This novel by Kathleen Winter is another story of identity and the difficulty of communication when a sense of self is affected. In this case, a baby born in Canada in 1968 brings shock and confusion rather than joy to the parents for this child is not fully a boy or fully a girl. The dilemma this poses affects child and parents from that point on.
Brought up as Wayne in a hunting culture with a father desperate to see a son emerge and a mother sad at the prospect of not seeing a daughter emerge, he never quite loses the ‘other person’ he might have become. Named ‘Annabel’, this woman inside him looks for expression as he grows up. Both parents watch him throughout his childhood for signs that might reassure or challenge their dreams.
Essentially, this novel is about a person trying to discover themselves. This often involves trying to shut out the noise from all around who have equally strong views on what type of person you are. In one affecting scene, Wayne meets his old Principal in a cafe. He is wearing male clothes but make up. In this one scene is it clear he is rudderless. There is no sense that a decision, once made, will lead to the resolution of his gender issue; Wayne will always have Annabel within him.
Our society expects gender to be clear. It also expects us to act securely within the gender norms. Anyone who does not fit easily into the roles we demand of them has numerous hurdles to negotiate. Annabel or Wayne grows up knowing s/he does not fit. That is a burden that no child or teen should have to carry.