‘Annabel’ by Kathleen Winter

This is an extraordinary book about gender that I would highly recommend. It is fiction, but it reads like a personal story, full of dignity and compassion. The characters are on a journey of love that begins with secrets and fear but ends in acceptance and truth.

Annabel is the story of Wayne, an intersex baby, born with both male and female genitalia. He is born in Labrador where his parents have little support or previous experience to deal with the situation. There is a an attempt to “fix” the child by deciding early on which gender he should be, but as the child grows and develops and as Wayne struggles to develop his own identity, he finds himself identifying more with his female side, which to him is Annabel. It is heartbreaking to see Wayne displaying attitudes that are expected of him, when they are so contrary to his authentic self.

Kathleen Winter eloquently captures the wild and stark loneliness of the Labrador landscape and that loneliness is mirrored in Wayne/Annabel who must navigate the territory of his/her situation with little  help. It is lonely to be different and even though there are some around who are supportive, they don’t really understand.

Finding identity can be tricky for anyone, but it is especially challenging for those with a gender or orientation that doesn’t fit neatly into societal norms.  In this novel, Winter promotes the freedom to find our identity as human beings beyond gender, and she has achieved this beautifully.

Note: The picture of the caribou on the cover carries more meaning than representing Labrador and the north. Caribou are unique among deer in that both male and female have antlers.

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