First Amazon suggested it for me, then Tracy and Tam told me they were reading it out loud together and finally the week after I subscribed to Matt Kailey’s blog he interviewed the author. So I bought the book, “Nina Here Nor There”, downloaded it onto my kindle and began to flirt with it slowly. I was still a bit squeamish from my unfinished encounter with “she’s not there” (I put it down because I couldn’t figure out how the marriage was going to survive the sex change). I read only small bits at a time and only during daylight hours, afraid of how it might affect my sleep. My sleep having been sacrificed as of late to the whirlwind in my head and heart.
The Torah says that Noah was a righteous man in his time. Well, actually, he was blameless in his time. And really, readers of the bible have never been all that impressed by that, given the other folks Noah was being compared to. It was a time, a generation, filled with violence, evil, corruption. A particularly bad crowd. Not the people your mother wants you to associate with. So was Noah a righteous man? Or was he simply righteous in comparison to the losers around him? The question has plagued rabbis and other biblical scholars throughout time.
So was “Nina Here Nor There” a good book, or was it simply good by virtue of the fact that I don’t really have anything to compare it to? I did read “Suits Me”, the quasi-biographical work about Billy Tipton. But that was written by someone with even less experience in or understanding of the trans community than me! I mean, Billy lived fully as a man all his life, married and divorced women and raised a family as the father of 2 boys and the writer of the book refers to him as she while claiming that dressing as a man was the only way that Billy could play jazz music. I’ll save my diatribe on that book for another post though. So was Nina a good book?
For me, the book was neither good nor bad. It was both. It was fair. I could totally relate to the angst and pain of being so disparate, so uncomfortable in so disconnected from my body. I laughed out loud a few times, smiled knowingly while also comprehending the shame and distress in the descriptions of putting on, taking off and wearing a binder.
At the same time, I found some of the writing to be simple, a bit callow and basically immature. I kept having the same feeling I had when I read “eat, pray, love”. The sense of entitlement and self indulgence irritated me. I mean, let’s be honest, most grown-ups aren’t able to just drop everything in order to go in search of their real selves. Or maybe just I’m not able to do that. I have responsibilities. So I have to wait for my real self to find me. So ok, maybe it’s jealousy, sour grapes, that I didn’t figure this shit out a long time ago. Or maybe I’m sad that we lost another potential Jew of substance to yoga practice. Still, I wished the book had a bit more substance and a bit less gratuitous sex.
That said, the book was fine. And Nick’s blog (ninaherenorthere.com) is really wonderful. I’ve come to believe that Noah was a righteous person (whether man or woman) regardless of his generation. And I think that is because, like Nick, when you act in the world with your full self, your full heart, and pure intention, you are making the world a better place. At least I hope that is the case.