Nevada is the darkly comedic story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a journey that will most certainly change her forever.
Overall Rating: 9/10 stars
Arthur’s Review: 5/5 Stars
Nevada is about a woman named Maria. Maria is having issues in her love life, she’s stuck in a dead-end job that she’s been at forever and stays at because it’s what she’s used to. Maria is also Trans. A lot of what Maria is struggling with resonated with me, not specifically on an I Am Trans and I Feel This level, but beyond that as well. Most particularly the staying in a job she doesn’t particularly like because she’s used to it, it’s comfortable.
But of course, a lot of what Maria is dealing with does stem from her being Trans. There is so much in this book, so much truth about the struggles of being Trans.
Maria has body image issues that are affecting her relationship with her girlfriend – Maria distances herself from her body, especially in intimate situations, which means she is also distancing herself from her girlfriend and from their relationship. When her girlfriend tries to shock her into expressing her feelings and being honest, Maria realizes something: she doesn’t know who she is as a single woman.
So she walks away. She walks away from her job, walks away from a relationship she cannot be fully present for, and decides she’s going to get to know herself.
On the way Maria meets a young man named James who reminds Maria of herself before she came out and started transitioning. She makes a point to meet James, to talk to him, to get to know him. She talks to him about how he reminds her of herself, broaches the possibility of his being Trans – a possibility James has considered himself, though he has dismissed it. For now? We don’t know.
James’s story, too, resonates with me. That feeling of trying to Be Who You’re Expected to Be. Whether or not James is Trans, I understand that search for who you are in a world that doesn’t give you enough information. A world that continually tells you who you Have To Be, and the struggle to Be That because it’s what’s expected of you, what you’ve been taught you’re supposed to do.
When Maria and James part ways, James still hasn’t come to a decision. There is no tear filled hug session where James thanks Maria for opening his eyes to the truth about himself. They simply go their separate ways – James back to his day to day life, Maria back to her journey. And I think that brings this book together for me. Binnie could easily have made James a one-dimensional character, a stand in who truly was there to be Young Maria. James could have been there as a cathartic side project to help Maria with her own self discovery. Instead, James is his own fully realized character, and while he walks away with Maria’s story, he is not a stand in. He is not there for Maria to Show Him The Truth so that she can heal from her own life at his age, and her own struggles with being Trans.
This is a story of self discovery, for both Maria and James. But Binnie doesn’t give us all the answers. The stories don’t wrap up neatly at the end, tied up with a bow of completeness. As in life, both Maria and James have more questions that need answers and we leave them to continue on to find those answers. Nevada is, overall, a deeply moving and very real story.
Kat’s Review: 4/5 Stars
Usually when I write a review, I think about how I felt as I read the book and why. The emotions that stir inside me are the basis for my rating and review. With Nevada, I’m at a loss because it didn’t stir many emotions other than thankfulness and appreciation for the insight I gained.
So much of this book feels like a long, rambling, stream of consciousness narrative that doesn’t really seem to advance much of a plot but which works well to allow us deeply into the minds of the characters. I didn’t particularly like or dislike any of the characters but they each provided insight into the trans experience in a very unapologetic, real way. That means a lot to me because while every person’s journey is unique, I frequently found myself wondering how much of Maria’s and James’ thoughts, feelings and experiences mirror my own daughter’s trans experiences and thoughts. Regardless of how much they all have in common, I truly appreciate the insight and feel like it has added valuable dimension to my level of understanding and sensitivity.
Nevada is a story of self examination and discovery and we spend a lot of time inside the characters minds rather than on external events that drive a plot from point A to point B. Unfortunately, the end felt like it dropped the story off a cliff, leaving me feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. I wanted to get from point A to point B, but it never happens. As unsatisfying as the end was, it felt right for the story and made the point it was trying to make. Not all journeys end with resolution. Sometimes the resolution we’re seeking doesn’t happen or fit into a neat, tidy package. In this case, even though I didn’t like it, the end was consistent with and right for the story.