Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Book Review: Detransition, Baby

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters is an insiders view of the world of trans women and moms. It deepened my perspective by providing multi-dimensional characters showing internal divisions in what may look like a unified group from the outside as well as the kind of insight into the details of the lived experience that are otherwise difficult to know. As fiction, it did this while getting me to care about the characters and reluctantly accept a rather unusual arrangement.

A great quote: "Reese is a veteran of the horrific social gore that results when individuals fight persoanl battles with unnecessarily political weaponry on a queer battlefield mine with hypersensitive explosives." Leaving out the queerness of the battlefield, this is something I've struggled with: how to reconcile societal-wide gender issues within a loving relationship.

Commentary on Queerness, Race and Motherhood

I liked how the author examined queerness and race as applied to motherhood. At one point the characters admit they were having a sort of competition of who is most victimized. And it also deals with the "gentrification of queerness." As one character says, "I think everyone wants something queer now. It's like a fad."  I know from the interview that motivated me to read it that the author faced criticism for dealing with the issue of detransitioning (anyone unfamiliar with the controversy could start their education here). In a time when many people fear being criticized for expressing unpopular opinions, this is a brave step forward that more people should emulate (along with accepting responsibility for causing hurt if they do). I believe it is a strong evidence for the #ownvoices movement: because the inside perspective from a persecuted group is the voice that should be allowed to explore controversial questions.

A small love was that a character echoes one of my favorite personal observations: how there is a season of weddings in our twenties, then the babies come for about a decade, and then come the divorces. (Not sure if she mentions the obvious next step, but I can't find it--I listened to it as an audiobook and even with a hard copy, I don't have the visual memory necessary to skim for a few sentences).

Story Structure

As for structure: it is similar to the novel I'm writing right now, with a current and a past timeline. The current is told in present tense and the past in past tense, and although there are two POV characters, they both tell current and past stories (as opposed to mine which is the story of one character in the past merged with another in the present, both told in past tense). One of the fascinating things to me was how some of the story beats were hit in the old timeline instead of the new.  Specifically the dark moment revealing how the relationship ended in the past timeline. 

The multiple POVs were used very effectively to show two different people's perspective on the same thing (most clear: the ending of that relationship). I was kind of mad when the 2nd POV started because the 1st had denigrated that character enough that I didn't find him sympathetic already. But I ended up sympathising more with him after hearing his side of the story!

Looking back at the beginning once I knew the story gave me great admiration for the author. The opening scene is intensely tied to the climax, and to the topic of becoming pregnant. A small hate was that the plot turned on the blame placed on the 'other woman' instead of on the cheating husband. Haven't we learned yet that the person who breaks the vow is responsible for their behavior, not the person who tempts them?

The Ending

I want to talk about the ending so here's your chance: exit now if you haven't read the book.  I think it will ruin the story for you if you know how it ends. A crucial writing technique I learned from Rachel Weaver is to raise small questions that drive the reader forward to find the answer.  There is a big question that the reader has to get to the end to find out.

Okay-- last chance. I'm not kidding. Check out the book, or buy it from bookshop.org giving a local book store your love, and set yourself a calendar reminder to come back after you've read it.


When I got to the end, my first reaction was "No, the author can't do that!" Then I realized I'd been so curious to see how it ended because I didn't see how it could possibly end either way. So yeah, it pretty much had be undecided. She definitely did the short story thing and gave a clear direction to assume, and then a strong hint that it might not go that way. I guess I know which way I wanted it to go, and I should just imagine that. But still!! It's not a short story. I can only imagine the angst caused in critique groups, by the agent and the editor and I can guess it was the author who had to stand up and say "This is the way it will end." So kudos to her for that!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Tagline, Logline and Pitches

My favorite writing conference is next weekend. Other than living in fear that I will get covid and have to miss it, I'm working on my pitch for an agent, and tagline to tell other writers what its about.  

This has me looking back for resources to write what feels like impossibly short descriptions of the novel I'm working on right now, titled To Feel the Earth as Rough  (from a favorite poem)


The tagline’s job is to evoke emotion

Latest attempt:

Diving into the deep end on the far side of the moon ((Edit, added after reading some comments)

Previous attempts:

Jumping into the deep end on the dark side of the moon

Leaping off the dark side of the moon

What do you think: more concise (#2) or more accurate (#1, because the young protagonist definitely jumps off the deep end to get there!)

Word, Phrase, Sentence, Paragraph

It's harder the shorter it gets, so I'll move backward. 

Paragraph (basically a logline)

This is a story about what happens when …

a middle-aged mother who goes to the moon to get justice for her daughter’s death discovers the martial arts cult that she had blamed might have been the best thing that ever happened in her daughter’s life.

This is accurate but seems a little dry.

The word, phrase and sentences are much harder. I haven't settled on anything yet but here are my thoughts:


...is about forgiving despite anger, recognition of the value of something we don’t understand, explored through a martial arts style on the surface of the moon.


Acceptance of the value of things we don’t understand.
Acceptance that other people’s choices are probably right for them.
Recognition of the value of things we don’t understand. 


Forgiveness. Acceptance. Recognition.

I think Forgiveness is the most catchy; Acceptance is more accurate but too vague.

Love to hear your opinions (or suggestions!) in the comments.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Book Review: Transference


Transference by Kate Jonuska

This has been on my shelf for a while; once I started reading I realized why I had avoided it. The title and the cover made me think it was a body-switching book, and apparently I have something against those! In fact, it was delightful and amusing and even touching at times. Quick and fun and the writing is excellent! Next book from Kate Jonuska, I won't hesitate.