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Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

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A stunningly written literary memoir about gender-fluidity, class, masculinity, and the American Southwest that captures the author’s experience growing up in a trailer park outside of Tucson, Arizona.

We meet Zoë as an 11-year-old moving through a world of giant beetles, thundering javelinas, and gnarled palo verde trees. Although Zoë lacks the vocabulary to express it, they experience life as a trans boy, spending summers running in a pack of other sunburnt hoodlums and school years fending off classmates’ intrusive questions about the body underneath their baggy clothes.

As Zoë enters adolescence, they are exposed to the hard masculinity that so many of Cactus Country RV Park’s working-class residents embody, and are increasingly troubled by the prospect of growing up to resemble the often sexist, racist, and violent men around them. Zoë cannot escape the persistent threats associated with moving through the world in a gendered body—or the feeling that their particular relationship to that body is fraught. Still, a spark persists, leading them to leave Cactus Country, ultimately becoming one of very few to embrace whatever awaits beyond.

Equal parts harsh and tender, Cactus Country is an invitation for readers to consider how we find our place in a world that insists on stark binaries, and a precisely rendered journey of self-determination that will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to fight to be themself.

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