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CACTUS COUNTRY by Zoë Bossiere Kirkus Star


A Boyhood Memoir

by Zoë Bossiere

Pub Date: May 21st, 2024
ISBN: 9781419773181
Publisher: Abrams

A memoir about gender, the Sonoran Desert, and how stories can save.

When Bossiere’s family packed themselves into an Airstream and moved to Cactus Country, an RV park situated in the desolate landscape outside of Tucson, the author was an 11-year-old boy. Bossiere was assigned female at birth, but with a cropped haircut, an affinity for dirt, and the “hard masculinity, stoicism, and camaraderie of the boys and men I knew in those years,” the author found friendship within Cactus Country’s pack of boys, as wild as the park’s roving herds of javelina. The boys chased trains, tarantulas, and troubled neighbors, honing their masculinity among the creosote bushes and prickly pears. As puberty began—and with it, romantic confusions, experiences of body issues, and probing questions from peers—Bossiere found themself in a “mixed-up, turned-around, in-between gender story.” They turned to online queer communities for answers about their gender. “I wanted to read a story like mine,” Bossiere writes of their young, searching self, “because I wanted to know how that story would end.” In these tightly connected essays, the author creates such a story, asserting that within the letters LGBTQ+, there are “so many ways a person could find themself in that ever-expanding acronym, its ‘+’ containing multitudes.” Bossiere returns to images and ideas from their childhood and adolescence in new landscapes and identities, haunting the memoir to prove that, “[i]n the end, we’re left with what the body knows. Its memory runs deep, rooting us to our past no matter how far away or long ago.” In that way, though Bossiere’s life has taken them far from Cactus Country, “the ghost of the boy I was is still running somewhere out in the desert.”

Bossiere’s hopeful, powerful life story also serves as a memorable study of gender and home.