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Detransition, Baby

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A whipsmart debut about three women—transgender and cisgender—whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby—and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can't reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

337 pages, Hardcover

First published January 12, 2021

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About the author

Torrey Peters

9 books1,260 followers
Torrey Peters is the author of the novel Detransition, Baby, published by One World/Random House, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is also the authors of the novellas Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones and The Masker. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Masters in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth. Torrey rides a pink motorcycle and splits her time between Brooklyn and an off-grid cabin in Vermont.

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5 stars
21,229 (29%)
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3 stars
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910 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,331 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 120 books159k followers
November 11, 2020
I have mixed feelings about this novel. It is chaotic, well-written, deeply, gorgeously queer, messy, sexy, and it probes really interesting questions about womanhood, motherhood, fatherhood, queer parenting, the relationships we make and break. Some of the storytelling was too... indulgent is maybe the word I'm looking for, like, when you're in the groove as a writer, loving what you're writing, digging down into it, and you don't know where to stop. But that's okay!

The title is masterful.

This is one of those books I suspect will be polarizing, but I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Morgan M. Page.
Author 8 books734 followers
September 29, 2020
Detransition, Baby is, like its title, going to be a polarizing book. There is hardly a page that won't cause somebody, somewhere to clutch their own personal pearls. Torrey has written right into all the hardest, least comfortable, often cruellest parts of the culture war over gender, and nobody comes out looking good. But she does it with such an unparalleled humour, honesty, and grace that one cannot fault her. Discussing the book with a trans friend in her 70s, she described it as "a bit too 'not in front of the cis,' but in a good way."

Detransition, Baby is about two and a half women, a baby, what it means to be a mother, and, ultimately, about the strange paths heartache leads us down. She had me in stitches the whole way through, even as I myself occasionally recoiled from just how much of our collective ass she was putting on display. A truly seismic debut.
Profile Image for Anna.
816 reviews553 followers
March 16, 2021
Reese wanted to end their games, to get hit in a way that would affirm, once and for all, what she wanted to feel about her womanhood: her delicacy, her helplessness, her infuriating attractiveness. After all, Every woman adores a Fascist.

No, thanks...
Profile Image for Nikki.
494 reviews124 followers
January 25, 2021
What it has:
Queerness and lots of it. The queerest conversations and situations that I've ever read. It's breathtaking and groundbreaking. I ate it up.

What it doesn't have:
A plot. Or even a real point. An editor. A sense of urgency.
Profile Image for Jana.
18 reviews15 followers
March 14, 2021
Rarely have I been given the privilege to read such violently mysoginistic crap.
Think the most obviously sexualized and violent description - the one you know could only have been written by a man with the most elementary disdain for women- and then multiply that by ten.

The writing is otherwise pleasant at times, it is what made me get through the novel.

Detransition, Baby wants to be about creating different families and coping with femininity, but it only manages to leave long-lasting impressions of hatred of the female.

No, to be female is not to be penetrated and to be violated and to be brutalized. Anyone fantasizing about such things and calling them the essence of femaleness has serious problems to work upon.

This book has horrible takes about domestic violence, amongst other things, and I recommend others read it - if only the first few chapters, if only to get a good idea of exactly what kind of vile writing penguin publishes and promotes as progressive.
Profile Image for Estefanía.
62 reviews50 followers
May 4, 2022
I finished Detransition, Baby a week ago, but I'm still uncomfortable about it. Sure, I was disappointed that I didn't enjoy this much-hyped book. But, more importantly, I was unsettled by how aggressively white it is, how the issue of race and racism in the novel is skirted and toyed with, but ultimately left me feeling a little worse each time. While some would argue that the tone-deaf racial politics of the novel is the point of the story, I want to articulate why this bothers me.

Detransition, Baby follows Ames, a man who has detransitioned after years of identifying as a trans woman, and the two women, Reese and Katrina, who each find themselves joined with him in the wake an unexpected pregnancy. As Ames wrangles Reese and Katrina into co-parenting his child, so begins my discomfort.

“Do you realize how often I’ve been that? A vessel for someone else’s dreams? Sure, just let the Asian lady carry our baby! You’ll be like all the other nice white couples with your adopted Asian baby.” The accusation takes Reese’s breath away. The unfairness of it. First of all, let’s be honest: Katrina looks white. Second, are they playing Oppression Olympics?

There's this weird pattern in Detransition, Baby: white characters voice racist ideas or commit racist actions and Katrina, the only major BIPOC character in the novel, is the conduit through which these comments are shrugged off, condoned, or basically just given the pass to float along in the ether, unchecked, un-criticized, and apparently unworthy of any real consequence. The specter of Whiteness hovers of this novel from start to finish, beginning with Reese's fetishization of contracting HIV/AIDS, to Iris' desire to "become a Lana Del Rey song personified" and for a man "to love [her] so much he murders [her]", to varying assertions that "Every woman adores a Fascist", and that being beaten by a partner would affirm Reese's womanhood by asserting "her delicacy, her helplessness, her infuriating attractiveness." Peters' novel radiates Whiteness like a toxic waste plant, suggesting that the most enviable womanhood isn't just cis womanhood- but exclusively white cis womanhood. Peters' engagement with gender is constantly presented in the form of an unorthodox and digressive womanhood that desires male violence. But the "taboo" of gender violence necessitates the concept of a form of womanhood that is considered sacred, delicate, and too fragile for anyone to dare raise a hand at a woman. When white men beat white women, the transgression comes from white supremacy's assertion that white women are valuable vessels- White Femininity is an exclusively white supremacist concept affored exclusively to cis women who can offer viable white babies. Reese regurgitates this desire- her strict and cisnormative ideal of a traditional family and having 'real children' through cis pregnancy, coupled with the desire to be "loved so much he murders me," is something only white women get to play with, romanticize and fetishize. For black, brown, and indigenous women, gendered violence isn't a validation of womanhood: its the unrelenting destruction of your whole personhood. Violence is only a shocking transgression against the delicacy and desirability of womanhood when you're a white woman- when you're a BIPOC woman, your death and destruction is seldom cared about, seldom met with justice or dismay or public attention. It isn't revolutionary. It's heartbreakingly banal. In light of stories like those of Breonna Taylor or the knowledge that murder is the 3rd leading cause of death for Indigenous Women, Detransition, Baby's cast of trans women who seek assimilation into cis womanhood via gendered violence left a bad taste in my mouth.

I'm aware that Peters' characters aren't supposed to be "good" queers: they aren't palatable and noble trans people who are the paradigm of social ethics and neither are the cis characters who surround them. In fact, Katrina is openly transphobic throughout the novel and even goes as far as to out Ames and nearly destroy his livelihood. But it bothers me that these racial blindspots- wether intentional or not- aren't checked more thoroughly, that this novel is in essence a novel about whiteness, for white people, and to white people.

We learn, for example, that Ames and Reese both envy black and brown trans women for the "motherhood" they receive from trans, BIPOC elders, arguing that white trans girls are uniquely cursed with being orphaned:

Katrina laughs. “Wait, I ignored your self-pity about how it sucked to be a woman, but now you’re saying you feel sorry for yourself ’cause you were a white girl?”

Ames replies defensively, acknowledging that he navigates his relationship and concept of Katrina as if she were a white woman. But Katrina's response doesn't go quite far enough and Ames denies victimizing himself for his whiteness, but still holds that his jealousy is valid and the novel just carries on. Ames, for his part, offers no sympathy when he learns that Katrina was dehumanized by her ex-husband, who secretly hoarded asian fetish films throughout their marriage: I dunno,” Ames said. “If I were an Asian woman, and my husband had a collection of Asian porn, maybe I’d be flattered. At least it means he’s attracted to me. Over and over again, Katrina is subjected to these constant berates and, while she often replies or offers a soft rebuttal, these comments are dealt with nonchalantly, as if they're just making comments about something as inoffensive as the weather.

Over and over again, character A says something racist to Katrina, Katrina (the token BIPOC) responds: "that's not very woke!" and then the characters move on with no consequence. So the cycle goes. It persists till the very end, when Reese accuses Katrina's emerging concept of her own queerness and "this whole sharing-a-baby enterprise" as "nothing but an elaborate exercise in the gentrification of queerness". As always, Katrina takes lite issue with it. It's insensitive. The only BIPOC character is being accused of gentrification by a white person? Oh no! Then everyone all but yawns and moves on. If a white person said that shit to me, that'd be the last words they'd ever say to me. If a white person decided that my womb was fertile ground for their ex's Nuclear Family fantasies, that'd be the last thing they'd ever do. But Katrina? She just takes it and takes it and takes it and the world carries on as it should.

I just found this novel really harrowing and disappointing in its laziness with race. Yes, Ames and Reese acknowledge that black trans women have it harder- but they say it almost through their teeth, as if everyone hasn't already tokenized Marsha P Johnson, as if it isn't already the Trendy Woke thing to say "Protect Black Trans Women" even if it's all empty talk. Sure, they aren't meant to be role models, but I wanted more pushback, more condemnation of their flaws, something or some character to serve as a foil to suggest: there is something deeply, deeply wrong with how these white trans people engage with race and they have no excuse not to do better.

I can't find myself applauding this novel. I don't find it daring to talk about womanhood validated through violence, I don't find it daring to talk about the fragility of femininity that is only afforded to Lana Del Rey's and Marilyn Monroe's and thin, pretty white girls with bad boy boyfriends who want to strangle them. I'm not interested in the "hard earned" womanhood of white women- trans or not. I'm really fuckin' skeeved out by a novel that centers around two white people using an asian woman's viable womb as the backdrop for their turbulent and dysfunctional relationship. This novel doesn't go far enough to recant these issues- it acknowledges them, but acknowledging that your characters have a racism problem and then proceeding to do nothing about this in your narrative is insanely disappointing. It's wildly tone-deaf that Peters writes Katrina as having an issue with being seen as a "walking uterus" and then hinges the entire novel on just that- whether or not she'll carry the pregnancy to term or betray Ames and Reese both by having an abortion.

Its difficult, as a latina, to read a book about white women who yearn to be abused, dominated, infected with HIV, or literally murdered by their lovers as an entry point into femininity - the destruction of women of color isn’t forbidden erotica, it’s largely our assured destruction. I think instead of what Mitski said once about herself as, like Katrina, a mixed race Asian woman: "I used to rebel by destroying myself, but realized that's awfully convenient to the world. For some of us, our best revolt is self-preservation."

I was sorely disappointed with Detransition, Baby. But I don't deny we need more novels about trans people, especially written by trans authors and some small part of me wonders why this novel is it, wether or not other cis readers have perked their ears at this book in the midst of the wave of anti-trans legislation and US policies that hinge their bigotry around bad-faith arguments about detransitioning. I want more trans stories- but I want trans stories written by my Latine sisters, written by those who see themselves in Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Angela Ross more than they do Sarah Jessica Parker. I want trans novels written by and for BIPOC women and, when they come, I hope we give them just as much energy and praise we've given Torrey Peters.
Profile Image for emma.
1,867 reviews54.4k followers
June 23, 2023
there is no book recommendation quite as exciting as one from someone who never reads.

if my friend who has not finished a book since catcher in the rye tells me they liked one, i am RUNNING to the bookstore. i am getting a boba and taking a long walk to an indie bookstore and i am ACQUIRING.

it rarely leads me astray.

this one is really hard reading. like roxane gay said in her as usual perfect review, it's also sometimes self-indulgent - it seems to have a firm grasp of itself for the first 3/4 and then turn listless, self-questioning, it felt the book itself was as unsure of what it was as the characters were of what they were doing.

all the same, it is fascinating and real and tough and important reading, and everyone should give it a try.

bottom line: yet another point for non readers!
Profile Image for Jackson Theofore Keys.
75 reviews10 followers
April 4, 2021
Usually I write a review because I think I have something that I want to say about a book. A book, being either really good or bad, I will review. But this book is nearly impossible to review. It was well written and spoke to the queer aspects of life and parenting. But this book is a chaotic mess of people wallowing in their own misery, purposefully making decisions that they know will make them miserable, because in each character's own way, they feel like they do not deserve love. Thus you read a book where being queer or trans is not remotely life affirming, but a detractor that must be survived because living any other way would be worse. The book was so depressing in its character development that I could not like one person in this story. Everyone hated themselves and/or others to such an extent that there was little to like about them. And then having to read long expository sections of why each one felt that do horribly about themselves. As a trans, queer adult, I can say life is not a looming pit of desperation and self-loathing. Yes, life might be harder than being cis and hetnorm, but there is so much joy to be had. And to read a book that says otherwise is gut wrenching. Finally, to top all this nonsense off, the book doesn't end. It cuts off to leave you stranded in the complexity and horror of these people's lives without an ending. At the peak of the book, the author leaves you quite stranded, feeling bruised and banged up. The end.
Profile Image for Clare.
28 reviews8 followers
March 14, 2021
Reading this felt like being lectured by a disturbingly misogynistic fetishist for 300+ pages. Not my cup of tea, to say the least.
Profile Image for Arden.
307 reviews93 followers
September 5, 2021
I thought I had seen the worst of what literature had to offer when I forced myself through A Court of Wings and Ruin, but that was only because Detransition, Baby! hadn't come out yet.

This is a truly terrible book. If this kind of nonsensical, uninspired, and tediously boring misogynistic drivel can be published and attain a 4.01 average rating on Goodreads, I can never feel self-conscious about my own writing again. If one-dimensional irritants such as Ames and Reese can captivate the minds of even one reader, then my writing in today's literary landscape must be like Tolstoy's rebirth. If this kind of aggressive misogynistic writing is lauded by women themselves, we are never making it out of the goddamn patriarchy.

Perhaps it is enough to say that the idiocy of this novel left scars on my brain which will never heal, but even that can't cover the horror I experienced reading it. At one point, our main character says that cis women secretly cherish their reproductive abilities because they are not lining up to get hysterectomies. How dare women who don't want children keep their organs in their bodies! What a goddamn affront to everyone who wants children that these women don't destroy their reproductive systems because they don't want to be pregnant! This isn't a view that's challenged or even discussed—the author uses the characters as talking heads to espouse her own foul views.

In this novel, the bodily autonomy of women is a joke. A man wrangles his boss into coparenting her child with a woman the boss has never met, and any objections the woman might have are over by the end of the chapter (this would inconvenience the man, and as such can't be permitted to happen). The desire of women to be treated kindly by romantic and sexual partners is a front that hides a desire for violence. We are told that transgender people were always girls because they played with dolls (pour one out for misogyny), were attracted to men (homophobia), and hate their genitals (I don't know what to say about this one). All of these lovely ideas are repeated in a singular poorly constructed sentence. I think one would find more intellectual opportunity in conversing with their family pet.

I do not require that everyone in the novels I read be great people. In that case, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment, or Madame Bovary. (I feel deeply sorry to mention such brilliant novels in close proximity to the title of this garbage, but such sacrifices are necessary when one seeks to make a point.) However, I do want to be able to understand why characters behave the way they do. Ames and Katrina are wildly inconsistent people from chapter to chapter, and a paper bag would probably beat Reese out for personality. Simply put, they are badly constructed characters who inspire the words that kill every story: I don't care about these people. On top of this transgression (pun not intended), these characters are so abysmally awful to each other and everyone around them that I couldn't care less about where they ended up. My one desire was for the novel to be over.

Peters' prose is clunky and unoriginal. There isn't a single sentence that stands out in the sense that skill was used to compose it. The reader is abruptly shifted between timelines and viewpoints to enjoy heaping doses of misogyny or racism with little character development. There is no emotion, no clever language, no nuance on any of the issues addressed. I acknowledge the importance in having marginalized voices highlighted, understood, and accepted. I also acknowledge that the fact that this book was written by a trans woman about trans women does not mean I have to enjoy it. It does not, in fact, prevent this book from being a waste of time for anyone with a functional brain.

I hated this book. I will probably mention how much I hated this book in future conversations where I am asked to cite the most mind-numbing, boring, useless piece of literature I've ever forced myself to finish. Instead of reading this book, I would recommend asking your conservative uncle what he thinks of women—the misogynist commentary you are met with might be less appalling than what is contained within these pages.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,519 reviews8,987 followers
May 3, 2021
A novel with lots of heart that centers three women navigating queer relationships and parenthood. I appreciated how Detransition, Baby depicted trans women’s lives in such a three-dimensional way, including moments of transphobic othering and violence as well as experiences of connection, longing, and fulfillment. I felt that Torrey Peters cared about these characters and didn’t write this novel to educate cis readers. The most satisfying part of this the book for me centered on how Peters portrays the potential of queer family and parenthood outside of the heteronormative nuclear family. It’s redeeming and much-too-long-awaited to see a model of parenthood outside of two folks in a romantic relationship raising children. The plot in Detransition, Baby moves at a fast pace and will keep readers entertained with many dramatic sequences.

Similarly to what Roxane Gay wrote in her review, I found certain sections of the book a tad overwritten. I’m not saying that the characters’ emotions or experiences were blown out of proportion, more so sometimes the way Peters described them pulled me out of the narrative due to the prose feeling a bit forced. For example, after one character betrays another character interpersonally, the betrayed character compares her experience of betrayal to being waterboarded and tortured. While the character has every right to feel that way or make that comparison, just the way those paragraphs were written felt very obvious and ostentatious to me. Also, I do think that toward the middle half of the novel Peters prioritized plot over character development. For example, Reese has a habit of engaging in self-destructive relationships with married and problematic men. While Peters writes about this habit in an authentic way without glorifying it, I felt that the underlying issues motivating that behavior were never fully realized or addressed, perhaps because it was difficult to fit that exploration in with the portrayal of triadic queer parenting.

Overall, a strong debut novel that is unfortunately one of first more popular novels that centers trans women. Hoping this momentum continues and that trans women of color authors get their chance to shine too!
Profile Image for Beth.
139 reviews14 followers
November 8, 2021
This book didn’t work for me. The whole book read like an excuse for the inclusion of gender studies monologues. I felt like those themes could have been organically explored without talking down to the reader, but since the plot was also all over the place, maybe that wouldn’t have panned out either.

As for characterization, the motivations for Ames made sense (maybe because we get to know his story and the character feels real?). One of the standout scenes of the book for me was a flashback to his first time shopping for women’s clothes - he was so excited and happy until the magic of the moment was disturbed, albeit unintentionally, by a cis woman and her daughter. I understood the character’s complicated feelings towards gender and fatherhood. As the reader, I got to sit in his head for a while and his feelings were messy but felt real.

On the other hand, Reese’s motivations didn’t track at all; they were so rooted in antiquated and/or damaging ideas of what womanhood is and wrapped up with a whole slew of fetishes. We’re told Reese wants to be a mother, but her conception of motherhood has nothing to do with being a parent and seems to be more about the acceptance by/into the world of cis womanhood - a world she expresses contempt for. She says having HIV is basically like being a mother, which...yeesh. Even if you don’t like children, that seems like a stretch as an analogy - and seems like the author is trying too hard to be “edgy.” The only thing Reese seems to like is cheating, because it’s “spicy.” I was confused every time I was in Reese’s head as a reader.

Katrina also made no sense, but mostly because she wasn’t a well defined character. When Ames proposes that they raise their child with Reese, Katrina does a 180 from “are you crazy” to “yes I’ll raise a child with you and your ex WHO I DON’T KNOW AT ALL” after a single conversation with her mother. She outs Ames as detransitioned during a work meeting with a client. She is also Ames’s manager, so she is sleeping with a direct report. But we’re told that she’s good at her job? Huh. Seems like a very bad manager who is an HR nightmare, but whatever.

In short, this book was messy plot-wise and 2 of the 3 main characters made no sense.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,150 followers
October 17, 2020
4.5 stars. Often when I'm reading I am already thinking about how a book is making me feel, about how I would describe it to someone. Basically I'm already formulating my review in my head. Then I'll sit down at my computer, as I am right now, to form these thoughts into something fuller and more coherent. But I am not sure I'll be able to do that for this book because eventually I stopped thinking about how to describe it to another reader and just enjoyed it for my own self. So sorry, other readers, all I've got for you today is just how much I fucking loved this book.

I am, I admit, biased. Biased twice over, really. First, I am a divorced cis woman which means this book is dedicated to me. Not me personally, just us as a group. And I get it. I love divorced cis women, not all of them, but there's a definite set of qualities you tend to find in us that I gravitate towards. Divorce isn't the only way to get there, as Peters notes, but it is one of the most common ways in which the entire system you've been operating under disappears and you have to build your own new way of living in the world. Peters sees transition as something similar and I think she's right. I've also found it with other people like me who grew up very religious. There is a certain cynical hardiness we all have that covers a deep awareness of our own vulnerability. When you are this kind of person and you find another one, there is an immediate kinship. And that is how I felt reading this book, too. That I'd found my people in a kind of way.

Second I'm a queer person reading this book, and I would bet an awful lot of money that it will read very differently to straight (by which I mean non-queer) audiences. This is the way we talk to each other. This is the messiness we reveal to each other. These are our fights and philosophical disagreements and tactics. There is no performance of normalcy for straight eyes, no need to put on our best rainbow colors, no need to worry about how we are read by people passing by. Every time I opened this book I relaxed a little. The focus is on white trans women, but any time I see a queer community depicted honestly it is just like seeing another branch of my family tree.

And that is really what I have to say about this book. Because outside of those feelings, I just sat back and relaxed and had fun. For other queer folks, you either immediately read the title as a joke or a threat, which tracks for the book as a whole. It is not afraid to push at these things, it can't be, with a detransitioned person as one of its central characters. If that worries you (it worried me!) don't worry. As we dive into Amy/Ames's detransition it is a sympathetic portrait but one with a very definite point of view. This person is still a trans woman no matter how they present themselves to the world, and the choice to detransition here is how it generally goes in real life, that it happens out of fear rather than a feeling that it was a mistake. This is a book with a strong point of view about queer and trans life, especially how they are for people of a certain age at a certain time. And that point of view includes the messy stuff. The toxic relationships, the mindfuck of gender performance, the creeps and chasers, and the funerals. Peters doesn't hang you out to dry here, she tells you exactly how this works, it is a cultural explainer at times, but it never feels like one. Because you are so deeply attached to Reese and Ames that you welcome the insights they have towards themselves and the world around them. What could be more wonderful than spending time with some queer folks who are self-aware enough to understand how messed up their choices are?

It is wonderful and it's also terrible. I cried a lot, I won't lie. The pain of transition, the many cuts trans women experience every single day both internally and externally, are not the main subject here but Peters makes no attempt to hide them. She integrates them into Reese and Amy's lives because that is simply how it is. She lets them mourn and grieve and suffer because it is impossible not to in this moment in this world. But I wouldn't put this in the pile of books where I generally put in a Queer Suffering warning. I save that for the ones where the suffering is The Point, and that's not it here. Here we are wrapped up in the suffering and the melodrama and the wit and the keen, clawing instinct to survive.

And now I feel silly that it's taken me this many paragraphs to tell you how funny this book is, how much I laughed. Apologies.

Anyway. There are more paragraphs here than I anticipated. But I suspect it is still just a pile of feelings that I've thrown at you and I'm not going to apologize that because I enjoyed it all so very, very much. I suspect reviews will use words like "bold" or "brave" because that is often what happens when marginalized people write honestly about their own experiences. It is certainly a book that is not afraid and it wants you to know that. It looks you right in the eye and dares you to contradict it.
Profile Image for Lea.
891 reviews192 followers
August 12, 2021
I feel pretty conflicted about this book, as there were parts I really liked but overall, as a novel it did not work for me. I liked it best in the moments when it read as character studies, but I didn't believe the narrative and I found the writing style extremely overindulgent. At times, the novel is so far away from either telling a story or telling us about characters, and reads like a rant on gender and *real womanhood* instead.


1) The narrative. The plot centers around Reese, an unlikable trans woman who has deep-seated issues around herself which make her pretty self destructive, and let her share a lot of self-hating, misogynistic thoughts with the reader. She is unhappy with her life and has a string of affairs with married men who fetishize her and treat her badly. Then her ex Ames, whom she left when he detransitioned and started id-ing as a man again, makes her an offer: Would she be willing to co-mother the child he is expecting with his girlfriend (who also happens to be his boss) Katrina?

The problem with the plot is that, while it's unusual and interesting, it's unrealistic. Not necessarily that it happens at all, but the way it's written was so make-believe. But I was ready to buy it anyway if there had been... more depth to it. But there wasn't. It's a very thin plot, so something else would have to hold my attention instead.

2) The characters. I'm a big fan of character-driven novels in general, so I was happy to go along with the slow plot and focus on the people instead. Sadly, I could not stand Reese at all, but she is the main character and I found it exceedingly exhausting having to listen to her. And while I liked Katrina, she never really came alive to me. I could never get a real read on why she was saying yes to co-mothering her biological child in the first place. I liked Ames and I felt he was both the best drawn characters as well as the most likable - once you get over the weirdness of making his partner ask such a big thing of them in such a flippant way. But with him, at least, the contradictions he felt made sense, they felt real and tangible and heartbreaking. Overall, I liked the messiness of the characters and I liked the glimpses of their real, very queer lives. But that was all the characters were, their genders and identities. There's more to characters to make them full-fledged.

3) Whatever happens when there's no plot and a lack of characterisation. Aka the ranting and the overuse of descriptors and scene-setting. I have two problems with these parts. First of all, I don't like it when I read a novel and I picture the author sitting across from me trying to teach me something. I want to feel like they're telling me an actual story, organically. And Peters is good at that when she wants to be. They are scenes that feel completely organic and real - sadly they are intermeshed with musings on transgender vs cis lives that feel like they're out of a textbook or a twitter long read.

My second problem with these parts was the message. If characters say things I disagree with, it's one thing. But if it's clear the author is talking to me, and I disagree, it ruffles my feathers. I'm allergic to themes of womenhood centering around motherhood anyhow, and while I understand that it's realistic that a trans woman who eagerly wants to have be a biological mother would think about it a lot, I just could not take the portrayal of womanhood of this novel without anger. I know I have a lot of gender hang ups myself, and I'm sure others won't have the same problem reading this as I did. The same is true for the descriptions of violent sex and depersonalisation. I'm not saying this as an argument against the book, the trauma stuff hit a little too close to home and I imagine some other ptsd sufferers might feel the same.

My last gripe is that when I read the title and read reviews, I had hoped that the topic of detransitioning would be handled with care and I was really looking forward to that. Sadly, detransitioning is implied to mean that a trans person no longer feels 'brave' enough to live as the person they know to be. I'm sure this is true for many of them, but I found it a little insulting towards the people for whom this isn't the case. Again, if this was only voiced by the characters it would be one thing, but I felt it was implied by the narrative itself and descriptions of Ames.

Peters is a talented author, no doubt, and the book was very thought-provoking at times, but as novel it did not work for me.
Profile Image for zach.
7 reviews
January 25, 2021
i know it's probably hackneyed to call a narrative "slight" anymore, but i'm not sure what else to say here. the twofold premise laid out in the title (detransition + baby) feels sidelined in favor of ultimately unnecessary flashbacks and an exploration of the hyperspecific world of trans women in nyc - rather, white trans women, as one of our leads notes. it's curious, and actually a bit startling, how glibly this book announces its utter disinterest in trans women of color, as if its very acknowledgement is an absolution. of course, no story is obligated to be inclusive or considerate or wholly unproblematic, but the politics here (and it feels necessary to discuss this, since the book seems more interested in its own politics than the story taking place) are presented so assertively and almost so cruelly at the expense of others that their lack of nuance renders the book a flatter read than it ought to have been. there's very little here - certainly not dialogue or psychological acuity or its bizarre celebrity cameos - to make up for it.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,589 reviews2,811 followers
January 22, 2022
Now Nominated for the John Leonard Prize 2021
It's pretty telling that this is one of the first books written by a trans person that has been published by a major company, and accordingly, the biggest accomplishment of the text is that it refuses to stereotype its protagonists - rather, they're messy and complex, thus: Realistically drawn, three-dimensional people. It's also a fast-paced, slightly convulted, sometimes a little soap-opera-esque story that, at the same time, discusses identity and parenthood. This wild mixture alone makes the novel fresh, intriguing, and well-worth reading.

The text tells the story of Reese, a trans women who dreams of becoming a mother, and Ames who used to be her ex-girlfriend, but detransitioned. Now Ames impregnated his Chinese-American boss and lover, Katrina. As he is hesitant to adopt the role of "father" (as opposed to "parent"), he proposes to queer the relationship and involve Reese as a third parenting party.

This set-up opens the door to the author discussing all kinds of emotional and social questions, and it's not only interesting, but also fun to read. We need more stories like this one.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book2,120 followers
December 9, 2021
I just finished re-reading Detransition Baby and I will probably turn around and give it a third read before its startling, joyful, frontal attack on transphobic thinking (wrapped in a sweet comedic romance) settles down enough in my brain for me to be able to give it all the praise it deserves.
Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
686 reviews3,395 followers
May 3, 2021
Pregnancy is a traditional storyline that's part of many domestic dramas. With the prospect of a child those involved must decide whether to see this pregnancy through to birth and, if so, how they will make room in their lives for a baby and organize themselves as a family unit to support the child whether that's as a single parent, a married (or unmarried) couple or an extended family. Torrey Peters portrays this universal situation with the inclusion of a trans woman and an individual who has detransitioned. Katrina is a successful businesswoman who discovers she's pregnant while having an affair with her employee Ames. Neither are certain they can handle the full responsibilities of parenthood. Meanwhile, Ames reveals to Katrina that he'd previously transitioned to being a woman before transitioning back to being a man. While he was a trans woman he had a serious relationship with a trans woman named Reese. Although Reese has a tempestuous personality she has strong maternal urges so Ames proposes she could help them both raise the child. Peters brilliantly traces the compelling and complex story of these three characters in the time leading up to and proceeding conception.

Read my full review of Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters on LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Vicky "phenkos".
145 reviews101 followers
May 9, 2021
4.5 stars rounded up.

Detransition, Baby is an honest and candid portrayal of three women: Katrina, a biological woman, Reese, a transwoman, and Amy/Ames, who presents as a man at the time of the events described. The book revolves around a pregnancy (Katrina’s), the result of an affair between Katrina and Ames, which sets off a chain of events that bring the three characters together. Each of the characters has emotional baggage that influences the development of the plot: Katrina has divorced her husband after a miscarriage; Ames has transitioned back to manhood after a period that saw him/her experiment with cross dressing, take hormones and start a relationship with Reese; Reese longs for a baby, yet knows it is unlikely she will ever be able to hold a baby of her own in her arms. How these three lives become intertwined and how an unborn (and perhaps never to be born) baby will bring out suppressed feelings, fears and desires is the topic of this book.

When Katrina starts dating one of her employees in the advertising agency she works for, the sense of dislocation she experienced after her miscarriage and divorce begins to heal and it seems like a new life is lying ahead of her. Ames, however, is not your average advertising guy. Unbeknownst to Katrina, Ames has a past as a woman – a past Katrina cannot detect in him even though for Reese (and perhaps other transwomen more attuned to nuances) it is plainly there.

“Yeah, you were always graceful, but you used to be so careful to swing your hips. You were a languid boy, who learned to move like a woman, who then learned to move like a boy again, but without wiping your hard drive each time. You’ve got all these glitches in the way you move. I was watching you in the ice cream line—you slither.”

When the news Katrina is pregnant hits him, Ames is unsure how he feels about it. Does he want this baby he had no idea he could father (as a doctor had told him his testicles had atrophied after estrogen)? More importantly, does he feel he can raise this baby, he who is also a she, and whose past is still alive and kicking within him? Perhaps he could do it, but only if Reese were to raise the child with him. Reese, who knows Amy so well, who mothered Amy when she was transitioning, who provided a role model, a friend and a partner. But how does he break the news to Katrina? And is there any chance at all Katrina might be willing to take part in such a queer experiment?

I loved the honesty and depth with which the author treats her characters and her subjects. Peters does not shy away from complex and problematic issues in trans lives; the fact that she chose to make Amy’s detransition a key theme in the book is testimony to that. For Peters Amy’s gender identity (or anyone’s in the book) is not a simple black-and-white matter. It’s never entirely clear why Amy chose to detransition (in the same way that important and difficult matters are never simple and straightforward); what is clearly conveyed, however, is how masculinity and femininity can play off against each other, how your loved ones’ choices and betrayals can trigger responses that exceed the simple ‘I know what I am’.

I also loved how Peters discusses internalised misogyny and the insidious spread of gender stereotypes. Reese’s relationship with Stanley -the prototypical alpha male- is an example of this. But Peters also broaches issues that do not always affirm the dominant narrative, just as for example, when it comes to the issue of how trans people sometimes treat each other, (i.e. not with the kind of nurturing support that would help the community thrive), or when she debunks the notion that trans women were always women even before they transitioned.

I did feel that the plot meandered a bit in the second half of the book. I also wandered about the wisdom of bringing together three potential parents not already involved in a polyamorous relationship. My guess was that Katrina’s and Reese’s relationship would fall at the first hurdle, not because queer parenthood is not workable (which I think it is), but because it takes a lot of love and connection to overcome the disagreements and misunderstandings that will inevitably arise when parenting. I’d like to see more queer relationships (including queer models of parenthood), and I’d love for this particular triad to work, but it’s hard to see how when the power dynamics is so skewed (which is precisely what Reese fears). That said, I thought this was a great book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an interest in queer characters and relationships.
Profile Image for kathryn.
415 reviews3 followers
September 6, 2021
"Cis women were always complaining about the burden of their reproductive ability, while secretly cherishing it. Hysterectomies are widely available, but even women who don’t want children aren’t exactly lining up to get them."

I will never ever ever ever ever read this, are you kidding me.
Profile Image for Barbara**catching up!.
1,394 reviews804 followers
February 13, 2021
“Detransition Baby” sparked my interest because I don’t know much about the transgender world. Author Torrey Peters is a transgender female and who better to pen a novel about transgenders? Her characters are real, flawed, loveable, and frustrating. Peters adds biting humor making the story a tragicomedy of the human condition.

The story revolves around three characters. Ames is a male who detransistioned from a female. Ames, formally known as Amy, went to great lengths to transition into Amy. We get an inside view of the hormones, the work, the effort that trans people go through. After a tragic incident, Amy gave up her new gender and detransitioned back to a male. Ames was told that after taking all the hormones, he would be rendered infertile. So, it was a surprise when he found out he had impregnated his girlfriend, Katrina.

Katrina is a cisgender (a person who identifies with their birth sex) and didn’t know that Ames used to be Amy. Once she discovers this bit of information, she is conflicted about keeping the baby for a variety of reasons. Katrina is reeling from a divorce and a previous miscarriage. Becoming pregnant again and finding out that Ames used to be a woman is overwhelming.

Reese is a transgender female, the former lover of Amy. Reese is my favorite character. Her inner musings are hilarious. Her life, however, is no easy picnic in the park. She has the problem of many women, and that is being attracted to creepy guys. She seems to love married men who abuse her, which is sad because she really is a great person. Reese is Amy’s one who got away. Reese feels Amy sold out to become Ames and Ames gender is and always be female.

After Ames discovers he could become a father, he immediately thinks of Reese. Reese, to Ames, would be the perfect parent. She has all the right parental attributes. So, he devises a plan in which the three of them would parent the baby. Ames sells the idea to both Katrina and Reese.

Peters does a fabulous job of exploring gender stereotypes. All three of the characters are complex, but it is Reese who ruminates about how cis women irritate her yet she’s trying so hard to be exactly like them. Reese is disgusted with Ames for detransitioning, but once we learn the events that led up to that decision, we empathize with Ames.

This is a story of the human condition, flaws and all. The characters are real, and their struggles are identifiable. I hope Peters writes more novels.
Profile Image for Imogen.
Author 6 books1,377 followers
February 1, 2021
Wow, I have been feeling emotionally fucked up for the two days it took to read this. I would recommend it.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews599 followers
June 14, 2021
Audiobook/synced with the ebook….
…..audio read by Renata Friedman 12 hours and 31 minutes.

Author Torrey Peters is a trans woman….[she’s gorgeous by the way]….
…..she has written a terrifically captivating novel worth cheering for— not only for the trans community - for trans women - for mothers - for parents - or for the straight community to ‘peek-in’- learn - accept - understand- appreciate queer and the ‘detransitioned’ person — [all that is a given in my opinion]…..
but this is a novel any literary reader can appreciate — in other words this novel is worthy of our time.
I’d place it side-by-side with the great books of literature.
Great books train our minds to be flexible — to comprehend other points of view—set aside our personal perspectives—to see through the eyes of someone who’s of another age, class, or race.
Rather than separate, ‘we/readers’ feel empty, compassion, generosity, and develop a sharper ability to comprehend other peoples motivations.
“Detransition, Baby” ….has all these qualities — it’s an alluring-brilliant novel….fascinating…..tantalizing….and inventive-in-ways….that made me think, “oh, my god, but OF COURSE”…..
This story needed to be told— the time has come—and blessedly, I’m THRILLED to see most readers feel the same way.

The narrative walks us through sensitive and nuance issues in a deliciously thought-provoking-enjoyable manner.

Moving back and forth in time, Ames (formally Amy who has
detransitioned), and Reese, a trans woman, who wants to have a baby….are faced with a complicated situation.
Ames has been having a secret love affair with his boss Katrina….(recently divorced). Katrina is now pregnant, with Ames child.
Katrina doesn’t even know Ames use to live as a woman.
I couldn’t imagine the discombobulation of being asked to ‘share’ motherhood with ‘any’ other woman….but Ames hopes that Katrina would ‘share’ motherhood with he and Reese.

The dialogue becomes explosively good…..
Man oh man…..the conversations are wild: vivacious & sparkling!!!

I’ll say NO MORE….(other than readers should be aware that the sex scenes are very explicit- truthful - and might make for a little uncomfortableness)….
But ….in my opinion - the sex scenes were honest and necessary.

This book is just too darn fantastic to give anything else away…
There is great humor - and great importance!

My only regret ….in association with this novel… is that I didn’t read it sooner.

INCREDIBLE!!!! ….definitely groundbreaking….

One of my favorite books of the year (both as an ebook and in audiobook format)
Profile Image for Bethany Johnson.
120 reviews8 followers
February 13, 2021
Detransition, Baby is one of the first novels written by a trans woman to be published by a big-five publishing house. It’s raw, chaotic, and unapologetic. I’m not ashamed to say I learned a lot while reading this book. I had to stop and Google so many unfamiliar terms that I started to feel uncomfortable with how little I know about trans womanhood. But I think that’s kind of the point here, and I do want to understand womanhood in all its forms.

Ultimately, I don’t believe I’m Peters’s target audience. She goes out of her way to point out character flaws in “naive cis people” who exhibit “a hint of self-congratulation at their own broad mindedness.” She says you can “hear the strange sense of satisfaction when [cis women] talk about the men who have hurt them - the unspoken subtext of it being because I am a woman...and this delicate and capable of sustaining harm.” I work with victims of domestic violence, and I found the sentiment to be tasteless and disgusting, regardless of the context. Victimhood isn’t a kink.

Despite my appreciation for an opportunity to learn, I almost gave up on this book before I hit the 100 page mark, mostly because there wasn’t much of a story, and despite the messy chaos, I was bored. Bored and annoyed. I was annoyed with the utter implausibility of the detransitioned Ames offering his f*ck buddy Katrina’s unborn child to Ames’s pre-destransition girlfriend, a trans woman named Reese, who Ames characterizes as having a “suite of personality disorders.” It just didn’t make sense at all. It’s a baby. It’s not a litter of puppies. Maybe you could promise a coworker you could hook them up with one of your neighbor’s new puppies without asking your neighbor first, but you can’t just give away parental responsibility without mentioning it to the woman who is carrying said baby. The premise was completely ridiculous. Peters treated it with the cavalier attitude of a happy couple with a healthy sex life tossing around the idea of a threesome. No, no. This would be like if a husband came home to his wife and, having never broached the subject before in all their years of marriage, said “Honey, what do you think about a threesome?” And she wasn’t wild about the idea, but then he said “Well I already asked my ex girlfriend and she said yes.” No. Not ok. She’d tell him to pack his shit and get out of her house. The only thing remotely realistic about this story was Katrina’s immediate reaction, which was to call Ames a sociopath, but that lasted all of 15 seconds before she agreed to give a third of her unborn child to a complete stranger. Cue eye roll. I feel like the storyline did little to further the trans community’s efforts for trans men and women to be accepted as viable, healthy, loving parents.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I finished this book, but I can comfortably say it’s not going to end up on my Top 10 list for 2021.
Profile Image for Christina.
547 reviews204 followers
January 3, 2021
This is a beautifully written, heartfelt and original book whose characters really got into my heart. I recommend it to absolutely everyone, but especially to LGBTQ folks and people who love LGBTQ folks, or to anyone who wants to be educated and enlightened while also laughing a lot.

The book follows Ames, a person genetically assigned male at birth, who transitions to female and then back to male again - hence the title, “Detransition, Baby.” This is a story I’ve never seen told before in fiction and it is told here beautifully with so many layers of complexity and experience that I had never considered. I would never have guessed, for example, the complexity and heartbreak of some of the reasons Ames had for transitioning back. It’s also the story of Reese, a trans woman who is a funny, caring and beautiful character who I completely fell in love with.

This is not always an easy read, dealing with important issues like suicide, abuse of trans people especially women, matters of the heart, and what it means to be a family. But even as you are having your heart broken over these characters, you are laughing, and identifying with the, throughout.

This is an entertaining, lovely, and important book. It will not be for everyone, but it should be.

Thank you to Random House, Torrey Peters and NetGalley for the ARC of this beautiful and funny book. 4.5 stars rounded up for beautiful writing and pure heart.
Profile Image for Dwayne.
120 reviews127 followers
September 25, 2022
One of the best books I've read all year. I really did not expect to like this as much as I did. It's not a perfect book, but I loved it in all its messy glory. The characters are all deeply flawed, but I cared for all of them. My only regret in reading this is that I read it so late in the year. There were parts I had to do a double-take- did I really just read that?? If you've read it, you know exactly what parts I'm referring to.

James who became Amy later de-transitions to being a man. He now goes by Ames. After thinking he was infertile, he starts an affair with his boss Katrina and gets her pregnant. Reese is Ames' ex. Reese is trans. Now that Katrina is pregnant, Ames suggests to Reese that the three of them could be a family and raise the child together. Going back and forth in time, we learn how Ames and Reese met. We also learn of their sexual histories and how/why Ames de-transitioned. For a book that doesn't have a lot of plot in the traditional sense, there's certainly a lot that happens. And it's all so scandalously juicy!

Fully grounded in realism, the book is smart and fully aware of how smart it is. In a recent interview, Torres has said that she doesn't want her book to be viewed as a guide to understanding what it means to be trans- “The idea that you would read Jesmyn Ward for credentials is, like, you’ve missed the point of the beauty of her writing – because you think it’s for education. It’s not. It’s to see yourself in these characters, to identify, to have an experience of melding with another mind.” She has a point. Instead, read and enjoy the book for what it is- provocative, funny, contemporary, and fucking brilliant. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,821 reviews1,382 followers
April 17, 2021
They are together, and miles from each other, their thoughts turning to themselves, then turning to the baby, each in her own way contemplating how her tenuous rendition of womanhood has become dependent upon the existence of this little person, who is not yet, and yet may not be.

I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2021 Women’s Prize – the first transgender woman nominated for that prize in accordance with the new rules of the prize that, defined eligibility as for “cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex”. A change of rules which, as the Women’s Prize tried to sensibly navigate the new rules of society, seemed to please no one, given the change was unfairly criticised from two directions.

Normally I would think it was gratuitous to mention that – however in this case I think the ideas of changing rules and the difficulty of navigating them, of change and transition itself and of what it means to be a woman are all crucial to this novel.

The novel was described by one of the judges as “a modern comedy of manners” and I think that captures it perfectly.

Interestingly the whole complex plot of the book is almost entirely captured in the two word title. Very cleverly, in a pivotal scene in the book, the novel contains an explicit reference to Hemingway’s six-word story (in this case updated to reflect the circumstances of the book – “For Sale: Baby UGGS, never worn”) and the quote “We are living the saddest short story ever told” – while at the same time outdoing Hemingway three hundred percent.

The set-up is a very modern and different take on a ménage à trois – featuring Ames (previously James and then Amy), Reece and Katrina.

Amy and Reece had historically been in a lesbian relationship - both having transitioned to women (Reece sometime before Ames) – but then, partly due to her own frustration at how to live as a transgendered woman, and partly in reaction to Reece’s risk-taking affairs with men, Amy detransitions.

At the time of the book Ames is in a (workplace inappropriate) affair with his boss Katrina. She is a divorcee, having previously miscarried (and been ambiguous in her response) but now she finds she is pregnant – but tells Ames she will only have the baby if he will commit to their relationship (and that otherwise she will terminate both the pregnancy and their relationship): only to be completely thrown when Ames reveals his transition/detransition history.

Reece meanwhile, having been abandoned by Amy, is in a series of high risk affairs with men.

Ames knowing that Reece was desperate for a child, Katrina for support in motherhood, and with he wanting to maintain his relationship with Katrina, find a way back to Reece and wanting something that would help him navigate his feelings and role – makes a proposition which astonishes both: that the three of them co-parent the baby.

The rest of the book shows how this plays out in two intertwined series of chapters – one dated pre conception and exploring the trio’s history, the second dated post conception as they struggle through the implications of Ames’s suggestion.

To be honest I am enjoyed the post chapters more than the pre ones - the latter seem too heavily about sexual experimentation, the former more about gender and identity and navigation (sexual and otherwise). But I think that simply reflects the maturity of the characters and I think is one of the strengths of the book is seeing how the characters change.

There are many quotable passages in the book (my Kindle copy was highlighted multiple times) and given my own lack of knowledge in this area, I think its more appropriate to quote those which I felt best captured each of the characters and some of their complex motivations:


Of course, her first trans daughter—Ames—had also been her lesbian lover. Amy. A daughter whom Reese had raised to love Reese well as a wife, with all the strange dynamics in power that entails, the dynamics that are so confusingly sexy and painful and satisfying and awkward that the rest of society has an incest taboo to avoid them. When her daughter/lover detransitioned into her son, he weirdly put her through all the stages of anger, rage, and betrayal that Reese had heard from countless other parents when their daughters transitioned for the first time. So was it any wonder that when Ames popped back in her life, he did so with the intention of making her a mother? Reese had caught Amy so young in her womanhood, in early pliancy, and motherhood had always been a code to their love. Not just two women in love, but mother and daughter.


You laid out a number of options for me to choose from, and the thing is, honestly—what if we had them all? I want my career, I want to build and commit with you, and a child is a lovely time-tested way for that. Meanwhile, you want this woman Reese as your family, and she wants a baby and respect and purpose as a mother; and my mom wants to be a grandma; and you and I could be good to a child, I think, and we all want it to be something redemptive.


In Ames’s formulation, trans women knew what trans women were, they knew how to be, but they didn’t know how to do. All the intra-trans fights online, all the arguments with cis people: All of it was just to define what it meant to be a trans woman; to say what she was. But when you’re a trans woman, there’s almost nothing out there on how to actually live. In his last year of living as a woman ….. Ames stopped being so angry with how cis people treated trans people and he started growing sad and contemplative about how trans women treat each other

Overall this is a novel which is at times humorous, at other times provocative, at others painful but never less than insightful and intelligent.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,609 followers
May 3, 2021
Remarkable. I can see why it got longlisted for the Women's Prize, and it should probably win because it's a hell of a dive into this group of women's experiences.

It's mostly a character piece, with no driving through-plot--detransitioned man Ames gets cis woman Katrina pregnant, and hopes to include trans woman Reese in a parenting triad. I'm generally a plot-driven reader, but I wolfed this and found it hard to put down after a bad start (more on that in a sec). The characters are so intensely and deeply drawn and it's impossible not to care and hope and want things to work out.

Which, oof, because these are messy, messy people, intensely damaged in different ways by abuse, navigating their relationships with gender and the culture that imposes it and the way cis people treat trans people, especially Reese's spectacularly shitty selection of the absolute worst men possible. She remarks at one point that

you don't get to choose who to fuck, you get to choose from among those who want to fuck you

Which is true, but even among those, these are horrible decisions. But that's the point. Nobody in this book is making consistently or unequivocally good decisions because people frequently don't, especially when they're desperately scrabbling to hold on to a sense of self, because all too often, having something in your life comes at other people's expense. Katrina's willingness to let Reese be a coparent is as transactional as the support Ames offers the woman he got pregnant: they are both trying to reshape their lives into something more meaningful and using Reese to do it *while at the same time* genuinely wanting the situation to work. Messy. Human.

The word 'provocative' gets tossed around a lot about this book and the opening definitely is that, such that it felt rather like provocation for the sake of it. It's worth persevering if you find it offputting because from the perspective of the entire book, it makes a lot more emotional sense. Reese *is* provocative: it's her way of surviving and, more than that, living visibly in a world that doesn't want her there.

It struck me as noticeably white for (my British conception of) New York, which is touched on a little in the text, but at this stage nothing about US racial politics and segregation seems unlikely any more.

A tremendous read--sharply observed, nuanced, very intelligent, and deeply connecting. Also, the title is irritatingly clever. That's a hell of a way to use a comma. *golf clap*
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