Annabel Award Winning Canadian Author Kathleen Winter S Annabel Is A Stunning Debut Novel About The Family Of A Mixed Gendered Child Born Into A Rural Hunting Community In The SKathleen Winter S Luminous Debut Novel Is A Deeply Affecting Portrait Of Life In An Enchanting Seaside Town And The Trials Of Growing Up Unique In A Restrictive Environment In , Into The Devastating, Spare Atmosphere Of Labrador, Canada, A Child Is Born A Baby Who Appears To Be Neither Fully Boy Nor Fully Girl, But Both At Once Only Three People Are Privy To The Secret The Baby S Parents, Jacinta And Treadway, And Their Trusted Neighbor And Midwife, Thomasina Though Treadway Makes The Difficult Decision To Raise The Child As A Boy Named Wayne, The Women Continue To Quietly Nurture The Boy S Female Side And As Wayne Grows Into Adulthood Within The Hypermasculine Hunting Society Of His Father, His Shadow Self, A Girl He Thinks Of As Annabel, Is Never Entirely Extinguished When Wayne Finally Escapes The Confines Of His Hometown And Settles In St John S, The Anonymity Of The City Grants Him The Freedom To Confront His Dual Identity His Ultimate Choice Will Once Again Call Into Question The Integrity And Allegiance Of Those He Loves Most Kathleen Winter Has Crafted A Literary Gem About The Urge To Unveil Mysterious Truth In A Culture That Shuns Contradiction, And The Body S Insistence On Coming Home A Daringly Unusual Debut Full Of Unforgettable Beauty, Annabel Introduces A Remarkable New Voice To American Readers

boYs Biblioasis 2007 won Canada s Metcalf Rooke Award and Winterset Award Her novel, Annabel House of Anansi Press 2010 , was a finalist for all three of Canada s major literary awards It became a 1 Canadian bestseller,came out in 2011 with Grove Atlantic Black Cat in New York and Jonathan Cape in London, and has been translated wordwide Her memoir Boundless Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage was published by Anansi in 2014 Her latest story collection The Freedom in American Songs 2014 was published by Biblioasis Her 2017 novel Lost in September Knopf is a psychological war story that transports the young 18h century General James Wolfe into the contemporary New World Winter lives in Montreal You can read her Livejournal here

➶ [Read] ➲ Annabel By Kathleen Winter ➾ –
  • Hardcover
  • 464 pages
  • Annabel
  • Kathleen Winter
  • English
  • 03 October 2019
  • 9780887842368

10 thoughts on “Annabel

  1. says:

    this book is lovely, but it is a mostly subdued novel about an intersexed child raised as a boy, whose fully operational vagina is sewn up at birth and kept a secret from him until a little health issue brings it to light this is not a broad, epic tale like Middlesex it is a subtle, lonely story that takes place in a remote part of canada where men provide for their families by trapping game, and women sew and raise both their vegetables and their children quietly wayne is raised as a boy, because the length of his penis at birth qualifies him to be male, but his shadow self, annabel, keeps coming to light he is not the son his traditionally masculine father treadway wanted, and so becomes a constant disappointment and enigma to him, while his mother jacinta regrets having decided to force a gender upon him in the first place Everything Treadway refused to imagine, Jacinta imagined in detail enough for the two of them Whereas he struck out on his own to decide how to erase the frightening ambiguity of their child, she envisioned living with it as it was She imagined her daughter beautiful and grown up, in a scarlet satin gown, her male characteristics held secret under the clothing for a time when she might need a warrior s strength and a man s potent aggression Then she imagined her son as a talented, mythical hunter, his breasts strapped in a concealing vest, his clothes the green of striding forward, his heart the heart of a woman who could secretly direct his path in the ways of intuition and psychological insight Whenever she imagined her child, grown up without interference from a judgemental world, she imagined its male and female halves as complementing each other, and as being secretly, almost magically powerful It was the growing up part she did not want to imagine The social part, the going to school in Labrador part, the jeering part, the what will we tell everyone part, the part that asks how will we give this child so much love it will know no harm from the cruel reactions of people who do not want to understand despite his parents unavoidable mistakes in wayne s upbringing, they are well intentioned people treadway experiences a great deal of frustration whenever his son exhibits behavior he interprets as girly, but apart from one unfortunate act, he mostly bottles up his feelings of confusion and dismay, staying away from home longer and longer on his trapline, leaving wayne alone with his mother, and the few people with whom wayne has managed to form connections these supporting cast characters are also pretty phenomenal, and both offer wayne a sort of inspirational role model that will help him in his understanding of himself, as he struggles to determine what is right for him thomasina, who was the midwife at wayne s birth, and later a teacher at his school, is a woman who yearns to see the world after the death of her husband and daughter she is fed up with the smallness of her life, and takes her destiny into her own hands, carving her own path through life wally is the childhood bestie of wayne she is the girl who shines the one everyone wants to be around who oozes specialness and promise wayne loves her, wants to be her, wants to be with her, in this mishmash of conflicting and confusing emotions that all add up to him simply needing to be in her presence circumstances drive them apart, and further circumstances drop a huge obstacle in wally s path, but special girls always have huge inner resources and indomitable spirits, and wayne is paying attention.wayne s female traits keep asserting themselves throughout his lifetime,and eventually he becomes aware of the circumstances of his birth this knowledge will lead him on a puzzling journey of self discovery, full of contemplation,inner turmoil, and danger, until finally he manages to find a solution that, while it seems like it might only be a temporary crutch, will hopefully also provide him with the confidence and self awareness that will sustain him long term.again, not a plot driven narrative there are beautiful location descriptions, and plenty of insightful meditations on identity and purpose, and a great deal of struggle and acceptance treadway becomes a magnificent character, after some initial readerly misgivings, but overall, this is a beautiful book that takes its time in the telling, but is certainly worth it.come to my blog

  2. says:

    This novel was very quaint It takes place in a rural Canadian town, and while I enjoyed the vibe and setting, the plot and characters fell a bit flat for me I m glad I finally read this, but I wasn t blown away by any means.

  3. says:

    Cross posted at Shelf Inflicted and at Outlaw Reviews There are not many novels that explore the lives of intersex characters in fiction, so I was thrilled to pick this up at the library Kathleen Winter is a gifted writer Her beautiful words, vivid images and intimate details of family life totally absorbed and unsettled me What I was hoping to get out of this novel was insight into the life of Wayne, an intersex child born in Labrador I refuse to use the ugly word hermaphrodite His father, Treadway, makes the decision to raise the child as a boy, while his mother, Jacinta, is unhappy about stifling Wayne s female qualities Instead, this story focuses on the quiet rural life of Labrador, the long and lonely seasons where men hunted and women were confined to a laborious indoor life of cooking, scrubbing, and raising children It also intimately explores the joys and difficulties of family life and how hard it is to raise a child who is different I like the complex relationship that Wayne has with his father There are interesting secondary characters that enrich Wayne s life, a few who make it very difficult, and a few who add nothing to the narrative One of these characters, Thomasina, has been supportive of Wayne from the moment of his birth and I m disappointed that she spent much of her time traveling I wouldn t call what you have a disorder I d call it a different order A different order means a whole new way of being It could be fantastic It could be overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren t scared When Wayne gets older, he learns the circumstances of his birth and decides to stop taking hormones At this point in the story, Wayne should be having of a reaction to this new knowledge and the changes occurring in his body Instead, we are subject to a sensational medical crisis that seems improbable and important characters begin to fade away Wayne becomes distant as a character and it becomes even harder to understand what he s feeling As soon as Wayne changes his name to Annabel, bad things happen I won t say , but I am surprised at a female author using this to prove a character s femininity It s cruel, it s disturbing and it s offensive I almost loved this book Now I m sad and I m going to knock off two stars.

  4. says:

    SPOILERS, OF WHICH I HIDE ONLY THE MAJOR ONE this book has great promise, mostly in the beautiful language, but i felt it the book, not the promise , from halfway through to the end, get lost in the writer s fantastic meanderings this is what i mean it feels as if kathleen winter, the author, made a conscious decision not to follow narrative conventions of closure and preferred to follow her soul her soul dictated to her a free form in which threads are left dangling and non existent threads are picked up as if they had been there all along this didn t work for me i wanted to know what happened to wayne s mother and why wayne s father turned into such a stellar parent i want to know why thomasina never goes where she is invited and refuses so consistently to stay in the lives she so profoundly affects she is such a lovely character why keep her abroad and distant, only to be heard of from postcards winter makes of this book the story of the relationship between a son daughter and his her father, but we get this only as the story matures and grows towards its non conclusion it is strange, in a book by a woman author, to see women so badly done by some of them, like wayne s mother, simply wane and disappear some of them are exiled from the narrative and wayne is comfortable confiding in an unreliable and barely known 15 year old than in his obviously caring ex principal there are other missed boats, unblossomed buds mostly, as i said, there seems to be a determination on the part of the author to write differently this is fine, but you must be able to pull it through you can t leave your reader dangling, and dangling.some of the light handed magical realism is reminiscent of louise erdrich, which is a great accomplishment indeed some of the writing is breathtaking i can t bring myself to say anything about wayne s hermaphroditism i haven t read enough literature by intersex people jeffrey eugenides, author of middlesex is not intersex and i have no idea about kathleen winter , or even about intersex people, to know whether this feels true to them i find that winter captures something here and there, but ultimately fails to bring home to us the exhilaration, the loss, the potential, the richness, the difference, the specialness of the intersex person in her closure phobia, she sort of drops the ball at the end does it really all come down to the fact view spoiler that wayne needed to find himself surrounded by college kids hide spoiler

  5. says:

    This is a wonderful exploration of the meanings of gender through the life of an intersex child born to a family in a remote village in Labrador in the sixties Many people are born with handicaps or unusual physical traits, but arriving with both a penis and a vagina and mixed glands to boot is quite a challenge to set for a character and for a reader to comprehend As much as we have advanced on acceptance of different sexual orientations or choice of gender roles, ambiguity in physical sex in a person is still usually disturbing A bit of transgressive androgyny in our pop stars is about as much as most of us can handle Yet the lens of Wayne s development in this tale and emergence of a girl, Annabel, literally hidden inside him, will likely shake you up in strange and beautiful ways This is no freak show or lurid tale for Dr Phil to meet with pablum solutions It s a character study of Wayne, his parents, childhood friends, and community in relationship to this secret In this community, people know their roles, and the division of labor in this harsh environment is strongly divided by gender Like most men, Wayne s father, Treadway, spends months away in the winter hunting, harvesting game for food, and trapping for fur His wife, Jacinta, manages the household and child rearing and participates in the larger community, including projects to bring in extra money There is no feminist critique of this pattern As in modern society elsewhere, Jacinta feels unfulfilled in many ways with her lot in life and Treadway suffers from an inability to articulate his feelings Their love and respect for each other is substantial, yet their division over what to do about Wayne s condition is a persistent wedge You were on your own in Croydon Harbour In the realm of imagination you were left to your own devices, and this was what most people in Croydon Harbour wanted This was why they came here, if they came from other places such as Scotland and England and even America they came to leave behind the collective dreams of an old world and they came to glory in their own footprints on land that had been travelled only by aboriginal peoples and the wild caribou.The role of the midwife, Thomasina, in fostering the potentials and hopes of each family member is a marvelous and large part of this story Her initial impulse was just to let nature take its course, consistent with her open approach to giving everyone a chance to evolve To Thomasina people were rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another It was not fair, she felt, to treat people as if they were finished beings Everyone was always becoming and unbecoming.Thomasina helps the couple in coming to terms with their situation and accedes to their seeking medical help from the distant regional hospital in Goose Bay A seemingly modest surgical solution is adopted involving the sewing the child s vagina up and using hormones to promote Wayne s development as a male Treadway gets his way in the choice to keep the intersex condition a secret from all and to raise the child as a boy As Wayne grows, both Jacinta and Thomasina seem to regret the lost prospect for a daughter in the family and call him Annabel sometimes as a pet name the name of the daughter lost to an accident Meanwhile, Treadway takes special pains to teach him all the manly ways of working and living outdoors, and much of this fatherly care is beautiful and good Unfortunately, he is hypervigilant in trying to suppress what he perceives as feminine modes of behavior And Wayne is not compelled like his father and other men in the community who glory in their own footprints on land that had been travelled only by aboriginal peoples and the wild caribou Not surprisingly, Wayne has a lot of confusion on how to be He befriends a girl at school, Wally, who is musical and artistic, and together they help each other negotiate the bullies and overbearing teachers at school Their play leads to a project of creating their own version of the Ponte Vecchio bridge of Florence, decorated with fabrics The idea of the bridge comes from Thomasina, who travels the world for a number of years, sending periodic postcards of bridges that fascinate her and work subtle magic on Wayne and on the reader in terms of metaphorical impact Treadway s reaction to this harmless and tender play is a tragic turning point in the story No matter what happens from then on, Wayne is bound in his heart for life to this girl He loved Wally Michelin the way he loved constellations, or leaves, or king eider ducks.Such is the set up, and it remains for me to hint where this is going to help a prospective reader make a choice Of course, the secret comes out for Wayne Despite uncertainties, he muddles through to his teen years and moves to the excitement and anonymity and alienation of a city St Johns on Newfoundland Island Similar to Eugenides great novel Middlesex , the story here is than just the imagining of what life must be like for an intersex individual And as with that other novel, some readers will wonder about the veracity of the coverage of biology and psychology of their characters journeys in comparison to real world scenarios I recommend just letting go of that expectation Otherwise you will begin to lose confidence any time a writer tries to portray a character who is of the opposite gender Realistic or not, Wayne s resilience proves brave and not tortured, and I felt some of the same sense of a launch of a special being on the world as I got from John Irving s bisexual youth in his outstanding In One Person I leave you a lyrical and powerful quote of the kind of window Wayne makes of the gendered urban society we all take for granted Wayne had been watching people The street smelled of cigarettes, perfume and coffee, and Wayne saw that the faces, bodies, clothes, and shoes of the men and women who passed him had been divided and thinned The male and female in them had been both diluted and exaggerated They were one, extremely so, or they were the other The women trailed tapered gloves behind them and walked in ludicrous heels, while the men, with their fuzzy sideburns and brown briefcases, looking boring as little beagles out for the same rabbit You define a tree and you do not see what it is it becomes its name It is the same with woman and man Everywhere Wayne looked there was one or the other, male or female, abandoned by the other The loneliness of this cracked the street in half Could the two halves of the street bear to see Wayne walk the fissure and not name him a beast

  6. says:

    Written with compassion this extremely well received debut novel tells the story of raising a hermaphrodite child in a remote Labrador Village At its core is the father s misguided decision to give the child a normal life by dictating he is male, a choice that requires burying his female side with a combination of surgery hormone treatment A decision that sets the stage for a lifetime of secrecy, a collusion of dishonesty that threatens to tear the family apart The tone of the novel is cold and bleak, a character study that should have triggered a deeper emotional response It captured the isolation loneliness of Labrador but none of the raw beauty of its landscape, none of the humour and tight community bonding that Newfies are famous for Forgive me for getting abstract, the best way I can describe it is to compare it to an artist s 1st rough sketch Blurry and undefined, pencil drawn and limited in palette to shades of grey I can see real talent but only one of the figures, that of the father Tread is complete Painted in flesh tones, an unattractive man so well wrought he breathes I understood him She introduces people then seems to lose interest, most notably the mother Jacinta The central character Wayne remained a mystery, his emotionless responses downright puzzling view spoiler When unable to bear small town life any longer he moves to St Johns, leaving his mother alone and in a state of depression so deep she s unable to care for herself Wayne s sadness over Jacinta was the sadness all sons and daughters feel when their ferry starts moving and the parent stands on the dock, waving and growing tiny A sadness that stings, then melts in a fresh wind What the hide spoiler

  7. says:

    This sensitive and powerful novel reads like one from a seasoned author, not at all like a debut novel.In a small town in Newfoundland when a baby is born with both male and female physical identities, surgery is performed and a secret is forged between new parents, Treadway and Jacinta, and Jacinta s friend Thomasina It s a secret kept from everyone including the child itself The baby is brought up as a male, Wayne Treadway is determined to instil masculine skills in Wayne while Thomasina calls him Annabel Jacinta acknowledges Wayne s feminine side and Wayne longs for sparkling bathing suits and soft dresses but keeps these desires hidden from Treadway Life goes as well as can be expected until Wayne s teens when his latent biology forces itself to the fore Rushed to hospital by Thomasina, Wayne learns truths about his body that alters the course of his life.Kathleen Winter s emphatic, quiet yet powerful voice beautifully crafts this novel of the wilderness, tenderness and a person s ability to change A novel well worth reading 4

  8. says:

    The book was the best novel I have ever read I normally don t like fiction but this is the first novel that ever made me cry while I was reading It resonated with me on so many aspects I have been struggling with my sexuality for a very long time Except for one major difference, which is that Wayne is a hermaphrodite and I am a physically normal male, I was astonished at the number of similarities between Wayne and me I have always felt like a female soul out of sync with my body Ever since I was growing up, my family and relatives often insisted that I should act like a boy and that I was like a girl Mom and my two older sisters were the only people I was close to who were always understanding and who never enforced to me the need to behave like a boy, as my dad and relatives and even classmates did to me Also, after years of repressing my true self and adopting behaviours that I hoped would make me seem like what people would expect of me as a male, I feel as though much of my innate self and femininity have been altered and repressed, and even some parts seem to have been forgotten forever, such that now I feel neither male nor female The only true friends I naturally made from kindergarten to early elementary grade 3 were females, except, starting around grade 4, I ended up starting to deliberately barricade myself from both females and males, after being tired of being teased for hanging out with girls and being girly this has been part of my ongoing project to adopt manly traits and cut out my innate female like behaviours, which included hanging out with females So I have stayed without any friend ever since, and I have been very lonely, though now it s not as bad because I seem to have become inured to it after than a decade with no single friend I m approaching 24 in a few months I had several moments when other person s suspected if I liked some other girl s in a sexual way when in fact I liked them just as a girl would like another girl or when I just had nothing to do with such girls except for some school or extracurricular purposes Dad seems to be deliberately doing a lot of this even though I have hinted several times that I don t like girls sexually He frequently mentions when I will have a girlfriend and my marriage and so on, possibly seeming to believe that there is no such thing as LGBT and denying who I really am People struggling with the problem of the sort that Wayne and I are struggling with seem to unusual that no one seems to be able to help much Similar but not identical to Wayne s experience, I have previously gone to a psychiatric ward where I met some doctors and several interns, with whom I just felt helpless, like wasting my and their time It s just unfair why such sexual minorities have to go through this and are born like that in the first place I too have been longing to be secure in terms of sexuality just like the majority of people He wished at that moment that his whole life had not been a secret, that lots of people were like him, instead of his being alone in a world where everyone was secure in their place as either woman or man His aloneness was what made him feel ashamed, and he did not know why it had to be so Victoria Huskins looked him in the eye She did not linger on his hair or his clothing or his makeup So you are selling meat from a van She had not asked him about his appearance They were a thousand miles from Croydon Harbour She waited for him to tell her but did not appear to be curious about his maleness or femaleness I too have experience dealing with situations where I was uneasy with how the other person s would notice or think about my certain traits and behaviours with regard to sexuality Wayne worried about the makeup when he was meeting Victoria Huskins, but in my case, there are several things, including many subtle behaviours that are difficult to put into words, and also my voice i.e It may seem silly but I use a feminine voice with my family or people to whom I can be myself, and the masculine or lower pitched voice with strangers or acquaintances This novel seems very timely, so much so that I felt very surprised and thought of the ideas about the curious invisible forces of the universe, like the law of attraction, as if the universe has some kind of a plan for people who live in harmony with its tendencies as by leaving enough space in daily life for spontaneity, open mindedness, self reflection, and so on A few days before I attended the early April 2012 bookclub to find out that Winter s novel will be the next novel for the meeting in early May which happened yesterday , I had disclosed my sexuality problem kind of coming out for the first time to one of my second oldest sister in late March, during which I mentioned the possibility of an existence of a female or male soul and how I seem to have been born with a female soul That s when she revealed a family secret that my parents have been hiding from me for almost 24 years My mom was pregnant with a third daughter in 1986, but due to a harsh opposition from dad and his side of the family who badly wanted a son which is rather understandable from my culture s viewpoint, because he was the oldest son in his whole family and the culture put a great importance on the continuation of family s surname , mom ended up aborting the third daughter under threats of divorce My very oldest sister had directly witnessed the incident and remember it from conscious memory because she was about 6 years old at the time But how my second oldest sister found out about this is even interesting she was only around two years old at the time and had absolutely no conscious memory of it But then she told me that, during her early 20s, she had a dream about it when she woke up, she broached this to parents out of suspicion and my parents admitted it When I first heard this, I was really shocked and couldn t believe this so I shortly confirmed this with my oldest sister and later with mom Dad still is unaware that I know this Somewhat related to the immediately above is the idea of medical or spiritual mysteries, specifically reincarnation I am suspecting that I might be that aborted female soul, though this is only a speculation I am not religious in any sense, but I read in Buddhist literature that being born is a great opportunity for any soul and that being aborted leaves a great trauma on the soul, such that when the soul is reincarnated after an abortion, the soul is born with disadvantages than if it were given the opportunity to grow without being born I indeed seem to have been born with a trauma, because I had a lot of fear of anything and everything new, and especially was scared of going to the barbershop because I was extremely fearful of scissors and other metal tools which might have reminded me of similar tools used in abortion Today s world seems to be severely lacking in compassion, kindness, unconditional love, understanding, valuing of individuality or uniqueness and instead putting much greater importance on the physical or material over the invisible or less tangible The world is fraught with tendencies like conformity, discouragement of individuality, and other earthy inclinations like judgmentality, closedmindedness, unimaginativeness, labelling and categorization of people as if people were mere static things, materialism, excessive focus on other people s perception of ourselves as manifest in the use of the makeup , vanity, arrogance, unwillingness to see people for who they are I also thought that the hardships of Wayne were extended to sexuality problems in general Wayne saw that the faces, bodies, clothes, and shoes of the men and women who passed him had been divided and thinned The male or female in them had been both diluted and exaggerated They were one, extremely so, or they were the other The women trailed tapered gloves behind them and walked in ludicrous heels, while the men, with their fuzzy sideburns and brown briefcases, looked boring as little beagles out for the same rabbit You define a tree and you do not see what it is it becomes its name It is the same with woman and man Everywhere Wayne looked there was one or the other, male or female, abandoned by the other Treadway s decision to give up the revenge of Wayne s ill treatment by Derek, as well as Donna s bullying of others, reminded me of the idea that the earth seems to be some kind of a purgatory, or how Aldous Huxley said that the earth may be another planet s hell, where everyone has his or her own sufferings and accordingly we all need compassion, regardless of who we are.Here are some things I was wondering about I was curious whether Wayne s peeling feet is one of Winter s trying to suggest that he is a reincarnated Annabel, with the other two hints being Wayne s recurring dream of being a girl and Thomasina s frequently seeing or calling him as Annabel The way I see it is that Annabel drowned to death and if a person is in water long enough, the skin peels off At first, I did not quite understand the significance of this peeling feet but now I think I do, but I would like to make sure I googled about Annabel s peeling feet but couldn t find anything related to it and several reviews I have read at Goodreads had no mention of it, possibly because it may be a relatively minor aspect compared with other things in the novel With regards to characters, my most favourite has to be Thomasina, who is very compassionate, understanding, human, kind, insightful and wary or critical of the earth s materialistic tendencies I dislike how Treadway is like my own dad, in that he is closedminded and practices self denial at least initially for Treadway , trying to categorize Wayne s difficulties as a mental problem I didn t like Donna either but I thought I would exhibit some of her characteristics if I were born in fully female body in the first place desire for popularity, interest in occult, arrogance, and deriving pleasure from others pain Some members of the bookclub wondered about the meaning of the bridge where Wayne and Wally hung around One member suggested that it might stand for the reconciliation of Wayne s male and female parts, but is that it

  9. says:

    I finished Annabel just a couple days ago And i have to say that i m incredibly ambivalent.On the one hand, i was completely engrossed, especially as Wayne was hitting puberty and starting to discover that, yeah, things were quite as should be expected with his body I found the book beautifully written, with well drawn characters and a great physical setting.On the other hand, i really wonder about Winters use of a main character who s intersexed It s clear she comes from a feminist background with a feminist analysis of traditional gender roles And being a feminist myself, i certainly have no problem with that But is she just using intersex to explore issues of gender dichotomies I poked around online and found one interview with her where she says she did a little research on intersex before starting the book And i don t think that a little is really enough when you re writing about an oppressed group to which you don t belong and to which you have little exposure, something else to which she admits.I also tried to find a review of the book by anyone who is intersexed and couldn t I really want to know what some intersexed folks think about this I did confirm that it is essentially impossible for anyone who is diagnosed as a true hermaphrodite i don t think there s a less offensive version of that phrase to experience what happens within Wayne s body about half way through the book This is a massively huge problem with the plot, especially since that experience proves so pivotal to the book and to Wayne s self knowledge.I did, of course, find Wayne as a child completely charming and very much like some of the feminine boys whom i volunteer with I desperately wanted him to move to Boston or, heck, any big city , find other intersexed people, learn that he wasn t alone in the world, discover the word intersexed, and get some decent, sensitive medical care His isolation is so painful.I really wonder how true to life his emotional experience of self is, especially after he finds out that he s intersexed and doesn t have a massive crisis about it Not that there aren t intersexed folks like that out there But my understanding is that that sort of reaction or lack thereof to finding out what the heck has been going on with your body all your life is pretty unusual.Is this another instance of feminist writers exploiting intersexed experience to prove a point I dunno I don t think that Winters is insensitive to intersexed folks lives But it doesn t seem like she s terribly grounded in them, either All of the symbolism the bridges, Wayne being biracial, the intersex itself, etc hint at her having an agenda way beyond being sincere in her portrayal of an intersexed life and experience.

  10. says:

    This review is my longest and hardest written yet If you want a less wordy review, that I agree with almost entirely, check out this one at Quill and Quire.However, if you press on, I will reward you with a free smiley at the end I wouldn t call what you have a disorder I d call it a different order A different order means a whole new way of being It could be fantastic It could be overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren t scared from Annabel by Kathleen WinterI did not read this book about an intersex person and his her relationship with family, community and world, so much as entered into a stormy relationship with the book I listened to it on audio and the reader s wonderful voice smoothed many rough edges Then I bought it in hard cover to keep on my very small shelf of books that are friends All other books that I read are either ebooks, library books or recycled smallspaceliving Note While reading my review, you may wonder about me and my identity Intersex identity is near and dear to me for confidential reasons but I am not, myself, intersex Even though I consider this book a friend, I did not love it all the time It is a painful, consuming, intense story with little comic relief At times I grew weary of the poetic language and prolific metaphors, finding them a distraction At other times, I greatly admired the wisdom and poetry, especially surrounding nature and human senses Having finished the book, now I miss my friend and want to know about the characters The character development is phenomenal which is what kept me from bailing I really care about everyone except one villain and his minions I do think it would be a better book with less asides and a lower ratio of points of view to scene.I don t often do this but I searched reviews and interviews to better help me understand this complex novel Regarding the intensely isolated setting, a small village in Labrador, Canada, Winter says in this blog interview When I decided that I wanted to write about an intersex child born in a remote place, I realized I could use Labrador as the setting because I knew the land And Winter s descriptions of the land are exquisite.In an interview on Book Browse the author talks about why she set the story in the 1960 s I gave Wayne the birthdate of 1968 because I thought society s methods of dealing with gender ambiguity would have been primitive then than they are now I imagined we would be enlightened now But I have come to learn that even today, parents of newborn intersex children are made to feel they have to decide upon one gender for the good of the child Sadly, true Only in very recent decades have thoughtful professionals begun to be less ignorant about what to do or importantly what NOT to do about an intersex infant, in large part due to adult intersex activism and the grassroots connecting broadcasting power of the internet But there is still a long row to hoe with the medical establishment s deeply rooted habit of inventing pathology where it does not exist The medical professionals still often advise shocked and frightened new parents to take immediate action upon their intersex infants, as if it is a medical emergency In actuality, the inability to accept a differently gendered body type is a social issue, not a medical issue And one that desperately needs to be dealt with on so many levels There is one relatively rare kind of intersex that does create an emergency situation, and which can be remedied with medication I won t address that here because it is irrelevant to this book discussion The Quill and Quire review I mentioned above is the most sensitive I found regarding intersex identity It offers an insight I did not pick up on Possibly it gives Winter credit than her due I really did not see this type of reflection happening in the narration or the character studies Nonetheless, I like the insight.Winter also examines the notion of colonization and its impact on land and people, starting with the historic arrival of European missionaries on the Labrador shore, and suggesting that Wayne s body has been commandeered by medical authorities whose dictates have to do with maintaining a gendered social order than with his own happiness and fulfillment.I really wanted to know about Winter s experience with intersex people I found some interviews with her and was disappointed to learn that she did not personally consult any intersex individuals or groups In the Book Browse interview the author states, I did research I read academic papers and medical essays, and I read accounts intersex people had written about their lives But I soon realized these did not give me the key to the world I was looking for, because these journalistic research methods were unveiling bare facts on one hand, and extremely painful scenes on the other So I relied, once I had read these accounts, on the artist s imagination While it strikes me as a wee bit arrogant of Winter to rely on the artist s imagination in other words, her own interpretation of the information she researched , no singular intersex person s experience is like any other so no interview, or even series or panel of interviews, could have given her an opportunity to represent all intersex people with one character and could instead have pissed off everyone she interviewed for not representing their experience as no doubt she did anyway Perhaps she was wisest to rely on her own unique perspective and her imagination Regardless, due to her talent for character development, all the characters in this novel strike me as telling some kind of truth I debated about hiding the next paragraph, which contains a spoiler but I consider it an important warning that I don t want to hide In her quest for authenticity, Winter does not spare her intersex protagonist the ultimate cruelty, sexual assault which is, tragically and so wrongly, the logical conclusion to a psychotically rigidly gendered society This is not a graphic scene but it is deeply disturbing and those who are easily triggered by this kind of stuff might want to avoid the book And now onto the gentle, not detailed spoilage, if I even still have your attention view spoiler The fascinating cast of characters includes Wayne who is born with the sexual organs of both a male and a female The word hermaphrodite is becoming a dated word and the term intersex is preferred not as a condition, as an actual identity, although many intersex people do identify as primarily male or female I believe the word is appropriately used in this book because it is commonly known by those who do not have any prior knowledge or interest in intersex identity too much of the human population, actually The conflict of the story is not about Wayne s body but how his parents, the medical professionals and society is predicted to react As a result, the core of his very being is treated as a shameful secret and something in need of medical fixes, which ultimately backfire when Wayne reaches puberty Wayne s mother, Jacinta, is not entirely on board with the secret or the medical interventions but she passively complies As Wayne grows, Jacinta s lack of moral agency creates an unknown but heavy burden for Wayne With her ongoing silence, she destroys her relationship with Wayne and ultimately with herself Treadway, his father, a steady, intelligent, practical man who makes his living as a trapper, is comfortable alone in the woods than with people He uses his job to avoid all conflict with his wife and son Wayne s parents clearly love him and are torn apart inside but they have no idea how to meet his needs beyond the basic essentials And so they emotionally abandon him.The one person who could potentially encourage and support a different outcome is Thomasina The masculine root of her name is surely not accidental A midwife and a local nonconformist, Thomasina, is present at Wayne s birth and secretly names Wayne Annabel, after her young daughter who has recently died, as told in the preface to the book The preface story is a device to introduce and interpret the entire saga Young Annabel is in a canoe with her father, who is blind A solitary caribou attracts her attention and she tips the canoe Father and child are consumed by the Labradorian waters and do not survive, as the caribou bears silent witness Of the lone caribou, the omniscient narrator asks, Why would any caribou leave the herd The herd is comfort The herd is a fabric you can t cut or tear, passing over the land Why would any of us break from the herd Break apart, separate, these are hard words The only reason any of us would become one, and not part of the herd, is if she were lost What is not said here, but is implied by the end of the book Breaking from the herd can also mean liberation but isn t being lost a core fear we all confront when our individuality comes in conflict with our family s and community s needs and expectations Thomasina spends time with Wayne as an infant and toddler and secretly calls Wayne Annabel But then she leaves the village, in order to take care of herself as she understandably feels stifled and trapped in the insular community Even though I cannot justifiably deny that a bereft widow and grieving mother the right to self care, I found myself angry that she never tried to intervene, kept her opinions to herself, that she up and left both Wayne and Jacinta, representing another failure of moral agency.On the other hand, Thomasina would know the limits of her personal power in such a small, isolated, emotionally repressive community During Wayne s rocky puberty, she returns to the village to teach school, but has to leave again precisely because she causes quite a ruckus trying to support Wayne and loses her job in the process.Despite her physical and emotional distance, Thomasina does offer Wayne an education from afar, through postcards of bridges all over the world the bridges being a metaphor for the need for a bridge between genders Enter the next key character Wally, with another masculine name given to a female character Wayne loves Wally in the way that children can love each other only in that flickering window when they no longer play with toys but are not fully sexual Wally s feelings for Wayne may not be as intense but she is the one person Wayne feels he can connect with and he worships her and they connect with one another wait for it on a bridge But they are eventually separated by an unintentionally hurtful act by Wally s father Wally, who has her own coming of age issues, in typical Labradorian fashion, carries her burdens internally and alone.So, with everyone either leaving or not talking to Wayne, he must be the loneliest person in the world Or perhaps everyone in Labrador is lonely Or perhaps it is the human condition And yet, despite the bleakness the author describes in both landscape and human relations, she conveys beauty on every page, especially in nature and the bodily senses, where there is redemption in a sound, a sight, a taste, a memory, a seasonal activity, a book, a crochet hook and yarn, even a crust of bread.In a rather disturbing and useless plot twist which I have to spoil to discuss Wayne has a medical crisis due to his surgery as an infant about which he remains clueless until the crisis erupts He eventually learns that a fetus had developed inside him and had to be removed surgically due to its location in his fallopian tube This is supposedly possible because his body contains all the necessary ingredients to make its own baby The likelihood of such an event is a question all too often asked, whether in total ignorance or innocence, having the same hurtful effect on intersex individuals One need only to google the question can a hermaphrodite make themselves pregnant to see typical questions and snarky replies Technically, as a nurse I am familiar with anatomy of both men and women and even those with mixed genitalia and I just cannot picture how a sperm could get from the testes to an ovary without some mode of injection and propulsion.I did find this medical article saying that there had been 11 documented pregnancies in true hermaphrodytes meaning the very rare intersex person has a nearly complete set organs of both men and women I confess I did not want to pay to read that article but still might buckle to temptation Other vague allusions in my googling indicate this would have to be done via medically assisted insemination Regardless, this review from the UK s Independent sums my objection up, succinctly A medical emergency that arises is not physiologically possible, and adds a tabloid tang Yes, this is unnecessary sensationalization My only guess is that Winter s meant to insert another metaphor She often describes Wayne as a boy with a girl inside him Actually, he was born with both qualities and his female nature was literally sewn inside through surgery and suppressed by artificial hormones The fetus may represent the trapped female persona and Wayne gaining an opportunity to give birth to him herself, although there is never a viable pregnancy so the metaphor falls flat The fetus also adds some dramatic tension to the story, which is unnecessary.In the Quill and Quire review, they articulate at length what is bothering me That said, the story does feature a medical subplot that strives to operate as a metaphor for how Wayne s identity transcends a single gender This subplot strains credulity, and the novel would have been stronger without it Most readers, even those knowledgeable about intersex conditions, will doubt whether what is described is even physically possible hide spoiler

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