Roving Pack is set in an underground world of homeless queer teens. The stories follow the daily life of Click, a straight-edge transgender kid searching for community, identity, and connection amidst chaos. As the stories unfold, we meet a pack of newly sober gender rebels creating art, families and drama in dilapidated punk houses across Portland, Oregon. Roving Pack offers fast-paced in-your-face accounts of leather, sex, hormones, house parties, and protests. But, when gender fluidity takes an unexpected turn, the pack is sent reeling.
What I Liked
Damn, this book rocked me. The lives depicted in Roving Pack are lives I have never glimpsed and will never experience, lies of chaos and struggle but also of loyalty and an unending search for belonging. I think too often readers like to read only books that depict “palatable” trans issues and reject the raw reality of so many genderqueer youths in today’s world. They are up against massive odds in a world that refuses to accept or understand them, and Sassafras has done a wonderful job of slamming that knowledge right in your face. Even though I have some familiarity with trans and genderqueer issues from my college years, I can’t even begin to count the things I learned from this book. This book may not be easy to read, but it’s important. Not all books are meant to be easy, and some of the most important ones are not. But a novel written by a trans/genderqueer author that contains almost exclusively trans characters and deals with trans issues? I shouldn’t need to explain why it’s our duty as thinking, caring people to read this book, no matter your gender or orientation.
What I Didn’t Like
Like I said, important doesn’t usually translate into “easy.” Largely due to my unfamiliarity with the topics, I was often confused by the terms used in this book. That’s part of the learning experience, but it’s not the only thing that made this book hard to swallow. I’ve lived a pretty vanilla life, so almost everything that happened in this book, even down to the way it was written, was shocking. I don’t view that as a bad thing, because not every book is written to be enjoyed. But from what I know of my readers, many of you will also be confused. Embrace it.
You need to read this book. You probably won’t like it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with trans people, genderqueer-ness, or Leather, you’re in for a hard read, but do it anyway. Whether you like it or hate it, it will open your mind and introduce you to a world you may not even have known could exist. If you’re like me, you’ll have to suspend your need to figure out what sex or gender the characters “actually” are, which to be honest is just a good thing to do anyway. I mean who gives a shit? If you need to know how someone identifies or what pronouns to use, ask. Simple. Anyway, if you don’t do that you’ll waste a lot of energy while reading this. But learning to do that, and learning how to understand the plethora of other surprises in this book, is important. So do the world a favor and read this book! If you’re unsure, just visit Sassafras’s site and read about hir history and what other stuff ze has written; you might just get inspired.
About the Author
Sassafras Lowrey got hir start writing as a straight-edge queer punk zinester in Portland, Oregon, and grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award. Along the way, ze changed coasts, genders, and several other things besides. Hir first book, the Kicked Out anthology (www.KickedOutAnthology.com), gathered voices of current and formerly homeless queer youth alongside policy makers and activists, and was honoured by the American Library Association and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Sassafras has contributed to numerous anthologies and publications, and ze believes storytelling is essential in the creation of social change. Ze lives and writes in Brooklyn with hir partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, two bossy cats, and a mostly feral kitten.