What: Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin
Who: Black Dog Books
When: May 1st 2017
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Walker Books Australia for review.
Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, homosexual, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer. Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is.
Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it. Australian author Nevo Zisin identifies as queer, transmasculine and non-binary. They are a young activist, writer and public speaker. Finding Nevo is a captivating coming-of-age book perfect for young adult readers aged 14+.
I will always find it hard to review autobiographies because it’s reviewing an actual person’s life, their journey, and who they are, which is why there is no star rating for this review. Nevertheless I need and want to review Finding Nevo because I’ve never read anything like it, and I think this should be required reading for literally everyone.
Finding Nevo follows the life of Nevo from a very young age up until around now – when they’re in their twenties. Throughout the book Nevo goes through a lot of changes, and most of these relate to their queer identities. When people think of sexual orientation and gender identity they often think that they are very rigid identities, things that cannot move or do not change throughout life. But sexuality and gender are fluid (but please don’t use this as a way to discount anyone’s queer identities because for a lot of people their identities aren’t fluid so just don’t be an asshole), and Finding Nevo shows this fluidity in a really beautiful way.
For example, when Nevo was around four they identified as a boy, then through teenagehood they identified as lesbian, bi, and a trans guy. They’re also polyamourous and non-binary. I loved how Nevo explained their feelings in regards to these identities. How they all felt right at different times, but as they grew and discovered themselves their identities changed along with them.
It was kind of heartbreaking when Nevo described how, after identifying as a trans guy for so long, they didn’t think their family would accept them as non-binary because it had taken them so long to accept them as a trans guy. I truly wish that everyone would understand that our identities can change over time but that doesn’t discount the previous identities that we might have had. Nevo was a trans guy, and deserved respect and acceptance of that identity. When they realised that non-binary fitted more with who they are as a person the respect and acceptance they had as a trans guy should have been a given.
I really liked it when Nevo said that they don’t want people to turn around and say “that was an inspiring book” but leave it at that. Because I completely agree with them. This book, to me, is one that should exist as a learning tool for people who aren’t queer and want to learn about queer identities, and queer people who are struggling to find a label or identity that fits with who they are. For allo cishet people (not queer people), I think Finding Nevo will show how hard it can be when family doesn’t accept you for who you are, and how having to take someone through a journey to accept you can be exhausting and incredibly hard emotionally. For queer people (both young and old), I think Finding Nevo will say: it’s okay to not know. It’s okay to change. It’s okay to be fluid because it doesn’t take away from who you are, or how you have identified in the past. That finding a label or identity that fits can be a journey in itself.
Finding Nevo is a novel that I urge you to read. If you’re allo cishet I want you to read this so that you can learn, and apply that learning to people you meet on the internet and in real life so that they don’t have to be teachers in Queer 101 to help you understand and respect their identity/identities. If you’re queer I want you to read this to know that you are not alone, that you can still be growing, that you can be fluid (even if people tell you that isn’t possible). If you’re trans or non-binary, I especially want you to read this because there you are, in the flesh, and on the page.
I honestly want you – yes, you – to read Finding Nevo because I think that everyone who reads this book will take something positive away from it that will likely change lives for the better.
© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning: sexism, bullying, biphobia, divorce (parents), homophobia, transphobia, anxiety, depression, and suicidal themes in this novel