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Review: GenderQueer by Allan D. Hunter
Book: GenderQueer, A Story from a Different Closet
Author: Allan D. Hunter
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Curiosity Points: 9/10
Description: The blurb begins with "Derek is a girl", a statement that is sure to raise some brows. In a world which is still conservative at large and prejudiced for the most part, Derek's story is agonizing despite being inspirational. I say this because it shows us just how hurtful and indifferent people can be, especially if you are trying to tell the truth about something that they'd much rather pretend doesn't exist. GenderQueer follows the course of Derek's journey, from discovering his identity while in middle school to his coming-out at twenty-one and beyond.
As the author says in his preface, Derek's story is his own. It makes you believe that you can be the most real version of you though there are people out to criticize every step you take. Importantly, the memoir is about understanding the GenderQueer identity. Growing up in the 70s, a time when not even the LGBT community was vocal about queerness and Q+ wasn't part of the acronym, Derek had to struggle to come to terms with who he was. He knew that as far as gender was concerned, he was a girl. This does not mean he wanted to transition. He was different, very different. Not being cis gendered and heterosexual entailed alienation. But Derek had it worse. From figuring himself out to establishing his identity amidst antagonism from disbelievers and homophobes, you can say his coming-of-age story is eventful. That's one way of putting it. Read the book to know how he fought for visibility in the heteronormative world.
My Impression: I was truly moved by this memoir. Not only does it help you believe that you can be who you are despite hostile circumstances, it also educates the reader about the implications of being genderqueer. Even if someone approaches this book without much knowledge about gender identities, they will learn quite a bit and be encouraged to find out more. No amount of research into theoretical assumptions and claims can replace the experience of reading someone's life story and knowing what they've been through. The narrative style is simple yet powerful. By the time you reach the final page, you'll feel like you've had quite the journey.
Now, it's time for the details. (No Spoilers. This book isn't about cliffhangers, so, it doesn't matter really)
Story (8/10): The book is pitched as a genderqueer person's life story and indeed we get to explore various facets of Derek's life. I appreciate how we are introduced to his circumstances. Incidents are highlighted instead of chronological detailing of the changes he underwent. I find that in memoirs, the storytelling becomes a little too intricate due to the inclination to cram the narrative with details. This wasn't the case here.
Characters (8/10): This is obviously about the main character or the author himself. I don't think its necessary to mention again how moved I was by his story. I, however, would like to talk about the brilliant way in which the others are depicted. Some characters represent a particular way of thinking. No matter what we think about stereotyping, it's true that some people share the same sort of antagonism and hatred when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community and this group appears pretty frequently in the book, needless to say. The author has merged several like minded people into a few characters because they are significant only because of their point of view. This has resulted in a story not overcrowded with characters and has left enough space for Derek to reveal himself to the reader.
Narrative Style (8/10): It is simple yet communicative first person narration. There are internal monologues but just the right amount of introspection. The book is divided into four parts, we move slowly not sluggishly. I thought the narrative technique helped me connect with Derek and the other characters and understand their struggles. No negatives here.
Genre Success (9/10): Indeed, I think Genderqueer succeeds greatly as a memoir because it excels in every sub-category.
Curiosity Points Explained (9/10): Curiosity Points are awarded on basis of the novelty of a book's theme/subject and its ability to keep the reader's curiosity levels high. I know a lot more about the genderqueer identity now than I did prior to reading this book and I looked up many of the topics discussed here. I used to think I have an almost clear idea about what queerness implies but I've realized a lot of my conceptions were flawed or misguided and I'm now aware that I've got lots more to learn and understand. It has also helped me realize that the LGBTQ+ community is growing and we must always keep an open mind when it comes to accepting newer identities.
Would I Recommend It?: Yes, a hundred times over. Read this book even if you aren't too keen on memoirs or non-fiction. Sometimes they are more heart-wrenching than fiction peppered with drama. You should definitely read this book if you don't understand why some people are different.