Gender Queer: a memoir, is a 2019 graphic novel by Maia Kobabe. It has been praised by the American Library Association, among others, but also it is the most frequently challenged book in school libraries here in Maine and around the country by people who find it overly explicit.
The book is an illustrated narrative about Kobabe’s journey of self-discovery about gender identity and sexuality. In telling the story, Kobabe does not use he/him, she/her, or they/them pronouns.
Instead, Kobabe uses e/em/eir pronouns — rather than saying “she” went to the store, you’d say “e” went to the store, for example.
At one point, Kobabe describes eir struggle to understand and navigate eir gender identity as a “scale” — on one side of the balance, Kobabe is assigned female at birth (AFAB), on the other, Kobabe wishes to identify as gender nonconforming.
“A huge weight had been placed on one side without my permission. I was constantly trying to weigh down the other side,” the narrator says.
Throughout, Kobabe emphasizes the importance of reading, and including books that made Kobabe comfortable with eir sexuality. Kobabe also stresses the support e received from eir parents and community as e grew up in northern California.
In approximately three or four pages out of 260 pages, Gender Queer includes illustrations depicting sex.
You can decide what you think of the book by ordering it at your local bookstore, online, and, yes, at a library. You can also see what Maia Kobabe says about the book in this video.
— David Dahl
Editor of The Maine Monitor