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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Faking it – my life in transition by Kyle Mewburn

Kyle Mewburn is an internationally-acclaimed author of children’s books, having previously won a slew of major book titles, including the 2007 Best Picture Book and the 2010 Storylines Picture Book Award. She’s been a writer in residence and a popular and highly regarded circuit speaker. But she’s rarely been her authentic self.

Faking it is her first foray into writing for an adult audience. And it’s perhaps not surprising that a writer of such ability has once again excelled, this time at creating a brilliantly written and absorbing memoir about her transition from male to female.

I read the book during two long sessions, totally absorbed and somewhat gob-smacked at Mewburn’s capacity for candour.

I was finally spurred into action to write a review after an interview on TVNZ about the podcast Transparent which tracks the shared journey of a young Kiwi woman to her authentic male self, and her mother. The interview highlighted Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021 which is celebrated every year on November 20.

I didn’t know of the existence of this annual celebration; despite the fact that I have been fortunate to meet, both personally and professionally, a handful of delightful people who have transitioned. The fact remains, few of us know anything about what it is to experience the sense of being born in the wrong gender; to experience body dysmorphia; or to leave behind our most significant other – our previous self.

With a book like Faking it available in the mainstream we now have the opportunity to change all of that; to grasp the gift of understanding that comes from following the personal journey of someone who is in so many ways just like all of us, as they become their authentic self. Kudos to Penguin Random House NZ for seeing how important this book is.

I think one of the keys to leading a more fulfilling life is not to focus on the ways we differ, but to see the ways in which we are the same. And Faking it is one of the keys we can now use to unlock prejudices and reduce the ‘otherness’ that keeps us all from meeting people where they are.

Having grown up in suburban Australian at similar time to Mewburn, I was able to instantly identify with the culture (or lack thereof) and colloquial mindset of a place where a child who was in any way different would remain alienated.

The constant threat of violence in Mewburn’s family dynamic in the 60s and 70s was so similar to my own home where the strap, the cane, and the jug cord were the modifying tools of the patriarchy, it was palpable. Spare the rod and save the child. Wait until your father gets home…

Days on from reading the memoir I can still “see” scenes conveyed by the author so clearly that it’s almost as if I had been there. In so many ways I was. And in creating such a brilliant memoir Kyle Mewburn does us all a favour as she demonstrates how much we all have in common.

This is a milestone book everyone should read. I hope one day to see it listed as required reading in all Australasian schools.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Penguin Random House NZ


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