Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Trans Lit: Annabel by Kathleen Winter
Middlesex, Kathleen Winter's new novel, Annabel, is the story of a hermaphrodite - someone with both male and female sex organs, complete or otherwise - and how that person comes to terms with the gender duality as those aspects of gender incongruent with presentation begin to surface. Unlike Eugenides' Pulitzer-winning novel though, Annabel is a story on a much smaller scale, with a relatively straightforward storyline that focuses on character descriptions. Out in the cold of northeastern Labrador (Canada), a baby is born to hunter/trapper Treadway Blake and his wife Jacinta. However, this is no ordinary child: Wayne Blake was born with both a penis and a vagina. After going to a doctor, the decision is made to surgically close the vagina and raise the child as a male, for the seemingly arbitrary reason that penile length is sufficient. Of interest to those of us who are not intersexed but transsexual, young Wayne is unaware of his physiology, but is plagued by disinterest in "boy things" and a predilection for what his father considers less manly activities. So, many of his concerns strike a familiar chord with my own thoughts and feelings growing up. This is a pretty good book - I wouldn't classify it as one that makes a strong literary impression, but it holds your attention well enough, and you don't feel like you've just wasted several hours after finishing it. As someone who, at 43, still enjoys some "young adult" novels, I'd say Annabel has more in common with those books than the usual "serious" fiction book. It is currently not available in the US, although you can get it from the link above directly from Anansi Press in Canada, or through reseller affiliates of amazon.com.