cover image A Year Without a Name

A Year Without a Name

Cyrus Grace Dunham. Little, Brown, $26 (176p) ISBN 978-0-316-44496-5

This meditative memoir by 27-year-old writer and activist Dunham, who uses they/them pronouns, provides a diaristic account of their unresolved relationship to gender and their journey to becoming Cyrus (the one boy name their parents had chosen while expecting) via a name change, hormones, and eventual top surgery. Born Grace, Dunham sensed they were different from other children around the age of five. Early on, they engaged in compulsive behavior (such as relying on magical numbers) and heard voices in their head: “a secondary, analytical voice that prevented [me] from taking total pleasure in anything” and “the sped-up, echoing voice of Amelia Earhart, my narrative ghost, calling out to me.” After high school, Dunham lost their virginity to a girl, figuring “if I couldn’t be the boy she desired, at least I’d be the girl who understood.” The book follows the trails of other obsessive relationships— “Devotion is the closest thing I’ve known to a stable gender, insofar as our gender is a set of rules we either accept or make for ourselves,” Dunham writes—and touches on their struggle with mental illness and their difficult feelings after their sister (who along with other family members is never named) became famous. Dunham demonstrates a self-reflective awareness of their own psychology. This memoir will resonate deeply with other young people seeking gender harmony. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (Oct.)