The lives of three women—two transgender and one cisgender—collide after an unexpected pregnancy and a decision to coparent forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.
Perhaps Detransition, Baby is the first great trans realist novel? Witty, elegant and rigorously plotted, Peters’s book breezily plays with the structural conventions of literary realism ... sexually peppery, though also casually self-instrumentalising, cliches may or may not charm the reader—they did this one—but Peters’s remarkable skill is to divert our attention from the cliche to the mode of self-narration in which it moves and has its being ... The portrayal of detransition itself is tender rather than mawkish, Ames’s motivations admirably ambivalent. Detransition, Baby makes a careful distinction between 'being trans,' which it treats as a condition of desire, and 'doing trans,' a set of actions and protocols that have simply become too exhausting for Ames to continue ... Peters’s novel approaches the well trodden topic of baby fever, and although it renders the specificity of trans community and subjectivity in vivid, electric prose, its real appeal is much wider.
... vivacious ... a book that merrily skewers straight and queer orthodoxy alike. Savvily constructed as a breakout novel, Detransition, Baby is almost certainly the most buzzed-about book in the history of transgender fiction. And it’s terrific: smart, socially generous, a pleasure, a gift ... What initially seems like an absurdist Shakespearean gender-play plot isn’t that at all, it turns out. It’s instead a feasible proposition, certainly not the first alternative family structure ever dreamed up, but perhaps the first of its kind to appear in literary fiction. Peters explores the cross-cultural frictions it sparks with meticulous nuance and terrific wit ... challenges the anti-reproductive No Futurism of early-twenty-first-century radical queer politics ... Those who are already fans of Peters—author of two audacious novellas written explicitly for other trans women as part of a trans counterliterature—may balk, as I did, at the idea of bourgeois values and the domestic sphere intruding upon her fiction. But the other side of it is this: the installment of trans lives and trans concerns into the arena of women’s literature—and the nuclear family. In any case, this is the same Torrey Peters ... With precisely zero interest in making her characters paragons of respectability, Peters joins a school of novelists (e.g., Alissa Nutting, Ottessa Moshfegh) who revel in the unruliness of resistant women ... The novel’s concerns with trans futurity are centered within a feminist reproductive justice framework. Abortion, miscarriage, IVF, adoption, the history of forced sterilization—all are handled with agility and grace ... Equal parts loving and eviscerating, our narrator knows all and withholds little. If her knowingness can become at times overbearing, it’s a function of her role. Indeed, the novel is so rich with social commentary one could almost miss the soundly built plot whirring softly in the background ... Peters’s brilliant novel blasts through the gates to claim more space for trans futures in fiction.
Peters often aims her barbs at transgender people like her ... Peters doesn’t just eviscerate, though; she also eviscerates the impulse to eviscerate ... The novel’s ending could be construed as a cop-out. And yet the denial of closure functions as a note-perfect withholding of moral clarity. Reese, Ames and Katrina can’t be slotted into a typical happy ever after nor into its opposite ... that rare social comedy in which the author cuts people up not to judge them, but to show how we fail to fit together.