Book review: Gender Failure, by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote

Gender Failure Spoon, Rae and Ivan E. Coyote. . Arsenal Pulp Press. 2014. $17.95. 252p. PB. 9781551525365.

This collection of essays and personal stories is the collaborative work of Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon, both performers, musicians, and writers who confess that they have “failed” at gender. While Spoon has identified as transgender in the past and has now retired their gender altogether, Coyote has chosen to identify as trans* where they used to be identified as a butch lesbian. Both Coyote and Spoon have at times felt like outsiders and are now bringing awareness to the world at large and the LGBT community about those who live off the gender grid.

In alternating chapters, this book is a collection of the authors’ essays, song lyrics, drawings, and photographs all describing the authors’ journeys as they have traveled through and beyond the gender spectrum. In these personal, poignant, humorous, and bittersweet essays and stories, both authors cover a variety of topics, using their experiences with gender, growing up in Canada, the LGBT community, and other seemingly-mundane topics such as airport restrooms. This book, like the multi-media show it’s based on, demonstrates that gender isn’t a binary thing.

Gender Failure is a necessary addition to any LGBT special collection and is strongly recommended for public libraries, particularly those with an emphasis on representing diversity.

Jenni Frencham, Librarian
Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)

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