Article published on February 5, 2015.
Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome published by Chatto & Windus on 5th February, 2015, tells us his five favourite gender-bending novels.
Revolutionary by Alex Myers is the action-packed, fictionalized account of the American Revolutionary War soldier, Deborah Sampson, who enlisted and fought for the rebels as Robert Shurtliff. An important and overlooked figure in American history brought vividly to life by debut-author Myers.
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Written with Waters’ inimitable talent for bringing the under-investigated in English history into striking light, Tipping the Velvet is about, among many other things, friendship and love and cross-dressing in 19th century London.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf . Woolf’s great fictional biography of the eponymous favorite of Elizabeth I who switches gender (male to female) halfway through the book and whose life extends all the way down to the 20th century. So not only do genders get bent in this classic, but life is also mightily prolonged.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. We never learn, over the course of this fabulous recent work of science fiction, what our narrator’s gender is: we only know that that he or she was once the consciousness of an entire starship! Leckie further and wonderfully baffles expectation by firmly but unostentatiously shifting the default pronoun from “he” to “she” in her novel. The denizens of this fine work are female until proven otherwise.
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. This winner of the National Book Award in 2013 chronicles the adventures of Henry, known as “Little Onion”. This finely drawn character is early on mistaken for — and continues to live over the course of this novel that dramatizes the build up to John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry — as a girl.
This feature will be published in the Spring 2015 issue of newbooks magazine – subscribe here
PRAISE FOR NEVERHOME
‘A beguiling and evocative story about love and loss, duty and deceit… Neverhome took me on a journey so thoroughly engrossed that there were times the pages seemed to turn themselves.’ Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
‘A spare, beautiful novel, so deeply about America and the language of America that its sentences seem to rise up from the earth itself. Laird Hunt had me under his spell from the first word of Neverhome to the last. Magnificent.’ Paul Auster
‘Laird Hunt’s slim sixth novel wields outsized power. Like the fairy tales the narrator’s mother told her as a girl, the deceptively plain language of Neverhome vibrates across the spectrum of human experience… Exhilarating for the beauty of its prose and the depths of its unsentimental compassion.’ LA Times