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L. Nichols


Page 45 Review by Jonathan

An extremely affecting auto-biographical work that covers one person's arduous journey of self-realisation of their trans status set against a relentless backdrop of all too predictable prejudice. With that said, it is chock full of pure spirit-lifting, soul-lightening joy too. Here is a psalm of calm from the publisher's pulpit to bless you further...

"L. Nichols, a trans man, artist, engineer and father of two, was born in rural Louisiana, assigned female and raised by conservative Christians. Flocks is his memoir of that childhood, and of his family, friends and community, the flocks of Flocks, that shaped and re-shaped him. L.'s irresistibly charming drawings demonstrate what makes Flocks so special: L.'s boundless empathy."

That is what shines through this work, actually, L.'s empathy and it is indeed boundless. For his parents, his schoolmates, his college friends and even his backwater church congregation and their pastor. It'll not surprise you the ecclesiastical crew are by far the worst of the bunch when it comes to being, well, ignorant.

Consequently I found chapter three (the book moves forward in chronological order through L.'s life with some very cute photos of him as a child as chapter breaks) particularly affecting where L is determined to reconcile his belief in God, which is very much of the blissful wondrous 'all-encompassing awe of nature and one's place in it' kind, with the word of man, here the local preacher repeatedly railing against the 'sins of homosexuality'.

The whole chapter is effectively an extended essay on the subject of L.'s faith versus the prejudice of the preacher, a constant valid point and pointless counter-point which I found extremely powerful indeed. L is certainly a forgiving person who has very clearly realised that prejudice stems from learned and inculcated ignorance, which unfortunately the preacher is doing his very best to pass on to everyone else in the congregation. Still, turning the other cheek and love your enemy and all that is easier said than done, so I am impressed with L.'s clarity of mind and wisdom and above all, compassion.

Maybe one day the proverbial scales will fall from the community's eyes. If that is eventually going to happen, works like this will certainly have played their part.

The rest of the work details L.'s slightly fraught relationship with his warring parents, who are utterly oblivious of his youthful growing belief that he had to be a lesbian, coupled with his own gradually ever-expanding understanding that the wider world and people outside of rural Louisiana were at least a little more socially enlightened, some of them anyway. By the time he got to college, to study engineering at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts, his worldview was beginning to be ever-more rapidly transformed, helping to create an environment for his sense of identity to be also. A triumph of positivity, and indeed, empathy.
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