cover image Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

Zoë Bossiere. Abrams, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-419-77318-1

Brevity magazine editor Bossiere’s enthralling debut depicts a young adulthood on the margins. Growing up in Arizona, Bossiere felt strongly that they were a boy, especially when running with a feral pack of young men at Cactus Country, the trailer park near Tucson where Bossiere’s parents moved from the Virginia suburbs when the author was 11. Though many of the boys and men in Bossiere’s orbit were violent and troubled, the author mirrored their dress and mannerisms to gain their acceptance. Once puberty struck, Bossiere’s ambiguous gender expression and impoverished circumstances began to make them stand out among their classmates. By high school, they no longer tried to pass as male, and gradually came to admire feminine strength. While volunteering to teach preschool in their senior year of high school, Bossiere marveled at the confident, nurturing dispositions of their female co-teachers. That experience helped situate them in a fluid, nonbinary gender expression, and stoked their ambition to escape the harsh environs of Cactus Country and attend college in Oregon. Bossiere’s concise prose style and gift for scene-setting draws readers in as they unpick the somewhat esoteric nuances of their gender identity. This will resonate with anyone who’s longed for escape—from a hometown or their own body—but lacked an exit plan. Agent: Maggie Cooper, Aevitas Creative Management. (May)