NOBODY PASSES: REJECTING THE RULES OF GENDER AND CONFORMITY edited by Mattilda, aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore (Seal), 354 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
"I don't like labels" is a statement used so often it's become boring. It's hard to imagine a new or evocative version, but Mattilda succeeds at making one. The self-described "genderqueer faggot and queen" brings class-conscious radicals and queer theorists together in Nobody Passes: Rejecting The Rules Of Gender And Conformity.
Ten years after Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel's PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender And Sexuality (Cleis) broke the ground, Nobody Passes takes on the nouveaux queers, a generation of defiant revolutionaries hell-bent on ripping the confining box of gender into cardboard confetti.
Mattilda collects 26 personal narratives and non-fiction essays on identity and assimilation. The authors don't sound like members of a support group, and the book has no disclaimers, glossaries or insecure prefaces. It assumes a poor/working-class/uneducated audience without assuming they lack intelligence.
Though these stories aren't easy or sensationalist, they are raw and real. Contributors include likely suspects Dean Spade and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as well as emerging writers like Toronto's Stacey May Fowles.
In All Mixed Up With No Place To Go, Nico Dacumos writes about the sadness of not belonging and the devastation of being let down by chosen and alternative families. Kirk Read's Origins tackles sex-work narratives and how hustlers revise their memories. Naeem Mohaiemen's Why Mahmud Can't Be A Pilot gives a history of racial profiling "from driving while black to flying while brown" and asks, "How does it feel to be a problem?"
There are a few too many stories by folks who think they're the first to have a complex identity, but I guarantee that no other anthology this year includes a bio that reads "white academic living as a black asshole."
This is so current, it's 2012.
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