cover image Tomboyland: Essays

Tomboyland: Essays

Melissa Faliveno. Little A/Topple, $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5420-1419-9

Faliveno, a Sarah Lawrence creative writing instructor, explores identity in her winning debut collection. Throughout, she touches on themes of sexuality, gender, and femininity, all the while recalling her Wisconsin upbringing, with its softball, casseroles, and tornadoes. The last motif is the subject of the first essay, “The Finger of God,” which revisits her youthful obsession with the meteorological phenomenon. In subsequent selections, Faliveno takes an unvarnished look at her upbringing and personal life. In “Tomboy,” she gives both an etymological and personal history of the word, recalling that “growing up, I was a tomboy,” while now “I don’t look like a woman, and I don’t always feel like one.” In the same essay, Faliveno tackles “the internalized homophobia” she’s “been carrying around for so long,” while in “Meat and Potatoes,” she recounts her experiences with openly nonmonogamous relationships and BDSM. In “Gun Country,” she considers mass shootings both generally, in terms of how “anger and rage intersect with gender and violence,” and personally, in terms of widespread gun ownership among her family and friends growing up. Readers who prefer to answer their questions about gender and sexuality with more questions will appreciate this perceptive meditation. Agent: Adriann Ranta Zurhellen, Foundry. (Aug.)