Q&A with Nevo Zisin – author of Finding Nevo.

Nevo Zisin head shot

I’m posting a Q&A by transgender writer and activist, Nevo Zisin, whose memoir Finding Nevo, is out now through Black Dog Books.

Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and all that comes with it. It is Zisin’s powerful and brave account of their journey to transgender, and all the stumbles, victories and life-changing moments along the way.

Finding Nevo touches on themes of family, acceptance, transgender, self-discovery, bullying, weight issues and change. This is an important book that Zisin hopes will not only affect social change.

What do you hope readers will take away from Finding Nevo?
 I hope they will not only take away my story but also their own. I hope people will find similarities or moments they can relate to and connect it to their own narrative and what the implications of that may be. I hope fellow trans people will feel less alone, heard and seen. I hope they realize that there is a future for them and that they are strong and resilient. I hope cis people read this book and feel a responsibility to create safer spaces and a safer world at large for trans people. While also questioning ways they may uphold oppressive standards of gender binaries onto those around them. Though in general I hope this book will inspire people to create change, both within themselves and in society.

 What made you write your autobiography at such a young age?
I was lucky enough to be commissioned to write my autobiography so that was certainly a huge influence. But outside of that I think it’s really vital to be prioritizing young voices. I often hear the phrase, “children are the future”, and I feel like this is so dismissive. What about now? Do we just ignore them until they grow up? I think it’s crucial that young people have young role models, people they can relate to and understand. So even though my life hasn’t been as long as others who write autobiographies, I think I have a lot to say and the demographic I am aiming at aren’t always the most spoken to.

How did you feel writing Finding Nevo? Did you find it liberating, or was it painful Cover Image - Finding Nevoon some parts of the journey?
At the beginning it felt like an impossible task. There was so much to cover and I felt like such an imposter pretending to be an “author”. I had never written a book before, so many people commented on how young I was and so I felt like I wasn’t capable. I wrote out big lists of what I wanted and needed to write. I spent a really long time considering the ethics of writing a memoir: how it would affect me, my family, the trans community and how I could best be representative of all those people. My motivation came in waves and so did the pain. Sometimes it was too hard to look back upon things I wished to forget, sometimes it was crucial in my own personal healing process.

 What role do you think Finding Nevo will have in terms of challenging social norms?
I think that it will make people question the application of such strict gender expectations. I honestly believe that these rigid societal standards are oppressive to everyone. I do not think it is comfortable for anyone to be forced into those boxes. So I hope this will allow people to consider wider worlds of gender aside from the “woman” and “man” categories we have accepted. I am also hoping it will help the friends and families of trans people get into their minds a little bit deeper and begin to try and understand what they might be going through.

Your book is incredibly honest and brave. When so many people struggle to be so vulnerable, where did this honesty come from?
I have always been an open book (pardon the pun). For me, my own truth is the only truth I can be sure of. I have always loved storytelling and have been writing since I was very young. I also began questioning my identity at such a young age that finding my truth became a very important part of my life and I was happy to share that with others along the way. I also think when you’re a member of an oppressed minority, you don’t often have the choice to be honest or not because so many people are asking you questions all the time.

In the book, you write about how those close to you struggled on the two occasions you came out. How has their reaction been to the book release?
Mostly overwhelmingly positive. I was expecting quite a harsh reaction particular from family members who struggled with my transition. I had no intention of slandering them, I understand why they reacted in the ways they did, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult for me and I needed to express my truth. I was really surprised at how most of them took on board what I had said and really understood. It was quite healing for a lot of my relationships within my family.

The book covers themes of family, self-discovery, bullying, and acceptance, and has touched many people who aren’t from the queer community. Are you surprised the book is having such an effect on a broader audience?
Not really to be honest. I think there are a lot of relatable experiences in the book that simply reflect the human condition. I think when looking upon someone whose identity is different from our own we like to create an “us” and “them” narrative but when it truly comes down to it, chances are we have far more in common than not. So I am not surprised that the book has had an effect on a broader audience, though I’m sure that there are people that may be surprised at just how much they connected, even if they weren’t expecting to.

Did you learn anything about yourself when you were writing the book?
Oh yes. I learnt a lot. I learnt a lot about my past, my present and who my future self might be. I learnt about my trauma, my relationships and my family. I learnt how to believe more in myself and my writing and how to begin to call myself an author (that one took a lot longer). I think as much as I was “Finding Nevo”, I was also learning Nevo.

As a youth leader and activist, do you feel Finding Nevo will be a source of comfort for people going through a similar journey?
I really like to think so. I believe if a book like this had been available in the early stages of my transition I would have felt far less alone and distraught. My only goal has only ever been to try to be the kind of person I really needed while I was growing up, and I hope this book can do that for young people.

With the Safe Schools program losing funding in all schools except those in Victoria, what is the best piece of advice you would give to help someone who may be outside the gender binary that society still largely considers to be the “norm”?
I think the Internet is a really great place to start. There are so many resources out there nowadays for young gender diverse folk that weren’t available not that long ago. I think there’s a lot on Tumblr and Instagram. I also think my best advice would be a quote from one of my favourite Melbourne bands, Two Steps on the Water, “If the world don’t love you, then the world is wrong”. If you feel outside of the “norm” perhaps there is something fundamentally flawed with the norm and not who you happen to be.

Finding Nevo will be my next read and I cannot wait to finally start it. After reading this Q&A I hope you go out and find a copy to read as well 🙂

– Aimee

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr.

Title – The One Memory of Flora Banks
Author – Emily Barr
How I Got It – From the publisher
Pages – 303 pages
Publication Date – January 12th 2017 by Penguin
ISBN – 9780141368511
My Rating – ★★★/5

“How do you know who to trust when you can’t even trust yourself?”

Flora has amnesia. She can’t remember her day-to-day life – the jokes her friends make, instructions her parents give her or how old she is.

Then one night she kisses someone she shouldn’t and remembers. It’s the first thing she’s remembered since she was ten. But now the boy is gone.

I received a copy of The One Memory of Flora Banks from Penguin Random House New Zealand to review.c2pnt-rwgaapowu

I thought this sounded really interesting when I first read the synopsis. When the book arrived it came with a letter, which is from the book, and it made me want to read it even more. I did enjoy the book but there was one thing that annoyed me. Flora was very repetitive and I get why but reading the same things over and over drove me crazy. I know Flora has amnesia so she has to read notes more than once. The thing that annoyed me the most was her memory of the kiss and how many times it was brought up. I felt like I read about it 100 times.

If you can get past that, or if it doesn’t annoy you like it did me, the story is pretty good and has some horrible twists. I did think it was a bit immature of Flora to think this guy she kissed was her “Prince Charming” and if she could find him then he’d fix her brain. But then again, her amnesia had something to do with that as well. In her head she’s not always seventeen. I just kept forgetting and that’s on me.

And don’t get me started on her parents. That’s one of the horrible twists to the book. In the letter that was sent from the publisher with the book it has something like ‘can I trust mum?’ at the bottom of the letter so it had me wanting to know why Flora wouldn’t be able to trust her own mother. I can see why her mother feels the way she does but her actions are so horrible I just couldn’t like her after that. And her father was just as bad. He may not have agreed with what his wife was doing but he didn’t do anything to stop it. Okay, that’s all I’m going to say about Flora’s parents because they make me so angry and I don’t want to spoil anything.

I thought Flora was kind of brave but also a little stupid. Taking off to find this guy she kissed when she knew her memory wasn’t exactly the best was so reckless and she could have ended up anywhere. But at the same time, Flora was really smart about how she did it.

As much as Flora’s habit of repeating herself annoyed me, I did like The One Memory of Flora Banks. I loved all the twists, some of which I didn’t see coming at all, and the ending was really good. I liked that it wasn’t a happily ever after but ended with hope. Sometimes I like when stories don’t end wrapped in a pretty bow. It feels unrealistic. This ending felt real and that’s what I loved about it.

I do recommend The One Memory of Flora Banks. Even though one part annoyed me I still loved the book and Flora. I really felt for her and what she was going through.

*Thank you Pengiun Random House New Zealand for sending me a copy to review*

– Aimee.

Review: Dear Charlie by N.D. Gomes.

Title – Dear Charlie
Author – N.D. Gomes
How I Got It – From the publisher
Pages – 222 pages
Publication Date – October 20th 2016 by Harlequin Mira Ink HarperCollins
ISBN – 9780008181161
My Rating – ★★★★/5

“Death should never meet the young. But it did. Thanks to my brother, death made fourteen new friends that day. Maybe even fifteen, if you count Charlie”

Sixteen year old Sam Macmillan should be thinking about school, girls and applying to college. Not picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a school shooting. One his brother is responsible for. As Sam tries to hold onto the Charlie he knew, the media frenzy surrounding his family is threatening to destroy everything. And Sam finds himself questioning the things he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong.

I received a copy of Dear Charlie from HarperCollins New Zealand to review. This is N.D. c2unf5kucaqjjzsGomes’ debut novel and is endorsed by Amnesty International UK.

Dear Charlie picks up after Sam’s brother, Charlie, took a gun to school one day and killed fourteen people and then himself. This follows Charlie and his family as they deal with the fallout of what he did while also grieving their brother and son.

I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve never even considered what the family of a shooter goes through. And that makes me feel horrible. I mean, I’ve never blamed them or anything but still. Now I’ve read what a family of someone that’s gone and killed so many innocent people, like a school shooting or shooting up a cinema, might go through. I think the story Gomes told in Dear Charlie is more than likely to happen.

Sam and his parents are trying to understand why Charlie would do the things he did while also grieving someone they love. Not to mention all the judgement and blame and hearing all the things the media will be saying about Charlie like they know him. It must be so confusing and painful. Which is why I can’t believe I’d never even considered what they might be going through. I’ve only ever thought of the victim’s families and what they might be going through. But, Dear Charlie has mae me see things very differently.

I really felt for Sam and his parents. I’m sure a lot of the things they went through in Dear Charlie is what the shooter’s family will go through in real life. One of the biggest things Sam had to deal with was what the media was saying about his brother and realising he may not have known his brother at all. It must be a horrible thing to go through.

I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that I am really glad I read Dear Charlie. I actually passed this onto my mother to read as soon as I’d finished it. I cannot recommend finding a copy of this book enough. It’s definitely a must read.

And if you do read it then you should also read why Amnesty International UK endorsed this book. It’s a really good addition to the book.

*Thank you HarperCollins New Zealand for sending me a copy to review*

– Aimee.

Review: The Last Beginning by Lauren James.

Title – The Last Beginning
Series – The Next Together #2
Author – Lauren James
How I Got It – From the publisher
Pages – 352 pages
Publication Date – October 6th 2016 by Walker Books
ISBN – 9781406358063
My Rating – ★★★/5

“Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long-lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?

For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.”

I received a copy of The Last Beginning from Walker Books Australia to review. You canc1xrkvvukaeamhx read my review of the first book in the duology, The Next Together, here.

I had a lot of questions after I finished the first book that I hoped would be answered in this. I’ll admit that I was a little bored with the first half of the book and I wasn’t really interested in Clove’s life. She came across really immature at times. I wanted to know what had happened to Kate and Matt and why they kept appearing throughout time.

But as the story started to pick up and Clove found a way to look into Kate and Matt’s past, I found myself getting drawn back into the story. I think I was more interested in the mystery surrounding Kate and Matt and not so interested in Clove and her weird love life.

Speaking of Clove’s love life, I found her relationship with Ella a little weird. Especially because Ella seemed to know everything that happened before it happened. Or, most of what happened anyway. Not the small details. And I was also a little confused too. I mean, did Ella even get to choose her future? Time travel can get really confusing.

But, I did get the answers I was looking for. I could see some of it coming as I got further into this book but I’m glad I finally know what was going on. I think I might do a re-read of them both one day so I can see all the connections that I may have missed. But that won’t be any time soon.

Even though I wasn’t really into the first half of the The Last Beginning, I did end up liking it. I’m not sure about some things that happened but I did enjoy both books.

*Thank you Walker Books Australia for sending me a copy to review*

– Aimee.

Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

Title – Small Great Things
Author – Jodi Picoult
How I Got It – From the publisher
Pages – 470 pages
Publication Date – October 12th 2016 by Allen & Unwin
ISBN – 9781760110499
RRP – $36.99 NZD
My Rating – ★★★★★/5

Ruth, a nurse with twenty years experience, has been told by her supervisor that she’s no longer allowed to touch an infant in her care. But the baby goes into cardiac arrest and Ruth can’t just do nothing. Despite everything Ruth does, the baby dies anyway and she’s charged with negligent homicide.

Ruth struggles to come to terms with what’s happening to her and finds different kinds of support from her sister and teenage son. But it’s Kennedy McQuarrie, a defence lawyer, who Ruth trusts, not only with her case but also with her future.

As Ruth and Kennedy come to a deeper understanding of each other’s lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they hold dear. They soon learn that for privilege to prosper, others have cz0qjfquqaahhtzto suffer. Racism takes many forms and is reinforced by the structure in our society.

I received a copy of Small Great Things from Allen and Unwin New Zealand to review. Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors so I was really excited to read her latest book.

This book had me both angry and sad at the same time. I was so angry at the way Ruth was being treated and how much of an idiotic, judgemental, racist asshole Turk was. And yet I still felt bad for him and his stupid wife when their baby died. Did I think the same thing as one of the characters in the book when Davis died? Guilty. Does that make me a horrible person? Probably.

I also felt bad for all the crap Ruth had to put up with when she went shopping with Kennedy. And it’s not just Ruth, this happens every day to people in New Zealand too. I’ve seen it in the mall where I live. So many people say and think they aren’t racist but they do these kinds of things anyway. See a white girl has been pulled up for shoplifting but still check the bag of the PoC she’s with. I’ve seen it.

The timing of this book couldn’t have been better timed with what the US are going through with Trump being their new president and all the racial attacks that have happened since he was elected. I know this just follows the story of an African-American woman being accused because of the colour of her skin but Turk, his wife and all their other followers don’t just hate African-Americans. And this isn’t all fiction.

Jodi’s books always have controversal topics but that’s why I love them. They always make me see the other side to a story even when I don’t want to. I mean, it doesn’t mean it will change my opinion but I guess it’s always good to see both sides. And they always make me think and learn new things.

Oh I almost forgot, there’s an author’s note at the end of the book that is definitely worth reading and just made me love the book and Jodi even more. I’m not going to give anything away but I was glad I read it because I don’t usually.

If you haven’t read any of Jodi’s books then I cannot recommend them enough. There’s a reason she’s one of my favourite authors. Right up there with J.K. Rowling.

*Thank you Allen and Unwin New Zealand for sending me a copy to review*

– Aimee.

New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016.

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I thought I’d catch up on last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, even if I’m not calling it a Top Ten Tuesday. I’m going to be listing all the author’s I’ve read for the first time in 2016 with the book and my rating starting in January til now.

1. Brigid Kemmerer – Thicker Than Water – ★★★★/5

2. Sarah Crossan – One – ★★★★/5

3. Emma Shevah – Dara Palmer’s Major Drama – ★★★/5

4. Maria Dahvana Headley – Magonia – ★★★/5

5. Alex Marwood – The Darkest Secret – ★★★★/5

6. Katie Alender – Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall – ★★★/5

7. Aaron Hartzler – What We Saw – ★★★★★/5

8. Jennifer A. Nielsen – A Night Divided – ★★★★★/5

9. Maria Lewis – Who’s Afraid – ★★★★/5

10. Alison Goodman – Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club – ★★★★/5

11. Justine Larbalestier – My Sister Rosa – ★★★★★/5

12. Ryan Graudin  – Wolf by Wolf – ★★★★/5

13. Jill Mansel – You and Me, Always – ★★★★/5

14. Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton – Tiny Pretty Things – ★★★★/5

15. Veronica Bennett – 101 Pieces of Me – ★★★/5

16. Jennifer Donnelly – Deep Blue – ★★★★/5

17. Amy Laura Schlitz – The Hired Girl – ★★★/5

18. Anne Cassidy – Moth Girls – ★★★★/5

19. Helena Coggan – The Catalyst – ★★★★/5

20. Harriet Evans – The Butterfly Summer – ★★★/5

21. Eric Lindstrom – Not if I See You First – ★★★★/5

22. Alwyn Hamilton – Rebel of the Sands – ★★★★★/5

23. Erica James – Song of the Skylark – ★★★★/5

24. Lee Battersby – Magrit – ★★★/5

25. Janet Ellis – The Butcher’s Hook – ★★★/5

26. Alexandra Bracken – Passenger – ★★★/5

27. L.S. Hilton – Maestra – ★★★/5

28. Nicci Cloke – Follow Me Back – ★★★★/5

29. Hideo Yokoyama – Six Four – ★★★★/5

30. David Metzenthen – Dreaming the Enemy – ★★★/5

31. Mary Weber – Storm Siren – ★★★★★/5

32. E.S. Thomson – Beloved Poison – ★★★★/5

33. Blythe Woolston – MARTians – ★★/5

34. Lindsay Eager – Hour of the Bees – ★★★★/5

35. Sarah Ayoub – The Yearbook Committee – ★★★★/5

36. Martyn Bedford – Twenty Questions for Gloria – ★★★/5

37. Nicky Pellegrino – Under Italian Skies – ★★★/5

38. Amy Zhang – This is Where the World Ends – ★★★/5

39. Monica Wood – The One-in-a-Million Boy – ★★★★/5

40. Stella Gemmell – The City – ★★★★/5

41. Lisa Williamson – The Art of Being Normal – ★★★★★/5

42. Brian Selznick – The Marvels – ★★★★/5

43. Marie Rutkoski – The Winner’s Curse – ★★★★/5

44. Ally Carter – All Fall Down – ★★★★/5

45. Renee Ahdieh – The Wrath & the Dawn – ★★★★/5

46. Jennifer E. Smith – Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between – ★★★★/5

47. R.C. Lewis – Spinning Starlight – ★★★★/5

48. Leah Flemming – The Last Pearl – ★★★★/5

49. Mary E. Pearson – Kiss of Deception – ★★★★/5

50. M.R. Carey – Fellside – ★★★★/5

51. Timothee de Fombelle – The Book of Pearl – ★★★/5

52. Rick Yancey – The 5th Wave – ★★★★/5

53. Emery Lord – When We Collided – ★★★/5

54. Kara Storti – Tripping Back Blue – ★★★/5

55. Emma Cline – The Girls – ★★★/5

56. G.R. Thomas – Awaken – ★★★★/5

57. Eleanor Wasserberg – Foxlowe – ★★★/5

58. Claire North – The Sudden Appearance of Hope – ★★★/5

59. Amy Tintera – Ruined – ★★★★/5

60. Kate DiCamillo – Raymie Nightingale ★★★/5

61. Kiersten White – And I Darken – ★★★★/5

62. Carrie Hope Fletcher – On the Other Side – ★★★/5

63. Kimberly McCreight – The Outliers – ★★★★/5

64. Georgia Clark – The Regulars – ★★★/5

65. Lara Avery – The Memory Book – ★★★★/5

66. Melka Stansah – The Raven Trilogy: The First Journey – ★★★/5

67. Sophie Hardcastle – Breathing Under Water – ★★★★/5

68. Amy Schumer – The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – ★★★★/5

69. Meg Medina – Burn Baby Burn – ★★★/5

70. Kody Keplinger – Run – ★★★/5

71. V.E. Schwab – This Savage Song – ★★★★/5

72. Matt Phelan – Snow White: A Graphic Novel – ★★★/5

73. Kathleen Glasgow – Girl in Pieces – ★★★★/5

74. Mike Hooper – Devolve; The Wolf – ★★★★/5

75. Suzanne Young – Hotel for the Lost – ★★★/5

So out of the 134 books I’ve read so far this year 75 were by authors I’d never read before. Which is pretty good I think.

How many new authors (to you) did you read in 2016?

– Aimee.

#RainbowBlogChallenge: Day 7 – All the Love.

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So the Rainbow Blog Challenge finished on Saturday but I was way too busy over the weekend to post the last challenge. And then on top of everything, yesterday I woke up with a stomach bug. Yesterday was just not my day…

Anyway, I’m going to post the last challenge today. I’m really sorry for falling behind but life got in the way like it does. Saturday’s prompt was –

Saturday 26th November
“All the love”
Books celebrating LGBTQ+ // Why diversity is important to you?

So I’m going to be posting the books I’ve read with LGBTQ+ characters in that I’ve really enjoyed and are in no particular order.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
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The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
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The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
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The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
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Run by Kody Keplinger
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Swarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti
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Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
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Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash
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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
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Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
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I decided to list the books that I’ve read and liked with LGBTQ+ characters. I have probably forgotten some but like I said, I didn’t have a lot of time on the weekend to put my list together.

I’d love to know some of your recommendations of books with LGBTQ+ characters. Leave them in the comments!

I really enjoyed taking part in the Rainbow Blog Challenge. It definitely got me back into blogging (which was part of the reason) and I found more books for my never-ending TBR.

Now I have some reviews to write because I am so behind with them.

Aimee.