The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

Every week is full of tiny gender moments, little queer vignettes, these rich and telling interactions that give me an endless running commentary about what the world sees in me. . . (It Only Takes a Minute I, 43)

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You is S. Bear Bergman’s second book, and if it is possible, Bergman has delved even further into the many facets and richness of gender identity, inside and outside LGBTQ communities. The same candid self-awareness, sensitivity, and self-deprecating wit found in Butch Is a Noun is here in even larger quantities.

The Nearest Exit ranges from short, humorous observances of day-to-day gender insight in the series It Only Takes a Minute I-IV, to longer, more exploratory essays examining the complexity of gender and identity, such as The Velveteen Tranny, and I’m Just Saying.

In very personal narratives, Bergman questions gender norms, expectations, and uncomfortable subjects within the LGBTQ community. In Just a Phase, Bergman examines hir own process of coming out, multiple times, within the community, and to hirself in regards to sexuality and gender identity, which shines light on Bergman’s life when writing Butch Is a Noun. This struggle is also highlighted in the painful and validating essay “Shame,” as well as the uplifting speech given by Bergman on the Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2008.

By taking the time to look at life’s small details, we are gently brought to the larger stories of our families and communities, Western culture and custom (see Dutiful Grandchild).

The Nearest Exit contains a small amount of sexual explicitness, but it puts complex ideas in an accessible format. It is recommended for academic and public libraries.

Reviewed by, Jesse Nachem
Assistant Archivist, Lucasfilm Ltd.

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