cover image Some Animal

Some Animal

Ely Shipley. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-937658-79-3

“When she becomes he, people are confused, some are even angry,” writes Shipley (Boy with Flowers) in this riveting exploration of what it means to come of age in a genderqueer body. The collection’s four linked memoirs adopt a ranging, hybrid form. Though steeped in Anglo-American poetry and literary theory, the book’s first order of business is making sense of how it feels to be “all alone inside// a riddle.” Shipley’s sources are those of contemporary autobiography: visceral memories of sex and sex ed (“The classroom quiet. Rapt. Wrapped in gauze”), portentous dreams (“Pale bodies in S shapes slither and glide, slick over water-skin”), unshakeable pronouncements from family members (“Grandma lets out a long sigh, ‘Well, then, if you’re a boy,/ let’s see your penis’ ”). What sets this book apart is its focused attention to the experience of defying the gender binary, of being in a body that intimates and strangers alike are bent on denying. “That’s not a girl, that’s a boy,” classmates say, in one dreamscape. “Oh. No, wait: what is it?” Mining his own life and those of his queer kin, Shipley’s book is one of hard truths, lovingly rendered. (Apr.)