Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Before the recent Academy Awards ceremony, the nominated short documentary The ABCs of Book Banning was available to watch in its entirety (you can watch the trailer here). The premise of the short film was to give banned books to school kids to get their thoughts on why they might be banned. It is well worth watching and is available on Paramount+. Gender Queer was one of those banned books, so I decided to read it myself.

The book is a memoir in graphic novel form. In it the author tells eir story of growing up with gender dysphoria and coming to understand that e was nonbinary and asexual. I have to admit that the whole transgender and nonbinary controversy is a little challenging for me. As a cishet man, I honestly don’t understand it. That’s part of why I read this book. But I don’t need to understand it in order to allow others to be themselves.

This book was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me a glimpse at the life of one real person who lived through the confusion of dealing with gender dysphoria and how e came to understand who e was. It was both educational and transformative for me. I now feel I have a better understanding of what this issue means and how it can be addressed with compassion and understanding. I still don’t completely get it, but this book was an excellent start on my growth in this area.

My rating: 4/5

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Katie Beaton

This is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. That’s what drew me to it, and why I ultimately read it. It is a memoir told in comic form, sort of a non-fiction, biographical graphic novel. Sounds a bit absurd, but it really works.

The author is from the maritime provinces of Canada. She finishes college with a lot of debt. In order to liquidate that debt and start her life debt-free, she takes a lucrative job in the oil sands of western Canada. It is a desolate place dominated by men. Her experience is lonely and psychologically damaging. The book explores the intersection of this harsh world and someone driven to force her way through it due to crushing debt.

The author uses the format to great effect. It really communicates the feeling of being where she was and gives an inkling of what she experienced. Beaton describes the atmosphere as isolated and oppressive while also being understanding that not everyone was responsible for those feelings. It is a fantastic example of how good and bad can, and regularly do, exist at the same time in the same place and one person’s attempt to reconcile that contradiction.

My rating: 4/5

A Graphic Novel as a TV Series

Paper Girls, The Complete Story book cover

Originally posted at

Recently I learned that Amazon Prime came out with a new series that some are comparing to Netflix’s Stranger Things. Both are about teenagers in the ‘eighties. But that is where the similarities end. Paper Girls is the story of four girls who are delivering papers one morning when they suddenly find themselves time traveling. They spend the rest of the story tangled up in a time war while they try to get home.

The Amazon Original series is based on the comic of the same name by Brian K. Vaughn, best know for another comic called Saga. Interested in the series, I wanted to read the full comic series before watching. I found Paper Girls: The Complete Story at my library. I took it on a recent business trip and finished it in no time.

The story telling that I loved so much in Saga is also present in Paper Girls. And below the surface is a story of the girls coming of age and learning the value of friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. I haven’t watched the TV series yet, but if it is anything like the graphic novel, I am looking forward to watching.