Book Review: Transgressive

Title: Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics

Author: Rachel Anne Williams

Format: Netgalley Advance Reader’s Copy PDF

Published: 2019

 

Thank you to Netgalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for my honest book review!  This book is scheduled to be released on May 21, 2019!

I would like to note that this book is out of my normal wheelhouse of books.  This is a book of essays written by Rachel Anne Williams, a transgender woman, taken from her blog she writes.  I am not normally a fan of essays, but this book intrigued me and I was excited to be approved for the advance copy.

The author prefaces this book with letting you know to read the book however you want.  Since this was an ebook for myself, it was easiest to read it straight through.  She also asks for feedback and requests it come in the form of a “shit sandwich.”  What this means is you say something that wasn’t so great, add in a part or something you loved, and end with something else that needs a little work.  I appreciate this author and her quest for honest, constructive feedback.

The essays are categorized in similar groups and so they begin.  I had to Google a lot of things in this book.  As someone who does not know any trans gendered people, this was my first real introduction in to this world.  Suddenly terms appeared in the essays and I was clueless at what they meant.  This became frustrating to have to read with my phone nearby so I could look up new terms.  I did find that as I read and finished the book, many of the terms were explained in detail that I had to originally look up.  It would have been great to have those essays at the beginning of the book or at least an extra preface to terminology that someone outside of the transgendered world would not be familiar with.

Williams is a well-educated woman with a clear background in philosophy.  The way she writes is stunning and remarkable.  You can tell she thought about how she wanted to articulate herself.  I also appreciated that she made sure to clarify that this book is about HER experience, and her experience only, and that everyone’s experience is different.  I will say it was eye opening to learn about the process and what transgendered people go through.  If you are looking for an insight and are overall just curious, I must steer you in the direction of Rachel and this book.

I wanted to like this book more than I did, but, I found myself skipping over a few essays as they just went above my head.  It also frustrated me to have unfamiliar terms explained at the end of the book.  I know this also probably goes with the nature of an advance copy, but, there were footnotes that were all at the end of the book.  That made it difficult to read the footnotes, so I just gave up on trying, it would have been helpful to have them at the end of each essay instead.

I am giving Transgressive a 3.5 star rating.  It held my interest and I feel much better informed and understanding of issues and the process that surrounds transgendered people.  I also see the potential in the book to be very controversial.  You won’t be sorry if you pick this book up to read and you really can skip around and read essays in whatever order (my recommendation is start with the last category of essays first).  I hope to read more work from Williams in the future.

 

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Writer Wednesday – Jacqueline Sheehan

New York Times Bestselling Author Jaqueline Sheehan has been in print for almost a decade now, and has several novels to her credit.  This is her story…

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Jacqueline Sheehan

Tell us (briefly) about you…
Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times Bestselling author of fiction She is also a psychologist. She is a New Englander through and through, but spent twenty years living in Oregon, California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, photography, freelance journalism, clerking in a health food store, and directing a traveling troupe of high school puppeteers.

Her novels include, The Comet’s Tale a novel about Sojourner Truth, Lost & Found, Now & Then, and Picture This. She has published travel articles, short stories, and numerous essays and radio pieces. In 2005, she edited the anthology, Women Writing in Prison.

Jacqueline has been awarded residencies at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and Jentel Arts Colony in Wyoming. She teaches workshops at Grub Street in Boston and Writers in Progress in Florence, Massachusetts. She has offered international writing retreats in Jamaica, Guatemala, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
See above.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m taking a sharp departure and writing a book that is loosely based on a massacre that took place in Guatemala, 1990 in a Mayan village.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
I lived in a small town in CT where we had a one-room library. The rules were strict and if you were in the library, you were either sitting at table reading or searching for a book. Also, a wonderful memory is having chicken pox (that part wasn’t so wonderful) and my mother bringing me a mountain of books from the library. One of the books was The Incredible Journey and I loved it. I hadn’t realized until this moment how much that book probably influenced my writing. In both Lost & Found and Picture This, there are several chapter from the point of view of a dog.

What are your three favorite books?
To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee. I read it every few years. It is nearly perfect.
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. She writes about the lustiness of nature so beautifully.
In the Woods, by Tana French. She’s an Irish writer who excels in dark psychological mysteries.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
If I’m reading more than one book at a time, it means that I’m not fully captivated by the writing. Right now I’m reading a memoir, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, by Brian Leaf. Very funny and humble.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
I pray that the cat won’t knead his claws into my legs.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
There aren’t many books that I re-read, but when I do it is like visiting a good friend.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It depends entirely on who is recommending it. But the chances of choosing a book with a personal recommendation are usually much higher.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do it all the time.

What do you look for in a good book?
I want to be fully immersed in the story, inside the skin of the characters.

Why do you write?
This will sound trite, but I write to more fully understand and experience the world.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’m also a psychologist, but if I hadn’t been either a writer or a therapist, I probably would have studied frogs and insects. I was fascinated by them.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My childhood.
My current relationships.
The news.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
It has taught me that my most intimate and painful experiences are universal.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My writing friends completely understand the grinding level of work is required.
My civilian friends seem to think I’m on a pro-longed vacation. I’ve given up trying to change their minds.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I don’t know what the stereotypes are, which means I might be one.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Writers can talk about writing too much, rather than just writing. And new writers complain bitterly about the publishing industry before they even get a contract. I think it is part of the image that newbies might have of writers to complain about publishers. My experience with publishers has been quite good.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
I can be overly accommodating. I might need to stiffen up a bit.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
When Lost & Found is optioned for film again, I’d like to be the psychological consultant on the film.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I answer every single email that I get from readers. And I love doing readings. Meeting readers is still a thrill for me. I am grateful to them and I’m interested in what they have to say.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I hitchhiked across the country once. What an idiot!

Anything else we should know?
I could eat Mexican food every day of the week.

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