Chloe's Reviews > Nevada

Nevada by Imogen Binnie
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, i_am_in_love, trans-feels, queerest-of-the-queer, new-york

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.
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Quotes Chloe Liked

Imogen Binnie
“...nobody really wants to be a trans woman, i.e. nobody wakes up and goes whoa, maybe my life would be better if I transitioned, alienating most of my friends and my family, I wonder what'll happen at work, I'd love to spend all my money on hormones and surgeries, buying a new wardrobe that I don't even understand right now, probably become unlovable and then ending my short life in a bloody murder.”
Imogen Binnie, Nevada

Reading Progress

May 25, 2013 – Shelved
May 25, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
August 24, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction
August 24, 2013 –
page 9
3.44% ""Maria's brain is shut down because she knows that there are things she's supposed to be thinking and feeling: betrayal, anger, sadness- but it's like she's just watching herself, thinking, hey, you stupid boy-looking girl, why aren't you having any feelings?"\n \n Ouch. On-point right out of the gate..."
Started Reading
August 25, 2013 –
page 75
28.63% ""She figured out that she needed to transition because she'd been going to work, coming home, drinking whiskey and reading, every day, week in and week out until one evening she watched the sun go down behind the Statue of Liberty in Sunset Park and realized she hadn't left the house all day.""
August 25, 2013 – Shelved as: i_am_in_love
August 25, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 1, 2015 – Shelved as: trans-feels
October 17, 2015 – Shelved as: queerest-of-the-queer
January 16, 2019 – Shelved as: new-york

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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Chloe i've can't think of the last book I've looked forward to with so much anticipation, heightened all the more by the fact that Powells lost the first copy I ordered so I had to wait that much longer.

Chloe So I read this book again last night and felt compelled to go back and revise my review. This book just brings it out in me, what can i say?

message 3: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Truly a great review. Sure shows how fiction can often have more truth than non-fiction. Thanks for sharing a personal testament to its veracity.

It's all such a wonderful mystery. Of course not for those having to go through the painful pathway to a truer mode of being.

I was a neuroscientist, and there was a while when hormonal influences on the developing brain seemed to align well with the knowledge of gays that they were born that way. Now the obvious independence of gender roles, gender identity, and sexual orientation shows scientists know very little. It seems like these days that trans people are more accepted or "understood" by society at large than bi people. That's why I appreciated Irving's last book, "In One Person".

message 4: by Aubrey (new) - added it

Aubrey Thank you very, very much for sharing this review with us, Chloe. Yours is a voice that the world needs more of; one that not only truly knows what is at stake, but is also willing to make the effort to show the rest of us just how painful our often self-righteous ignorance is to others.

It's your decision how much you decide to 'broadcast', but here's one individual who believes that there is much more good done by your willingness to speak than you may believe.

message 5: by ·Karen· (new)

·Karen· Superb.

Sherry Excellent review my friend. I, for one, appreciate your openness and vulnerability and the courage you have shown to share both in this matter. I believe that without the willingness to be vulnerable there can be no growth or authenticity. I see so much of these qualities in your writing and thanks to you I am gaining a much better understanding of a subject that was until recently, a mystery to me. I will always be thankful for that.

Lorena Wonderful review!

Chloe Thanks, Lorena. I'm really glad you liked it!

message 9: by Garry (new)

Garry I've just read your review, and it surprises me that you felt you needed someone else's story to convey who you are to other people. The words you've written here are so eloquent. You have a beautiful voice.

Thanks for taking the time to write this review. It's touched me on this other side of the planet, and has definitely made me want to read this book. Once again... thanks :)

Sheila I just wanted to let you know how much I loved your review - I actually linked to it in my own because I thought it should be noted on its own. (Let me know if that bothers you, though, and I'll edit!)

message 11: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella Such a lovely review! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on the book.

message 12: by Bree (new)

Bree Riley Ooh. This book sounds very promising. ...are there any other books featuring trans characters that you would recommend ?

Chloe Hi Bree, if you're looking for more books with trans characters I would highly recommend checking out my trans-feels shelf.

message 14: by Bree (new)

Bree Riley Yep, that makes so much sense. Ha ha. I should have thought of that. Thank you !!

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