Today’s review is one that I was dreading writing, because I think this is the lowest rating I’ve given to a book I had to review here. So strap in, this one’s not going to be fun.
About the book
Thanks to Hachette Audio for sending me an audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography
Content warning: Transphobia
Summary: Grace Lavery is a reformed druggie, an unreformed omnisexual chaos Muppet, and 100 percent, all-natural, synthetic female hormone monster. As soon as she solves her “penis problem,” she begins receiving anonymous letters, seemingly sent by a cult of sinister clowns, and sets out on a magical mystery tour to find the source of these surreal missives. Misadventures abound: Grace performs in a David Lynch remake of Sunset Boulevard and is reprogrammed as a sixties femmebot; she writes a Juggalo Ghostbusters prequel and a socialist manifesto disguised as a porn parody of a quiz show. Or is it vice versa? As Grace fumbles toward a new trans identity, she tries on dozens of different voices, creating a coat of many colors.
Now, I had no previous knowledge of Grace E. Lavery as a person, but after reading the synopsis, I was actually really looking forward to reading this book. Not only did it sound like a very different and interesting autobiography, but it also had been blurbed by Carmen Maria Machado. Unfortunately, this was a total miss for me.
Although I’m certain many people will find this book amazing, for me the experience of reading it was divided in two. Half of it went over my head, and the other half I simply didn’t like. Now, this is obviously not a review of Grace E. Lavery’s life—because that would be ridiculous and very out of place—but of how she transmits her story. I found this book to be way too pedantic and confusing, and I was specially not a fan of all the little interruptions to the main narrative in favour of telling bizarre stories.
I was interested in the trans aspect of this autobiography, and that was definitely the most gripping part of the book for me. However, some exploration was done in such a way that I found it really hard to follow. It started out okay, but the more I listened to this book, the more confused I got.
As for the audiobook narration itself, it was mostly fine. I’ve discovered—after a few times running into this phenomenon—that I can’t stand when people sing in audiobooks. This also had some dramatic readings of scenes I would’ve much rather not encountered.
All in all, this just wasn’t for me. I found this book overtly pedantic and unnecessarily confusing, and I cannot say I enjoyed it or got anything from it. A total miss for me, but it might not be for other people.
About the author
Grace Lavery is a writer, editor, and academic living in Brooklyn, NY. As an Associate Professor of English, Critical Theory, and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, her research explores the history and theory of aesthetics and interpretation, with particular interests in psychoanalysis, literary realism, and queer and trans cultures. Her speculative memoir, Please Miss, was published by Seal Press in 2022.
Have you read Please Miss? Do you think it’s a book you would enjoy?