Lately, I have been reading more memoirs. I’m currently reading Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe otherwise known as bodyposipanda on Instagram. Last year, I read Jonathan Van Ness’s memoir which ended up being one of my favorite books I read in 2019. In Michigan, I picked up Sissy: A Coming of Age Gender Story by Jacob Tobia. I knew Jacob was cast in She-Ra as a non-binary character which sounds great, but I didn’t know they wrote a book. Sissy is a sparkly story about defining gender norms and discovering your identity.
The first half of the book details Jacob’s childhood and learning about their feminity, while the second half details their life at Duke. I enjoyed the chapters with Jacob’s fundraising to help an LGBTQIA+ shelter by running across the Brooklyn Bridge in heels. I was excited for Jacob being able to visit the White House and meet Obama. For someone in their late 20’s, Jacob has accomplished a lot for their age.
Reading about Jacob’s childhood, it genuinely made me sad. I remember how I could play with “boys” toys or “girls” toys without a second thought. Jacob details a story about how their brother destroys one of the only Barbies they had growing up. It was heartwarming though to hear how their brother had to buy them a new one. This book provides a prompt discussion on how women have more flexibility to play with gender norms whereas men are heavily scrutinized for being feminine.
I did have a couple of critiques regarding the story to discuss. The first being when Jacob discusses Duke, there’s a certain amount of privilege. Jacob received a full ride to attend Duke while many other non-binary people aren’t afforded the same privilege. I didn’t feel Jacob was snobby about it, but there could have been more addressed in the way that Jacob is privileged for having little to no debt.
As much as I enjoyed this memoir, this wouldn’t be the book I would recommend for anyone who is learning about non-binary for the first time. The reasoning behind this statement is the way Jacob explains the terminology within their identity, they come off as being a little judgy. These aren’t terms everyone knows about. My mother doesn’t know what “genderqueer” or “cisgender” means, so it doesn’t hurt to write a couple of definitions down for new readers wanting to learn more about being non-binary. I get it, Jacob is probably annoyed to have to constantly explain their identity, but this is a memoir based on their identity.
I happily read Sissy and soaked up every story within the confines of the book. If you’re looking for a book that’s going to explain in detail every single LBTQIA+ vocabulary word, I wouldn’t recommend this. If you’re looking for a memoir filled with glitter, this would be for you. Now, I have to make watching She-Ra a priority.
**Jacob uses they/them pronouns. I double-checked this post to verify I didn’t use any other pronoun, but if I did, please let me know in the comments as I will modify my post with the correct pronouns**.