by Laura Lam
2013 • 400 pages • Strange Chemistry
I go out of my way to interrupt any continuities in my reading. According to my house rules, I can’t read the same genre twice in a row, and, more often than not, I don’t read two books intended for the same audience one right after the other. Nonetheless, there are always through lines to be found in my reading. That’s how reading works—you’re the common denominator in all of it. You are the glue that makes the context.
The through line between Tell The Wolves I’m Home and Pantomime is the kind of secret that you cannot tell. In the former novel, June Elbus cannot bring herself to face her love for her uncle (okay, it is so much better than that description suggests); in the latter, Gene cannot confide the fact that he is intersex without fear, even in the slightly more broadminded circus he takes refuge in. (Laura Lam takes the welcome approach of using first person to avoid gendering Gene’s pronouns. We’re more aware of how people gender Gene than how Gene genders himself. However, given that Lam’s quick summary of her first book for readers uses “he” to refer to Gene as he finishes out the first novel, I’m going with that. Spoilers at that link!) Even expressing himself in a way that was inaccessible to the noblewoman Gene was raised as, he has to play a part to protect himself.