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Gender Failure: Highly readable, highly recommended

genderfailureI got an advance copy of Gender Failure, by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon. It’s not quite available in the stores yet, but it’s coming soon and I urge you to get yourself a copy. It’s an extraordinary book.

I loved the show Gender Failure so I knew before reading it that I’d love the book. The book is just like the show except it’s got a bunch of extra goodies.

Ivan and Rae take turns telling stories about their experiences of being trans throughout their lives. Some of the stories were illuminating, like “How to Be Gay When the Gays Won’t Have You.” Some were laugh-out-loud funny, like “A Cautionary Tale.” And some were burst-into-tears sad, like “Rosie.” (If you saw someone weeping into a book on the #95 during the morning commute last Monday, that was probably me, reading “Rosie.”)

Gender identity can be complicated stuff. What I admire most about Ivan and Rae is how they find the right balance – they don’t over-explain and they don’t oversimplify. They’re educational without ever being teachy. Storytelling is the perfect medium for humanizing theory.

I think the key to their success lies in their unflinching honesty. They have the guts to put their own naked truth on the page, and to resist the temptation to cloak it in extra words. There is something, I think, in all of us that recognizes and responds to the raw, naked, truth when we see it. I think it brings out the best in us – maybe our own raw vulnerable nuggets of humanity.

Anyway. Extraordinary book, and highly readable too. I recommend it to anyone who loves good writing and good storytelling, especially if you have an interest in trans issues but even if you don’t. Five stars, two thumbs up, worth a second read.

Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon will be in Ottawa on April 25th at the Ottawa Writers Festival. Details here. Visit Arsenal Pulp Press for more information about the book.

3 comments to Gender Failure: Highly readable, highly recommended

  • Thank you for the recommendation. I am a psychiatric social worker and gender issues come up all the time. we are always trying to make sure that our policies are based on inclusivity. It can often be a tender topic.

    I preordered the book (and since it comes out in about a month, it will be a nice surprise).

  • future landfill

    It was a treat seeing them in Maynooth last year! I knew of both before that but just slight familiarity with their artistry. Took home a Rae CD and later got an Ivan book for my partner for her birthday.

    Don’t know that we’ll be able to catch the Writers Fest, but I’ll keep an eye out for the book.