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Like a Boy But Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary

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Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett's experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book's fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett's experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book's fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics (apparently you can learn a lot about yourself through truing a wheel). In "Tomboy," andrea articulates what it means to live in a gender in-between space, and why one might be necessary; "37 Jobs 21 Houses" interrogates the notion that the key to a better life is working hard and moving house. And interspersed throughout the book is "Everyone Is Sober and No One Can Drive," sixteen stories about queer millennials who grew up and came of age in small communities. With the same poignant spirit as Ivan Coyote's Tomboy Survival Guide, Like a Boy but Not a Boy addresses the struggle to find acceptance, and to accept oneself; and how one can find one's place while learning to make space for others. The book also wonders it means to be an atheist and search for faith that everything will be okay; what it means to learn how to love life even as you obsess over its brevity; and how to give birth, to bring new life, at what feels like the end of the world. With thoughtfulness and acute observation, andrea bennett reveal intimate truths about the human experience, whether one is outside the gender binary or not.


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Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett's experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book's fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett's experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book's fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics (apparently you can learn a lot about yourself through truing a wheel). In "Tomboy," andrea articulates what it means to live in a gender in-between space, and why one might be necessary; "37 Jobs 21 Houses" interrogates the notion that the key to a better life is working hard and moving house. And interspersed throughout the book is "Everyone Is Sober and No One Can Drive," sixteen stories about queer millennials who grew up and came of age in small communities. With the same poignant spirit as Ivan Coyote's Tomboy Survival Guide, Like a Boy but Not a Boy addresses the struggle to find acceptance, and to accept oneself; and how one can find one's place while learning to make space for others. The book also wonders it means to be an atheist and search for faith that everything will be okay; what it means to learn how to love life even as you obsess over its brevity; and how to give birth, to bring new life, at what feels like the end of the world. With thoughtfulness and acute observation, andrea bennett reveal intimate truths about the human experience, whether one is outside the gender binary or not.

30 review for Like a Boy But Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary

  1. 5 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    A few of these essays, mostly the ones about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and parenthood, really spoke to me. And it's very cool to hear about these topics from a nonbinary person! Honestly the parts about anxiety and fear of death and mortality were alternately too close to home and anxiety-inducing even though those topics are not particular sites of anxiety for me. The interludes with short bios about small town queers I liked in theory, but in practice I didn't feel like there was real meaning A few of these essays, mostly the ones about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and parenthood, really spoke to me. And it's very cool to hear about these topics from a nonbinary person! Honestly the parts about anxiety and fear of death and mortality were alternately too close to home and anxiety-inducing even though those topics are not particular sites of anxiety for me. The interludes with short bios about small town queers I liked in theory, but in practice I didn't feel like there was real meaning added to the journalistic details. Actually, overall the writing in this collection felt too journalistic for my taste. A good book, but not one that necessarily fit me as a reader.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sax Mahoney

    As a non-binary person, this is the first book that I've read that showed me that I am not alone in what I've experienced. This book gave me relief in knowing that my childhood and adulthood are something that others have shared and that I am valid. If you are non-binary, wondering if you could be non-binary, or wondering what non-binary even is, I would recommend this book. As a non-binary person, this is the first book that I've read that showed me that I am not alone in what I've experienced. This book gave me relief in knowing that my childhood and adulthood are something that others have shared and that I am valid. If you are non-binary, wondering if you could be non-binary, or wondering what non-binary even is, I would recommend this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Pineo

    Review by Lisa Pineo *I received this eARC from Arsenal Pulp Press via Edelweiss+ in return for an honest review. My ratings: * I hated it ** It was okay *** I liked it **** Really good ***** Great TW (trigger warnings): homophobia, transphobia "Like a Boy but Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary" by andrea bennett, a new voice in the LGBTQIA+ memoir category, fails to keep me interested enough to finish the book. 2 stars Description from the publisher: Review by Lisa Pineo *I received this eARC from Arsenal Pulp Press via Edelweiss+ in return for an honest review. My ratings: * I hated it ** It was okay *** I liked it **** Really good ***** Great TW (trigger warnings): homophobia, transphobia "Like a Boy but Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary" by andrea bennett, a new voice in the LGBTQIA+ memoir category, fails to keep me interested enough to finish the book. 2 stars Description from the publisher: "Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett's experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book's fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics (apparently you can learn a lot about yourself through truing a wheel). In "Tomboy," andrea articulates what it means to live in a gender in-between space, and why one might be necessary; "37 Jobs 21 Houses" interrogates the notion that the key to a better life is working hard and moving house. And interspersed throughout the book is "Everyone Is Sober and No One Can Drive," sixteen stories about queer millennials who grew up and came of age in small communities. With the same poignant spirit as Ivan Coyote's "Tomboy Survival Guide", "Like a Boy but Not a Boy" addresses the struggle to find acceptance, and to accept oneself; and how one can find one's place while learning to make space for others. The book also wonders it means to be an atheist and search for faith that everything will be okay; what it means to learn how to love life even as you obsess over its brevity; and how to give birth, to bring new life, at what feels like the end of the world. With thoughtfulness and acute observation, andrea bennett reveal intimate truths about the human experience, whether one is outside the gender binary or not." I DNFd this book at the 50% mark. This is only the second or third one I've done that to but that doesn't mean there weren't some great things about this memoir. I was really interested in the subject of this book as there aren't too many queer memoirs by parents writing about that particular topic, as well as including other queer short essays about how being LGBTQIA+ has affected their lives. The first chapter was great. The second didn't resonate with me at all. The first few stories by other writers were terrible. The writing seemed to be done by people who had never had to write about themselves before and didn't know how to do it. I wanted to stop there but forced myself to continue, hoping andrea's sections would at least hold my attention. They did get better and I found myself interested if not quite enjoying myself. But my interest waned and I just didn't have the motivation to keep reading. I really hate giving this book such a low rating since I really love the ideas behind the memoir but it didn't keep me wanting to come back for more. Recommended to actual queer people (I'm the parent of an LGBTQIA+ person but not queer myself) who want a memoir along with queer topics and can push through some less than stellar writing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    My review is in the form of a blurb on this excellent collection of essays. Check it out!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    I really loved this collection of essays by non-binary writer and illustrator andrea bennett. There's bits on growing up working class, being bipolar, being a non-binary parent, nursing as a non-binary person, and many other things. The author talks about their fear of death, their life struggles, and even UBC accountable. In between each essay, there are interviews with queer millenials who didn't grow up in large cities. I really enjoyed these interviews, and it made me think about the differe I really loved this collection of essays by non-binary writer and illustrator andrea bennett. There's bits on growing up working class, being bipolar, being a non-binary parent, nursing as a non-binary person, and many other things. The author talks about their fear of death, their life struggles, and even UBC accountable. In between each essay, there are interviews with queer millenials who didn't grow up in large cities. I really enjoyed these interviews, and it made me think about the differences between millenials and Gen-Xers and what their coming out stories are like. (I'm a cis, straight, woman, but I have a fascination for stories about people coming from places where they did not feel at home. I have never met andrea, but I tweet with them at least several times each week and have read some previous essays. By reading this collection, I felt that I got to know them better. I hope lots of people read this book and that it doesn't get ignored because it came out during the pandemic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    andrea is my friend, so obviously I'll think this book is great. But what they do is bring the reader, so graciously and patiently, into worlds I don't know (parenting, being non-binary, bike mechanics) and into worlds I do (being a writer, being involved in university investigation - see The People's Poetry essay) and let us stand in those worlds and look around, inhabit them, experience them. And we are richer and better for it. andrea is my friend, so obviously I'll think this book is great. But what they do is bring the reader, so graciously and patiently, into worlds I don't know (parenting, being non-binary, bike mechanics) and into worlds I do (being a writer, being involved in university investigation - see The People's Poetry essay) and let us stand in those worlds and look around, inhabit them, experience them. And we are richer and better for it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Kelly

    DNF. Forced myself to read almost half of this book, but found it just so boring. The writing wasn’t great and the interwoven profiles were worse.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura Sackton

    Enjoyed some essays more than others. Loved the parts about queer parenting. I found the essays about writing less compelling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    H

    This book had SO much - gender and sexuality as spectrums! Parenting! Anxiety! Life! Bicycling! I loved it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    “It may also be that being queer is like rewriting a script: when you break one of the main rules, you just aren’t as willing to follow other kinds of rules, and you’re not as willing to follow traditional life paths.” andrea bennett is a non-binary writer, poet and parent who grew up in Hamilton, but currently lives in Powell River, BC. Like a Boy But Not a Boy is their first essay collection, which touches on subjects such as giving birth and raising a child as a non-binary person and trying t “It may also be that being queer is like rewriting a script: when you break one of the main rules, you just aren’t as willing to follow other kinds of rules, and you’re not as willing to follow traditional life paths.” andrea bennett is a non-binary writer, poet and parent who grew up in Hamilton, but currently lives in Powell River, BC. Like a Boy But Not a Boy is their first essay collection, which touches on subjects such as giving birth and raising a child as a non-binary person and trying to make a living as a working-class writer in CanLit. They also write about being bipolar, having a fear of death and working as a bike mechanic. This is a very beautiful collection! All of the essays were written with a lot of truth, heart and compassion. The essays were also very well-researched, oftentimes mixing bennett’s personal experiences with a historical zoom-out. I really liked how bennett wrote honestly about the amount of work it takes to be a writer in Canada, oftentimes “work[ing] as a server or bartender or dishwasher as your freelance pieces win awards and appear in the Globe and Mail.” My favourite essays in particular were “The People’s Poetry,” “37 Jobs and 21 Houses” and “Everyone is Sober and No One Can Drive,” an extremely aptly-titled 16-part essay drawn from interviews with LGBTQ+ people who grew up in small towns in Canada. I’d recommend this collection if you are particularly interested in reading about queer parenthood, or being a working-class writer. Please note: I received a free digital ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Kesterson-Yates

    DNF: I ended up skipping around to the ending. I greatly disliked the extra stories in the middle. I kept getting details of these extra stories with the ones of the main author. There were also parts of this book that I felt boring and unnecessary.

  12. 4 out of 5

    sylas

    Read almost half of this book. Found it remarkably boring. The writing wasn’t great. The interwoven profiles of other enby folks (separate from the author’s personal essays) were written as weird blurbs that felt like a very distanced clinical case note. I was so pumped for this one, but I couldn’t make it through.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin Fontana

    A beautifully observed, clear-eyed view of the non-binary person's myriad and nuanced experiences. Highly, highly recommend. A beautifully observed, clear-eyed view of the non-binary person's myriad and nuanced experiences. Highly, highly recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Enid Wray

    I am choosing to DNF this approx one-third of the way through. I am just finding it altogether too disjointed a reading experience. It started off well enough - the opening chapter being a very nuanced discussion of gender from the author’s own personal experience… but things went quickly downhill from there for me. The little vignettes about growing up in (mostly) small, rural communities are interesting but they are flat - monotonous, lifeless - and in as much as I feel for the individuals, I I am choosing to DNF this approx one-third of the way through. I am just finding it altogether too disjointed a reading experience. It started off well enough - the opening chapter being a very nuanced discussion of gender from the author’s own personal experience… but things went quickly downhill from there for me. The little vignettes about growing up in (mostly) small, rural communities are interesting but they are flat - monotonous, lifeless - and in as much as I feel for the individuals, I never really connect with them. Then there is the chapter on death - all about Waco, and Jim Jones et al… what was the point? How does this connect to an exploration of life in the non-binary? Talk about random… I guess it’s partly a matter or expectation - mine - about what this book would be - blame the title? - and that it’s not what I thought it was going to be. Not withstanding that I am choosing not to finish this, there is most definitely an audience for this book, those queer and questioning who desperately need to see themselves reflected and know that they are not alone.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ceris

    Obviously I’m starved for books like this, and they’re very necessary and affirming to read. I was a little less sold on the 16 snapshots of queer millennials in small town Canada-at times I liked them, but I didn’t always feel like they had enough reason to be included. They weren’t fleshed out, and didn’t seem to contribute meaningfully. I would have been happy to have more of Andrea’s story, which was touching and relatable and honest and vulnerable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karla Strand

    My review of this title is forthcoming on Foreword Reviews.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lauren (WesterDrumlins)

    I found the exploration of parenthood outside the gender binary to be especially interesting, but I was really intrigued by all aspects of this - as one of the first non-fiction books/collection of essays I've read about the experiences of other non-binary people, I really appreciated the variety of accounts included from across Canada between each of andrea's essays. I also don't tend to tab/mark passages or quotes but felt the need to do so as I read this as I know I'll refer back to it, and w I found the exploration of parenthood outside the gender binary to be especially interesting, but I was really intrigued by all aspects of this - as one of the first non-fiction books/collection of essays I've read about the experiences of other non-binary people, I really appreciated the variety of accounts included from across Canada between each of andrea's essays. I also don't tend to tab/mark passages or quotes but felt the need to do so as I read this as I know I'll refer back to it, and will definitely be rereading it at different points in my life (the section on carving out an alternative name for 'mom' or 'dad' has been a topic that I am regularly thinking of and it was so validating to see that from someone else's perspective). I'll be looking for some of andrea's other work and I'd definitely recommend this to people wanting to explore what living beyond the gender binary can look like. Content warnings include: misgendering, homophobia, transphobia (these tend to occur in the accounts of other gender non-conforming people between andrea's essays), discussions of pregnancy (especially anxiety surrounding risks while pregnant and new-parent anxieties about infant survival), exploration of lactating as a masculine-presenting person (in conjunction with comments on 'top'/breast reduction surgery), discussions of and fixations on death, depression, mentions of rape and dissociation during, accounts of child neglect and abuse.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This is a collection of essays interspersed with (what sounds like) almost-transcriptions of other Canadians who identify in some way as not both straight and cis-gendered. I thought it would be entirely focused on the author's experience as non-binary, which to be honest is why I purchased it, hoping to find some insight into what a loved one might be living. So I got some of that, and a bunch of things that weren't. They were interesting things, providing insight into so much more than gender i This is a collection of essays interspersed with (what sounds like) almost-transcriptions of other Canadians who identify in some way as not both straight and cis-gendered. I thought it would be entirely focused on the author's experience as non-binary, which to be honest is why I purchased it, hoping to find some insight into what a loved one might be living. So I got some of that, and a bunch of things that weren't. They were interesting things, providing insight into so much more than gender identity. (Precarious employment? Consequences of not having health insurance? It's here. Starkly.) I did read every word, and found much to think about. I'll keep the book and perhaps come back to it. I'm not a huge fan of the author's writing style, but I think she has worthwhile things to say, and will watch to see what more she comes up with as she gets older.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    3.5 stars (WHEN WILL GOODREADS GIVE ME HALF STARS?) Thoughtful and introspective, I enjoyed these essays by andrea bennett. I found their insights into living a non-binary life incredibly important for me, as a cisgender woman, to understand, and there was plenty else they had to share: reflections on being working class, mental health, and death and mortality, in particular, stuck with me. There are quite a few essays on parenthood, as well, which I think is incredibly important (that is, broade 3.5 stars (WHEN WILL GOODREADS GIVE ME HALF STARS?) Thoughtful and introspective, I enjoyed these essays by andrea bennett. I found their insights into living a non-binary life incredibly important for me, as a cisgender woman, to understand, and there was plenty else they had to share: reflections on being working class, mental health, and death and mortality, in particular, stuck with me. There are quite a few essays on parenthood, as well, which I think is incredibly important (that is, broadening our language around parenthood and what parents and families look like), though I'll admit those weren't personally my favorite, probably because of my own baggage around becoming a parent.

  20. 5 out of 5

    jamie

    Wow, I loved this book. I took notes on so many excerpts from this book. Bennett intermingles their own essays on gender, parenthood, and other important themes of their life with short stories of individuals they had interviewed. I appreciated this dual structure as it kept the pacing of the book easy to read and highly interesting. A lot of insights from Bennett themself and the queer individuals featured in this book I found to be very relatable. Bennett has a talent for portraying individual Wow, I loved this book. I took notes on so many excerpts from this book. Bennett intermingles their own essays on gender, parenthood, and other important themes of their life with short stories of individuals they had interviewed. I appreciated this dual structure as it kept the pacing of the book easy to read and highly interesting. A lot of insights from Bennett themself and the queer individuals featured in this book I found to be very relatable. Bennett has a talent for portraying individuals’ stories in a way that speaks for a larger group of people. I highly recommend this book to non-binary people, particularly if you are trans masc or afab and masc of center and/or if you are trans and would to carry a child.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I connected with a few of the individual stories, but the book as a whole was lacking cohesiveness. It offered a lens into mental illness which I've never truly allowed myself to reflect on from a gender-non-conforming persepctive; I think these topics were the greatest strength of the book for me for me, in that I don't really see anyone else out there broaching the intersection of these topics. I honestly found the first half of the book really uncomfortable to read, but it's in that discomfor I connected with a few of the individual stories, but the book as a whole was lacking cohesiveness. It offered a lens into mental illness which I've never truly allowed myself to reflect on from a gender-non-conforming persepctive; I think these topics were the greatest strength of the book for me for me, in that I don't really see anyone else out there broaching the intersection of these topics. I honestly found the first half of the book really uncomfortable to read, but it's in that discomfort that I feel like I've grown.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Maloney

    in short, elegant truth telling here in these pages. Humbled to slip into what felt like intimate conversations with the author and the community of souls interwoven throughout with their own strong and vulnerable experiences growing up gender non-binary. I'm not familiar with CanLit and briefly stumbled through that history but It opened a window to some interesting names and places new to me. An interesting, thoughtful and empathy-inducing read. Well worth it. in short, elegant truth telling here in these pages. Humbled to slip into what felt like intimate conversations with the author and the community of souls interwoven throughout with their own strong and vulnerable experiences growing up gender non-binary. I'm not familiar with CanLit and briefly stumbled through that history but It opened a window to some interesting names and places new to me. An interesting, thoughtful and empathy-inducing read. Well worth it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Waithe

    3.5 I really enjoyed some essays while other I felt were not as captivating. This is a good book of experiences and I did enjoy it but I felt that personal essays were stronger than the ones about other people.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Calais M

    This collection of personal essays and interviews was exactly the raw non-binary representation that I was seeking out. Such a relief to read. But eventually the writing and the repetition of themes meant I couldn't get through to the end. This collection of personal essays and interviews was exactly the raw non-binary representation that I was seeking out. Such a relief to read. But eventually the writing and the repetition of themes meant I couldn't get through to the end.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    DNF

  26. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    3.5 stars

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  30. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

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