If you’re white, somewhere in your late 20’s or early 30’s, and a feminist-inclined trans woman who discovered herself on the internet, Imogen Binnie’s Nevada will feel like The Voice of Our Generation. You will say to yourself, “This is amazing. It’s like I’m reading The Great American Novel, but for trans women like me.” You will then chastise yourself for buying into bullshit erasive monocultural concepts like “The Voice of Our Generation” and “The Great American Novel”. This will just amplify the effect.
I have a confession to make: I have never been punk rock. I grew up in a cush house in suburban Ohio with an acre yard. I was a trans girl trapped in sociopathic Normalsville, but it never drove me to drugs, to loud music, or to edgy acts of rebellion. Not that I conformed, either. I just disappeared into the cigarette-stained wallpaper as best I could.
It is this history that partly shapes the way I relate to Maria, the main character in Nevada. More accurately, it shapes the ways I don’t relate to her, yet still feel like I’m staring into a mirror when I read her excessive inner monologues.
I have a second confession to make: I do not suffer novels lightly. They take forever to read. I’m dyslexic and dissociative—what I lovingly refer to as my aneurotypical double Ds—which means I either read a paragraph in an hour, or read it in a few seconds but forget it immediately afterward.
You will say to yourself, ‘This is amazing. It’s like I’m reading The Great American Novel, but for trans women like me.’
This delay, however, played to my advantage, because it made the reading of this book converge with another event. My friends and I run a tabletop zombie apocalypse RPG, which is a fictional story loosely set in real-life locations in Nevada. Imogen’s novel is a coming-of-age story loosely based on real-life experiences, some of which are set in fictional locations. In Nevada.
My gaming group decided it would be a fantastically weird idea to visit all the locations from our campaign in real life. This left me in a peculiar position: When we weren’t taking photographs of real-life locations where fictional shit went down, I was reading about fictional locations where real-life shit went down.
Think about it: Maria is punk rock. I’m a quiet computer nerd. She’s a New Yorker who ends up in Nevada. I drove there from San Francisco. The oppositional parallels just kept going as I endeavored to finish this thing. I’m an atheist and white and I’m not going to seriously invoke yin-and-yang imagery because it’s appropriative, but that just strengthens my point.
So, how is the book? It left three dominant impressions on me.
First, it is provocative in the purest sense of the word. Which, I guess, really is punk rock. Even if you hate this book (some have complained about the ending), it will leave a mark on you. If you’re like me, you might love it because of the pain it inflicts. I don’t normally engage in BDSM with my reading material, but I’m ok with it here.
It is provocative in the purest sense of the word. Which, I guess, really is punk rock.
Second, it made me realize that the word “whatever” is just shorthand for when it hurts too much to say how you feel. But trans women who transitioned sometime after four years old become teenagers all over again because of it, and we tend to hurt a lot, so you’re going to get a lot of whatever’s in this book, whether you like it or not.
Third, it made me realize that my experience of the state of Nevada is indistinguishable from the book Nevada. Think of it this way: You know what’s in Nevada? Long stretches of nothing interrupted by chaotic cacophonies of everything. It will make you bored, impatient, angry, dazzled, surprised, and confused. It will leave you wondering where the rest is. Wondering how it stopped so suddenly after going on for so long. You’ll expect anger where there is compassion, and you’ll get slapped in the face by painful reality just as you’re about to get comfortable. You’ll love how much it speaks to you, and then you’ll realize it mirrors the ugly side of you as well.
Fuck, it’s complicated. Whatever.