Book Reviews – “The Hidden Life of Trees”, by Peter Wohlleben; “Shrill”, by Lindy West; “Amateur”, by Thomas Page McBee

“amateur” completely wrecked me tbh.

it’s a memoir by the first trans man to box at madison square garden. he talks about manhood and masculinity and what it means, exactly, to Be A Man, and how to be a good man; it included touching on some stuff that is really close to the bone for me (i cried hard at the first time he scares a woman by running behind her, and also when he talks about touch and intimacy between men, and also when he talks about how scary it can be to be a trans man hiding among cis men and how much of manhood is predicated on who isn’t a man, and what that means for trans men).

part of why it really got to me honestly, though, was a really simple thing — i don’t know that i’ve ever really read a description of the masculinizing effect of T that talks about it being beautiful? a thing i struggle with, as part of communities for bi women and lesbians, there’s a LOT of rhetoric about how men are gross and ugly and hairy and thank goodness we’re not attracted to that. there have been people in my life who have talked about the potential changes happening to other transmasc people with such disgust and entitlement that it really knocked me sideways when i started The Juice. even now, you know, i often think of transition as something i had to do (which is not inaccurate; i honestly started getting serious about transition when i realized i’d have breasts for the rest of my life, and i’d rather die than deal with that), as something i’m doing because i wasn’t “good enough” to make it as a girl. reading someone talk about the changes to his body with love and happiness and appreciation for how beautiful it made him was really good for me, i think.

anyway, it’s real good. i am not able to separate out my emotions from it enough to give it anything resembling an objective review, but my cis hetero male coworker recommended it to me, so at least two data points say: it’s good.

“the hidden life of trees” is super charming! i learned some really cool stuff about trees and tree friendship! i’ve been reading a lot of books about plants, actually, and how plants grow and behave, and this was one of them — this treats trees like beings with wants and needs and personalities of their own, which they have, but is hard to see from our perspective. 10/10, i liked it a lot.

“shrill” was — good, mostly. i should have skipped the chapter where she talks about periods, because it’s very — not transphobic exactly, but kind of glosses over the fact that trans people exist, and getting very “all girls know what i mean” with some of the same language my dysphoria uses when i am forced to think about my junk was REAL BAD for me personally! i did mostly enjoy it otherwise, though — it’s a collection of essays more than an ongoing narrative thread, but sometimes it’s nice to read some essays. i’d heard the most interesting part of the book before, which is about getting into it with stand-up comics in the Great Rape Joke Debate from a few years back, and then also talking to a troll — the book is probably worth reading for those two sections alone, even if the rest leaves you cold.

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