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Like a Boy but Not a Boy - Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary

Like a Boy but Not a Boy

Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary

By andrea bennett
Categories: Biography & Memoir, Social Issues, LGBTQ+, Trans Literature
Paperback : 9781551528212, 272 pages, 2020
Read Excerpt (PDF)


A revelatory book about gender, mental illness, parenting, mortality, bike mechanics, work, class, and the task of living in a body.

Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett's experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book's fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics (apparently you can learn a lot about yourself through trueing a wheel).

In "Tomboy," andrea articulates what it means to live in a gender in-between space, and why one might be necessary; "37 Jobs 21 Houses" interrogates the notion that the key to a better life is working hard and moving house. And interspersed throughout the book is "Everyone Is Sober and No One Can Drive," sixteen stories about queer millennials who grew up and came of age in small Canadian communities.

With the same poignant spirit as Ivan Coyote's Tomboy Survival Guide, Like a Boy addresses the struggle to find acceptance, and to accept oneself; and how one can find one's place while learning to make space for others. The book also wonders what it means to be an atheist and search for faith that everything will be okay; what it means to learn how to love life even as you obsess over its brevity; and how to give birth, to bring new life, at what feels like the end of the world.

With thoughtfulness and acute observation, andrea bennett reveals intimate truths about the human experience, whether one is outside the gender binary or not.


Chronicling everything from their work as a bike mechanic to the schisms in CanLit, from being bipolar to breastfeeding as a non-binary parent, the essays in andrea bennett's Like a Boy but Not a Boy are about what it means to live, work hard, and be othered in this jagged world. The undramatized care with which bennett offers us their own life, alongside the lives of other queer millennials in the multi-part essay 'Everyone Is Sober and No One Can Drive,' is a gift to queers like me who, in a world with too few queer stories, often worry they don't belong. I can't imagine anyone picking up this book and being unable to find themselves reflected in it. -John Elizabeth Stintzi, author of Vanishing Monuments and Junebat

Exploring beyond binary conceptions of gender, bennett shares fresh perspectives on subjects cerebral and practical. -Kirkus Reviews

andrea bennett brings to the traditional tasks of the personal essay - radical candour, alertness to sensations and ideas - an exciting political intensity. Consistently interesting, bennett's prose is lucid and provocative, and her insights often take turns you don't expect. Like a Boy but Not a Boy transforms the exploration of self and world into high-stakes writing. -Carmine Starnino, editor for The Walrus

Like a Boy but Not a Boy sneaks into daily reflections, quietly at first, and then with more volume and urgency. andrea bennett introduces would-be friends who turn conventional ideas about gender over and sideways just by existing. They recount relationships and TV shows that defined their queer discovery, and the societal hazards that made existence a struggle along the way. Woven into this friendly chorus is bennett's own point of view, which is more forceful in its criticism of work and parenting norms. These essays give space to reflect on how labels are applied and misapplied, and how we might describe our internal worlds better. It's like a salve for all the ways our parents and pasts have fucked us up. -Sarah Berman, author of Don't Call It a Cult

A distinctive, appealing, and candid essay collection about nonbinary life. -Foreword Reviews

andrea bennett's measured and compassionate voice is compelling in these pages. Whether in their wonderfully wrought brief lives of young queer people, or in their parsing of, variously, mental health, class, the dismantling of the Republic of Gender, the art and science of life partnering and non-binary child rearing, alienation within families, the tyranny of the body, and (what else?) bicycle repair, their humanity, intelligence, learning, and gift for synthesis shines bright. That Like a Boy but Not a Boy will appeal to their millennial cohort is certain, and I'm confident that hoarier generations of readers will relish, just as much, the wit and wisdom of a writer who wants 'to understand how people believe what they believe, and why they do what they do. ' -Bill Richardson, author of I Saw Three Ships: West End Stories

Spanning from their tumultuous and emotionally abusive youth and persistent obsession with death to their anxiety-ridden pregnancy and attempts to learn to take life slowly, bennett's essays fit together like pieces of a puzzle, each exploring a given idea - bicycle repair and its relation to the mechanic's own body; bipolar disorder and needing to be one of "the good sick" - while allowing its implications to ripple out among the rest . .. Both moving and illuminating, this stirring series of reflections is definitely worth picking up. -Publishers Weekly