on March 20, 2017
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author for review consideration.
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Imagine you had the ability to move through your own life, to revisit your past and foresee your future. Which events would you long to remember and which would you forget? Would you want to know what the future holds?
This is the story of Ash, a trans woman and healer living in a corner of Europe controlled by a militarized state. Amidst the economic crash of the 2020s, this land, once a hub of diversity, saw the rise of a state-imposed monoculture of gender, sexuality, ability and race. Those that didn’t fit, known as the divergents, were imprisoned, expelled or worse.
Ash and her best friend Pinar long ago escaped the City, left behind their days of fighting State oppression, and are eking out a calmer life in the forest, ravaged by the effects of climate change. One day, Jason, a resistance fighter, arrives abruptly into their life, reigniting personal and political drives and they find themselves drawn back into the fight.
Joining trans and queer organisers, sex workers and other members of a hidden underclass, they risk everything to return to the City and face their oppressors. In this fight for dignity, self-determination and survival, Ash’s ability to transcend time, a trait that until now she has considered her curse, turns out to be a more powerful weapon than anyone could have imagined.
Ahhh that moment when a self-published title blows you away! Otter Lieffe’s novel Margins and Murmurations was fantastic. It offers diverse queer characters, dystopia, a bit of time travel, and resistance.
This novel was super disconcerting because as Lieffe builds this dystopian world for the reader, you realize it has way too many real parallels to our current world. So you get social commentary as a natural part of the world-building. There’s a hint of utopia as well: Before the State took control, this society had embraced and been shaped by all kinds of marginalized people. Glimpses of how wonderful that would be gave me hope.
Speaking of hope, I have to mention the General (Gus). What an interesting, complex character! He was so much more than the obvious “bad guy.” To me, he represented internalized bigotry, with his “survival of the fittest” mentality and poor decisions. Throughout most of the novel, I wondered: Will he accept himself? Will he heal? Will he change? I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an antagonist so much.
This novel is transfeminist, intersectional, and anti-capitalist. It calls out trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), people who tokenize their marginalized friends and loved ones, the objectification of sex workers, and more. Gender-inclusive language and pronouns are used where applicable. It’s amazing. Trans and nonbinary readers will see themselves and their experiences in this novel. Cis readers will hopefully learn a lot from it.
Margins and Murmurations includes pieces of history, especially through Ash’s travels in time. I had to pause to go down the Google rabbit hole more than once, and I always love when a book makes me do that. The writing is lovely, it has a nice quick pace, it’s exciting, and it’s #ownvoices. Highly recommend.