With Persistence, editors Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman have produced an inclusive and balanced anthology that illuminates a wide array of issues surrounding gender and identity. The book covers vast territory, but the pieces cohere thanks to a consistent disavowal of rigid norms and stereotypes. In “38 B,” Sailor Holladay succinctly sums up the book’s attitude by stating, “When I stopped modeling myself after other people’s genders and began settling into my own, I found a gender that transcended the options I thought were possible.”
Comprising essays, fiction, poetry, rants, and interviews, Persistence deals with complex issues of gender, discrimination, and acceptance, yet never ceases to be accessible to a broad audience. Even those unfamiliar with the issues will find themselves moved by the authors’ candid admissions. The collection succeeds because it hinges on human emotion, not on complex theory, eschewing the opacity of academia for honest first-
S. Bear Bergman brings both eroticism and emotional intensity to the essay “Brother Dog,” in which he writes, “I know what kind of trust it takes when, hardened as we are, we reach out for someone who knows exactly what we’ve been through and can also see right through our bullshit.” Q&Q staff writer Zoe Whittall wryly explores the generational divide in “A Patch of Bright Flowers,” one of the strongest pieces in the collection. Bevin Branlandingham dismantles femme clichés in “Rethinking High Maintenance,” a piece that is as empowering and revolutionary as it is fun.
Some of the most beautiful and moving writing comes from Coyote herself, an author with a gift for revealing that the small, delicate details of life are often the most important. Her essay “Hats Off” is a love letter to femmes, and an expression of gratitude for the strength it takes to be oneself. It prompts both tears and laughter in a few brief pages. “When seen through your eyes,” Coyote writes, “I am beautiful. Turns out I was a swan the whole time.”
Persistence is a worthy read for those versed in contemporary gender identity issues, and for anyone with an interest in authentic documentation of human experience.