ended. I finally was exhausted by the minutiae of her remembrances with nary a space for breath. The absence of even a glimmer of humor was deadly. The other unforgivable thing is, it crescendoed in boredom. So, I stopped reading it. The end.
Eule Luftschloss
trigger warning
(view spoiler)

These essays are about all the different parts that can make an identity. In Melissa Faliveno's case, her genderqueerness - I decided on the warning transphobia for everything that belongs to that essay, though Lou, as she likes to be called, do
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Essayist, editor, teacher, and author of TOMBOYLAND: ESSAYS, forthcoming in August 2020 from Topple Books.

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