It’s been a while, I know. And there is so much to say! But almost all my writing energy is going into Writing A Book (hahahaha yes I typed that out loud) or Doing My Actual Job so if you want to hear about all my LOVELY THINGS (getting married, aren’t I?!) then you’ll have to take me out for a drink or something because my fingers have a finite amount of typing in them and not much of it is ending up over here at the moment.
I impulsively signed up for the blog tour of Juno Dawson’s new book, The Gender Games, so I am here to tell you all about it.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
But, like, actually do judge this book by its cover because LOOK HOW GREAT THIS COVER IS.
Will be channelling this aesthetic in all future wardrobe/stationery/interior decorating decisions.
(Those mermaid leggings. SERIOUSLY.)
Once you have stopped gazing in lovestruck wonder, though, do actually sit down and read it because I am confident that you will enjoy it very much.
So what are these gender games, then?
Juno Dawson is a transgender woman, and this book is her memoir. Usually, I’d agree with her that nobody as young as she is should be putting out their memoirs unless they are a literal Spice Girl, but this is deeper and richer and more wide-ranging than a conventional autobiography.
I reckon I’ve probably thought about gender as a concept more than your average bear. I work at a place with a dedicated Gender Specialist and my ridiculously clever, talented, hardworking and prolific sister is an academic focusing on sex, gender and sexuality in a theological context. (Yes, she is EXACTLY as awesome as you think).
But if someone asked me, outright, what is gender? or why does it matter? I think I’d struggle to articulate myself particularly well.
Luckily, I can now thrust this gem of a book into their hands.
I was really struck by the analogy Juno uses of Gender as a His Dark Materials-style daemon. At once completely, inherently, inextricably part of who we are, and yet separate and distinct from us as individuals. (And, if the gender you’re assigned doesn’t match the gender you know yourself to be, it might feel more like Mildred Hubble’s hapless Tabby than Lyra’s Pantalaimon).
I imagine that snippet’s enough to give you a sense of how accessible and enjoyable this book is. Just like Juno’s novels and her journalism, it’s a chatty, gossipy, pacey ride peppered with little pop culture Easter Eggs and possibly the world’s first instance of a footnoted gif.
It is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. (ALL DINOSAURS WERE BOYS AND THAT’S WHY THEY’RE NOW EXTINCT). It’s also very moving. The section about her relationship with her dad is beautifully written and made me cry in the bath. At other times, it is full of righteous and rightful anger. It is a book to read RIGHT NOW. It’s like sitting in the pub with your mate putting the world to rights: snarking about Theresa May and sobbing over the NHS and generally thinking, god, isn’t she smart?
The Gender Games made me think about friendship a lot, actually. You can feel Juno’s love for her many and varied female friends emanating from the page, and she writes so brilliantly about how those relationships ebb and alter and strengthen and flow as life goes on around you.
I thought of two of my friends in particular.
When Jo and I were taking our first tentative steps out of the Just Colleagues zone, we went to see Sex and the City 2 in a sticky cinema in the West End. We sat in perfect silence throughout, neither of us emitting even a breath of a laugh. I can’t remember which of us, as the lights came up, first dared to ask: “That was… not good, right?”
Both of us visibly relaxed, relieved that we would not have to cut the other one dead because they had no taste whatsoever.
It is, as Juno says, “one of the worst movies of all time” but it will always have a weird little spot in my heart for cementing my Jo-mance.
(See also: sitting in perfect silence through Britney at the O2).
The other friend I thought of for just as specific reasons involving Historic Beef with a medium-famous figure who pops up a couple of times in the book.
She and I have talked a couple of times recently about how on earth adults make friends. How do you take the leap from “women with shared interests” to “actual friends” when you can’t just thrust BFF necklaces at each other and hope for the best?
In the scheme of things, I’m not sure whether sticking it in a blog post equates to grand romantic boombox above the head gesture or writing our names in a heart in the back of my diary – but Alex, let’s be friends, yeah?
Is this how book tour posts usually go? A bit of gushing about the book, a bit of gushing about your pals? Possibly not, but here we are.
The Gender Games is by turns funny, educational and very moving. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
I received a free copy of The Gender Games from John Murray Press. I did not receive payment nor (clearly!) was I told what to write. These thoughts are from my own head.