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Nina Here Nor There

by Lincoln Rose .
Friday Jul 8, 2011
Nina Here Nor There

Some books feel universal. They reach across time and space, imparting feelings and lessons that impact people deeply. Nina Here Nor There is not this sort of work, and that's okay. Nick's book is firmly centered in a part of San Francisco that I have never seen, and had only heard negative talk about. His experience as a travel writer brings cultural details into sharp focus, and weighs individual meanings.

There was something I found compelling. Until I read Kreiger's book, I had never noticed how much trans characters avoid looking at each other. I mean truly, solidly seeing our bodies and the multiple meanings of them. I felt like he observes bodies as maps and topographies that tell stories just as much as trees and snow-covered mountain caps.

Here's an example from the book:

"From my spot on the side of the stairs, I honed in on Bec's chest, focused on the white lines visible there, faint symmetrical scars that ran from her armpits to sternum. In one moment they loomed as large as saber wounds, and in the next, as miniscule as paper cuts. I stared at those dull lines, bored in, piercing them as if trying to break the skin, the rib cage, and lock on to the heart...Bec was confusing-beautiful and handsome, amorphous and alluring, a stallion or a mare, I had no idea..." (pgs. 19 & 20)

As our tour guide, Nick does his best to connect us to the deeper transitions that occur beyond decisions to alter skin and style. We see a definite class divide. Communities, lovers, and families shift. Nothing is forever, not even labels and ideas about gender. Nick falls away from his "A-list", wealthy lesbian friends. Distance even grows between him and his family of origin.

His writing style also transforms. In the beginning of the book, there is more uncertainty. His sentence structure is vague and tends to run on. His tone and speech patterns change the longer he immerses himself in trans culture. The sentences become stronger and more confident, marking his learning and growth process.

Nina Here Nor There is a very specific book. It presents a certain slice of life, and never pretends to be anything else. It felt more like a movement through gender than beyond it. Nick starts out as Nina, a detached and often nervous observer of life around (her). Then, Nina cautiously moves toward Nick, studying transition in theory, but definitely NOT in practice. Finally, Nick emerges more fully, expanding his options and making firm decisions about his life path. This was a decent, light read, and a well written travel guide to Nick's corner of the world.

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