A capable, worthy demonstration of how the history of disrupting the gender binary is as long as human history itself.

BEFORE WE WERE TRANS

A NEW HISTORY OF GENDER

An eye-opening study of the history of gender nonconformity.

In this highly informative text, Heyam, a U.K.–based queer history activist and trans awareness trainer, tells a wide variety of pertinent stories that are often left out of the trans narrative. Many of the ideas that the author explores don’t fit cleanly inside our contemporary notions of trans identity, which is usually able to be verbally confirmed and often includes medical, social, and cultural transitions. Heyam makes the compelling argument that just because people in the past may not have had access to medical transition procedures or modern vocabulary to adequately discuss gender doesn’t mean their experiences outside the gender binary should be ignored. “To say sex and gender are both socially constructed,” writes the author, “isn’t to say they’re not real—like other social constructs, including race, money and crime, they have material and life-changing consequences for all of us—but it is to say there’s no innate reason we have to think about them in the way we do.” The author draws from a remarkable array of historical examples, expanding the definition of what we should consider trans history along the way. Among other eras and locales, Heyam takes us to ancient Egypt, the Edo period in Japan, and a World War II prisoner camp on the British Isles. With great sensitivity and care, they discuss the deleterious effects of European colonization over hundreds of years, the modern Western desire to separate gender and sexuality, and the intersex community. While clearly the work of a diligent historian, the text avoids feeling too dry and is a relatively accessible read. The author’s historical and topical range is impressive, and only a few of the sections are disjointed. Overall, the book will fascinate anyone interested in a subject that many readers likely misunderstand.

A capable, worthy demonstration of how the history of disrupting the gender binary is as long as human history itself.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5416-0308-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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